Purely for research purposes, you understand, the author sampled both the traditional red shakshuka and the green version, with a sauce of asparagus and spinach.
The website for The Shuka Truck — a recently opened, kosher-certified food truck in New York City — says it opens for business at 9 in the morning. That makes sense. Shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in sauce (most commonly tomato and red pepper) is traditionally served for breakfast.
But The Shuka Truck runs on a different clock. On a recent visit at nearly 11 a.m., chef Gabriel Israel was finishing a cup of coffee and asked if I could come back in 15 minutes. Call it hipster time or Israeli time, or maybe he and his fellow owners, Josh Sharon and Solomon Taraboulsi, know that lunch is when things really start hopping in New York City (especially in Midtown, where the truck is parked on Thursdays). Whatever the reason, their creative takes on shakshuka were worth pushing off breakfast a bit.
If it’s not open at the crack of 9, don’t despair. The Shuka Truck’s offerings may be considered breakfast food, but they make for a delicious and satisfying meal any time of day.
Originally from North Africa and now popular across Israeli café culture, shakshuka is making steady inroads into American cuisine. “Most of our customers have at least heard of it before,” Israel said. And yet, they probably haven’t had shakshuka like the ones made by The Shuka Truck, which opened in December 2014.
I ordered a standard red shakshuka, which had all the requisite components: a flavorful sauce, eggs,and pita for mopping everything up. But The Shuka Truck’s version took things a step further, layering charred onions and roasted bell peppers for smoky depth, and drizzling honey over the top. For “research purposes,” I also ordered their green take, which poaches the eggs in a silky mix of asparagus and spinach, and tops everything off with goat cheese and pickled onions.
Both versions were exceptional enough that I forgave the one overcooked yolk swimming amidst the sauce — a common shakshuka pitfall. Two other versions are available: one with smoked eggplant and oyster mushrooms, and the decidedly unorthodox “humshuka,” which pairs the dish with homemade hummus and garlic confit.
The Shuka Truck offers shakshuka in a hollowed out half loaf of bread, reminiscent of the soup-in-a-bread-bowl craze of the late 1990s and early aughts. It is convenient, but for the first meal of the day, the platter is the way to go. It’s sloppy, smoky and eggy — perfect hangover food and a decent way to start any morning. As soon as The Shuka Truck begins brewing Turkish coffee, morning in New York City will be pretty much perfect.
Leah Koenig is a contributing editor at the Forward and author of “Modern Jewish Cooking: Recipes & Customs for Today’s Kitchen,” Chronicle Books (2015).