Restaurant: Mogu Japanese Street Eats
Cuisine: Japanese/Sandwiches/Food Truck
Last visited: June 14, 2013
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 610 Howe Street (& Dunsmiur)
Phone: (604) 764-7977
Transit: SB Howe St FS Dunsmuir St Bay 4
Price Range: $10 or less
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- Japanese owned/operated
- Husband and wife operation
- Japanese inspired street food
- Daily specials
- Vegetarian option
- Budget friendly
- Mon-Fri 11:30am – 6pm
- Catering available
- Twitter: @EatMogu
**Recommendations: Sweet & Spicy Chicken Karaage. It is not on the menu, but if he is not in a rush he sometimes offers a Sweet & Spicy Chicken Karaage sandwich upon request.
This is one of those food trucks in Vancouver which flies under the radar. People know about it and it attracts a line and sells out at food truck festivals, but it doesn’t have the hype of a popular food truck. It might be because their online presence isn’t as loud, but they do a great job regardless.
Their permanent location is on the corner of Howe Street and Dunsmuir and it’s a tricky location to stop at if you’re by car. It caters to those working in the area, which is a bit of a shame because their food is good enough that it is worth making an effort to try. Street food is supposed to be convenient, but the street food in Vancouver is another breed. It’s part of the city’s flourishing food scene.
Mogu means “to chew” or “munch” in Japanese, and “mogu-mogu” is a Japanese saying. Having grown up with traditional Japanese food, Yujirou Aoki and his wife are the owners and operators of Mogu Japanese Street Eats. Their food trailer is designed with Japanese animation and a character holding a Mogu sandwich.
I had the opportunity to speak to Yujirou and it turns out he is a formally trained chef from Vancouver Community College, although he doesn’t call himself one. He cooked for a few years in Japan and Vancouver before starting his own business.
His inspiration for Mogu came from working at Vancouver’s favourite Japanese izakaya restaurants. He wanted to fuse Japanese street food with Vancouver’s love for Asian cuisine, but he doesn’t like to call his food “fusion” either. Not many people nowadays like to call their food “fusion” because often it refers to a horrible food trend from the 90’s that bastardized Asian cuisine. Anyway, Yujirou’s menu is mostly Japanese with some Chinese and Asian influences, so it is not necessarily authentic. The flavours are still more or less Japanese and Asian, but the end result is his own interpretation of Japanese Street Eats for Vancouver palates.
The menu offers three mainstay sandwiches including a Pork Miso Katsu, Chicken Teriyaki and Kabocha Korokke which come in a fluffy potato bun sourced from a local bakery. It’s a rather simple menu, which is the way to go at a food truck, and it is quick, affordable, and satisfying.
The menu is actually quite typical of Japanese style “fast food” in Vancouver and variations of similar things can be found elsewhere, but they put their own Mogu flavour to it and it’s noticeable. The food has thought and effort and it exceeded expectations even though I was expecting it to be good. It’s nothing fancy, but just low maintenance and well seasoned.
Note: The following items were complimentary, but there are no expectations for the outcome of this post. My opinions are my own.
On the table:
**Sweet & Spicy Chicken Karaage – 6/6 (FMF Must Try!)
- Marinated deep fried chicken, house made sweet chili sauce $7.50 (REG.) $4.75 (MINI)
- I love this. His menu features sandwiches, but his most popular item is this.
- They called it “Vancouver’s Best Chicken Karaage” and as much as “best” lists bother me, I have to say these were one of my favourite chicken karaage.
- These were no ordinary chicken karaage and they were surprisingly amazing!
- I ordered the mini which came with 3 large chicken fritters.
- Traditionally, karaage come in chicken wing form, but these were boneless street food friendly chicken fritters, but still with the skin on.
- The skin is fat, and fat is flavour, and it wasn’t all gelatinous and chewy. I’m not a fan of skin when it’s gelatinous and chewy.
- The meat was super moist and juicy, being dark meat, but it was also nice and tender.
- These were crispy and crunchy and wonderfully marinated and saucy.
- The chicken is marinated in dashi stock, soy, sake, black pepper, ginger, garlic and Japanese 7 spices and other seasonings so it’s a huge umami/flavour bomb.
- The batter is a bit thick, but it’s an excellent potato starch batter which makes for a nice crunch and it was well seasoned.
- The chicken, the batter and the sauce was all well balanced, sweet and spicy, and not syrupy and hot, and incredibly flavourful.
