For all the cultural diversity in Los Angeles, Puerto Rican food isn’t easy to come by. With barely a handful of restaurants to be had, the recent arrival of Triple Threat Truck was a boon for locals anxious to indulge in authentic tripleta sandwiches, mofongo, tostones, and the mystical flavor known as “sazon.”
As the only one of its kind in LA, Triple Threat Truck has received sentimental welcomes from homesick Puerto Rican transplants since Omayra and George Dakis set it in gear last summer. “We’ve made so many people cry,” said Omayra.
Before moving to the West Coast four years ago, the Dakises resided in Miami, where Puerto Rican food is plentiful. Frustrated with LA’s lack of options, the couple partnered with family friend Sonia Bermudez to create their own.
“Our plan was to not only have a place to be able to taste a little of Puerto Rico, but we also want to take people back,” she said.
Recreating Puerto Rican cuisine in a truck is no simple task, but one iconic dish is a natural fit for the food truck scene. The tripleta is a feast of a sandwich stuffed with three meats—beef, chicken, and pork—and served on a fresh baked semi-sweet pan sobao roll, a sought-after traditional bread from Puerto Rico.
“When you play with the savory and sweet, it gives you an explosion of flavor,” said Omayra. She explained that this is the essence of the cuisine she grew up with and learned to cook from her family.
The Triple Threat Truck’s name was inspired by the signature tripleta sandwich. You can also get tripleta fries with the same meat trifecta piled on a bed of shoestring fries—a nod to a Puerto Rican version of loaded fries known as “papas locas.”
Perhaps the most famous dish in Puerto Rico is mofongo. It’s a mound of mashed plantains that can be served in countless ways, but Triple Threat Truck tops it with a heap of shredded pork or beef served in a bowl of broth.
“Mofongo wasn’t originally on the menu because it takes a long time to make,” Omayra said.
With no small amount of elbow grease, George smashes freshly fried green plantains with garlic, mojo sauce, and pork rinds, using a wooden mortar and pestle called a “pilón” in a time-honored method of making mofongo.
Pulverized plantains are also shaped and fried to make tostones, which can serve as hefty crackers or chunky buns for a variety of fillings. And for special events, Triple Threat Truck turns this versatile banana mash into a taco shell, like they did at last year’s LA Taco Festival.
Besides plantains, the concept of “sazon” connects everything on the menu. Technically, sazon is Spanish for seasoning, but in Puerto Rico it transcends that definition.
“It’s that feeling you get when something takes you back to that childhood memory,” Omayra said. “It’s almost like the soul of Puerto Rico.”
Prior to starting the truck, Omayra was a well-practiced home cook, and George had ties to restaurants operated by his family in the Miami area. The two have passed down their cooking skills to their daughter, Maria, who will be a contestant on season 6 of the Fox series MasterChef Junior, premiering March 2.
Puerto Rico has been on the minds of many since the devastation of last year’s hurricane season. Customers regularly ask Omayra about the current situation and if it’s getting any better.
“My whole father’s side has been entirely affected by the storms,” she said, adding that many are still without electricity, food, and other basic necessities.
“They’ve had an existing crisis for a very long time,” she said. “And this is a way for people to take notice of how unfair it’s been for them.”
Triple Threat Truck has been helping several organizations fundraise and send supplies to Puerto Rico. To anyone who can contribute to the relief efforts, Omayra recommends donating money to Voices for Puerto Rico, the Ricky Martin Foundation, and the Global Empowerment Mission.
Last fall, Triple Threat Truck helped Puerto Ricans In Action raise money to improve conditions for those on the island. They’re now working toward assisting Fundacion Plato Caliente, a volunteer group that delivers meals to hurricane victims.
“Puerto Ricans are resourceful. They’ve come up with solutions that I never in my life would have thought of,” Omayra said.