750 E Street, Chula Vista
A food truck near the Iris Avenue trolley station has caught my attention every time I go by. It has a painting of the same food truck crossing a black bridge and reads “Mariscos El Paisa, El Puente Negro de Culiacán.” The black bridge depicted on the truck is a popular landmark near the beach boardwalk in Culiacán, capital city of Sinaloa.
I have never been to Sinaloa, but the girl I am currently dating happens to be from there. She texted me a picture that she took in February of the actual bridge and told me it was one of her favorite places in the world. I definitely needed to try their food.
A couple weeks ago, I finally deviated from my usual commute and headed to the truck that is located a block away from the trolley station, in front of LiVa Market (Abarrotes y Carnes). The first thing that caught my eye in the simple menu were Las Super Ranas, which translates to The Super Frogs.
I am an adventurous eater, so I asked for the pair of "frog tacos" for $6. But the tacos contain no frog meat and instead you find a mushy filling of marlin, shrimp and octopus, topped with coleslaw and cream.
“We called it ranas because of a guy known as El Rana that always comes here and asks for two tacos with that combination,” the server tells me in Spanish. “This is a family business, la familia Cebreros,” he continues, after I inquire more about the truck. “The truck doesn't move, we open at 8:30 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. We've been here for 19 years.”
The family did not have a seafood restaurant or a food truck back home in Culiacán. “There are a lot of people from Sinaloa in this area, that's why we opened.” El Paisa is short for paisano, which translates to fellow countryman.
On the bar and side table you can find all the hot sauces typical of fish taco stands, and inside a cabinet there is a tray with aguachile and another tray with limes.
I look to my left. A different eater ordered battered fish tacos. I ask permission to take a picture. “It looks good, huh?” He says. I look to my right, there is a plate with aguachile. “This is the best, is the famous Popeye, you should get one,” says a customer who seems to be a regular.
I went back to the food truck a few days after eating Las Super Ranas and got the Popeye to go for $6. I am not a fan of aguachile, which is one of the main ingredients in the famous dish. If you don't know what aguachile is — it is exactly what it sounds like — water and chile. The basic aguachile is made out of chile chiltepín, water, and lemon juice (other ingredients and chiles are used for different variations).
Fun fact: the pronunciation for Popeye in Spanish is poh-peh-yeh.
The styrofoam box came with shrimp aguachile, ceviche de pescado, ceviche de camarón, octopus, surimi and more. It came with seven tostadas and I also got a complimentary seafood broth. It took me the whole day to finish this huge plate. I ate three tostadas with plenty from my Popeye tray and was barely halfway done. After the seven tostadas were gone, I still had food in my tray. The last bites seemed to be the spiciest, as it had me sweating and water would not kill the burn.