- The heat was gradual and not super spicy. I considered it mild, but it might be mild-medium for most.
- Before serving he drizzled it with an aromatic, and somewhat savoury sweet chili sauce.
- The sauce was like a sweet Thai chili sauce meets a Chinese chili oil, but it wasn’t an oily sauce.
- It was one of my Top 10 “Must Try” items from a food truck/cart in Vancouver and my Top 10 “Must Try” Fried Chicken post.
- You can also find his booth at the Richmond Night Market by the casino.
- It is not on the menu, but if he is not in a rush he sometimes offers a Sweet & Spicy Chicken Karaage sandwich upon request.
- His friends call it a “Karaage sandwich” which is comparable to a “McChicken sandwich” (2.0 I’m assuming) and Japanese.
Pork Miso Katsu – 3.5/6 (Good-Very good)
- Breaded deep fried pork cutlet, house made red miso sauce, Asian hot mustard coleslaw $8
- I like pork katsu, but I don’t order it often. It is a very popular Japanese street food and a quick and convenient Japanese meal.
- Usually it is served over rice, but he put it in a sandwich to make it “grab and go” friendly.
- This is his signature sandwich.
- The potato bun was the only thing I wasn’t keen on and it was a bit too thick and chewy.
- It was a fluffy soft bun, but the texture was dense. I wouldn’t mind it more grilled as well.
- It is a locally sourced bun (from La Baguette), but I wasn’t too keen on it and I like potato buns. Everyone’s recipe is different though.
- The pork katsu used a combination of panko and fresh breadcrumbs and it was dipped in a house made red miso sauce.
- Yujirou finds the combination of crumbs best for maximizing crunch and absorbing his savoury miso sauce.
- In Japan some places dip the whole cutlet into katsu sauce so it loses its crispiness and crunchiness and you need to eat it immediately.
- Other places might drizzle the sauce over top instead of dipping the whole cutlet in the sauce so it doesn’t get soggy.
- The pork was decently moist, but there was just a lot of bun.
- The red miso sauce was his own spin on a traditional katsu sauce and it’s popular to do in Nagoya, Japan.
- Red miso has a stronger and richer flavour than white miso and both achieve an effortless umami.
- It was savoury and a bit sweet with likely sake, mirin and sugar.
- It’s quite thick and almost like a BBQ sauce in viscosity and it was a big player in this sandwich.
- The cole slaw dressing tasted like Thousand Island meets horseradish and that’s due to the kick of the Japanese hot mustard.
- I wouldn’t mind less dressing in the slaw because it was quite heavily dressed, but I liked the mustard kick.
**Kabocha Korokke – 4/6 (Very good)
- Sweet Japanese squash croquette, katsu sauce, avocado, lettuce $8
- This is their vegetarian option and although I’m not a vegetarian it sounded more appealing to me than the pork katsu sandwich.
- I really love Kabocha squash (Japanese squash) and this is well liked by meat eaters as well.
- It is a very substantial sandwich and it’s deliciously rich, creamy and filling.
- Again, I wasn’t too keen on the potato bun (see why in my pork katsu description). It’s just a bit too thick and overwhelming.
- Maybe they could slice the bun thinner and use it for breadcrumbs for the breading… but regardless, it’s a bit chewy.
- The kabocha squash was mashed with sauteed onions and I think Japanese 7 spice and or maybe a hint of curry?
- It was a very well flavoured and seasoned kabocha squash and it was creamy with little chunks of tender squash throughout.
- It was savoury and sweet and I could have used more lettuce for crunch.
- This time it was drizzled with katsu sauce rather than being dipped in it so it retained some of its crispy and crunchy texture.
- I’m pretty sure it was the same panko and fresh breadcrumb breading.
- Katsu sauce is basically a Japanese style sweet and savoury BBQ sauce with a nice Worcestershire kick.
- The wedges of sliced avocado was much appreciated but it also made it extra rich and the korokke was already quite heavy.
- It was a very starchy sandwich so I wouldn’t mind something to break things up in texture.
- I would almost order this without the bun and eat the korokee as is… maybe even served with the sweet chili sauce from the karaage for dipping.
I agree completely with the assessment of the bun; I had the pork miso katsu at the Street Food Fest a couple weeks ago and enjoyed it for the first half of the sandwich – then the bun just got too heavy and my enthusiasm waned. Next time I’m definitely going for the karaage.