By: Esther Rubio-Sheffrey
Jessica Tsang is a Chinese-American. She grew up in Chula Vista, obtaining nourishment predominantly from Chinese home cooked meals. But the Tsang family is unique, in that like many of their Mexican-American neighbors, they spent a considerable amount of time across the border in Tijuana.
Her father, who is fluent in Spanish, lived in Tijuana when he was about 10 years old and helped in the family restaurant business during his free time. Much like her father, Tsang grew up crossing the border frequently and also helped her parents out in their kitchens, gaining years of hands-on experience in the restaurant industry.
Now 29, Tsang is the proud owner and general manager of Asian Persuasion. â€œThis is my first time owning a restaurant, but it is in my blood,â€ Tsang said. While a brick and mortar location is one of her future goals, the food truck trend provided her with an affordable outlet to get started and has proven to be quite the lesson. â€œOperating a food truck is much harder than it looks,â€ Tsang said. â€œIn a lot of ways, it is even more difficult than having a restaurant because every day is a challenge. I would love a second truck, but one is a handful.â€
Aside from the kitchen constraints of cooking within the small space of a truck, there is always a chance that another truck may snag your spot, or that your truck will malfunction. None of the challenges, however, have kept Tsang from moving forward with her vision. â€œI love what I do. I love the fact that we can go where I want to go and meet all sorts of different customers each day,â€ she said. â€œThe menu has evolved from what I originally envisioned when we started, some of it due to customer favorites, and some of it because we have had to learn to work within the truckâ€™s limits.â€
Tsangâ€™s father is usually the only other worker on hand, except when Asian Persuasion is booked for large events. He handles most of the cooking while she attends to the customer orders. It is an experience in itself to witness the communication between the two in mixed Chinese and Spanish. Like most who grow up in a large metropolitan area, their menu is a fusion of different cultures, featuring the flavors of Chinese, Korean, Filipino, and Mexican cuisines.
â€œWe wanted to be able to serve any type of Asian food,â€ Tsang said, adding that she wanted the name of the truck to reflect the menu. â€œOur name started out as a joke between a friend and I, and at first I didnâ€™t like it, but it stuck. Sometimes people laugh when they hear it or see it, and they make side comments, but that makes it memorable. Our food speaks for itself.â€
The current Asian Persuasion menu features nine items meant for carnivores who, between the pork, fish, steak, chicken, sausage, and shrimp options, are sure to find something to entice their palates.
â€œThe Firecracker Shrimp, Spicy Orange Peel Chicken, and the Char Siu Sammy are all options that we temporarily introduced, but they were hits with the customers, so we kept them on the menu,â€ Tsang said. â€œOur two most popular items, though, are the FOB Tacos and the Korean BBQ Burrito. Personally, I feel like I can eat the FOB Tacos everyday because I really like the crunch and the spicy mayo.â€
The shrimp for the Firecracker dish is cooked with onions in Asian Persuasionâ€™s chili oil, then tossed in their sweet Peking sauce and served with white rice and Asian slaw. If you are craving pork, you might want to try the Char Siu Sammy. It is pulled BBQ pork cooked Chinese style with grilled onions, creamy slaw, and cilantro on a warm toasted baguette. Like all of their other dishes, the Korean BBQ Burrito highlights the homemade marinade that the steak is marinated in. It is then wrapped inside of a warm flour tortilla with white rice, Asian slaw, and spicy mayo.
We decided to try the Spicy Orange Peel Chicken. It was a simple dish with what appeared to be a few Panko breaded chicken fillets cut into bite-size pieces and served alongside a bed of white rice. The generous sauce portion was the best part. It had a mild sweetness to it. At first we could not detect any spiciness, but after a few bites, the spice sneaks up on you in a pleasant way that is not too spicy or overpowering. Two things that I think would have improved the dish overall would be a little more meat and a little less breading. The second probably had more to do with the fact that we took our food to go and it was roughly 20 minutes before we could sink our forks into it. The chicken lacked a certain crunch because the breading went a little soft; then again, there was a generous portion of sauce, so it is likely that if eaten right away, the outcome is much different.
Our appetites called for something a little more filling than tacos, so we opted for the FOB Burrito in lieu of the FOB Tacos. With the burrito, instead of corn tortillas, the Panko breaded fish is wrapped in a flour tortilla with Asian slaw, spicy mayo, and white rice. It was delicious. It was the right size with a flavor medley that really enhanced the fish, and it was quite filling.
If you like things super spicy, grab some of their chili sauce they have available in small containers. Otherwise, with no dish priced at over $8, you are bound to enjoy a dinner for two for less than $20. Asian Persuasion participates in several truck gatherings throughout San Diego, and come spring, you will be able to have lunch and/or dinner Monday through Friday and likely find them at major weekend events throughout the year. Their Facebook and Twitter feeds are updated regularly.
â€œI love our food. I love our flavors. I am confident they will win you over, and I am 100% certain you will come back,â€ Tsang added.