The first time I ate at Arekie Food Truck, it was at Public House in Springfield, and I had a few drinks (OK, pitchers). A friend was hearing a lot of buzz about the new food cart, so we decided to give it a try.
When the food arrived, I dove into the Frankie roll, an Indian street food that’s flatbread wrapped around chicken tikka, and quickly devoured the masala spice fries.
How could such magical food come out of a small cart, I wondered.
Arekie’s name is a portmanteau of arepa and Frankie, two street foods of Latin America and India, respectively. And its name is a reflection of the cart’s fusion creativity, which blends the food from the two regions.
Arekie’s menu at first only had the arepa — corn maize often stuffed with protein — and a Frankie roll, which is Mumbai street food that features flatbread wrapped around vegetables and protein.
And the arepa was what led to the start of Arekie Food Truck, now located at beergarden.
Born and raised in Spain, co-owner Sush Mansharamani says her friends there had a restaurant that served arepas. When Sush moved to Florida, she says she noticed there weren’t any arepas, so they started selling them.
Her husband and Arekie co-owner Monish Mansharamani says they filled the arepas with some Indian food filling and spices, and “Bam! There was an explosion in flavor.”
“We said, ‘This is it,’” Monish adds. “This is the idea of fusionizing the two cultures and cuisine together.”
Since then, the cart has added more than a dozen items to the menu, ranging from a seven layer parfarrito (what the menu calls a burrito in a cup) to a bhel puri (Indian street food that has crispy lentil noodles, puffed rice and spicy tamarind sauce in a tortilla bowl).
Although Arekie is a small cart, it has a large menu, and the Mansharamanis are always adding to it. When working on a recipe, one aspect that they work on is deciding which sauce to use, Monish says. Arekie has seven different sauces — and each one is made every day in the morning. “The sauce is what makes the different taste,” he adds.
And they’re always adding more menu items, Sush and Monish agree. From idea to cart menu, an addition can take four to five weeks, they say. It starts with blending some of the signature ingredients from the two regions. Then they choose a particular food, tweak it and go through several cooking trials.
As an example, Monish points to khichos supreme, which uses rice chips instead of tortilla chips. “In India, we have rice chips, so we turned those into nachos,” he adds. “The spices we blended from Mexcian and toppings with protein like chicken tikka, which is from India.”
Monish says they both travel to India and Spain to buy raw ingredients once a year and they grind them every day at the cart. These spices create mind-blowing food, Monish says, pointing to the East Meets West Burger, which is a beef patty (with a plant-based option) featuring a mango habanero mayo and Arekie’s special seasoning.
Inside the Arekie cart, there’s a box of seasoning labeled “magic masala,” Sush says. It’s a blend of seven spices from Latin American and Indian, she adds, and can be found on their masala fritas.
To decide whether my view of Arekie was the result of some sort of drunken passion, I went back to Arekie to try the arepa filled with butter chicken — this time sober. The arepa’s maize was firm yet soft, and with each bite, the butter chicken oozed out of the maize. Turns out my first time eating at Arekie wasn’t dictated by booze.
The French fries at Arekie have that “magic masala” spice, which doesn’t overpower the fries. What tastes like flavors of garam masala, chili and cumin, Arekie’s magic masala has made me question why we even need ketchup in this world.
But what are all the spices in the “magic masala” combination?
Like a magician, Sush and Moshin won’t reveal their secrets.
Arekie Indian Fusion Cuisine is at beergarden., 777 W. 6th Avenue. Visit Arekie.com for more information and to stay updated on hours.