If burgers and steak are the two most ubiquitous dishes in Dallas, tacos come in at a close third. That’s one of the reasons it’s so common for chefs and restaurant owners to use the dish to introduce other cultural cuisine to the masses. And that’s just what Umar Baig, owner of Halal Mother Truckers, did when he caught our attention at this year’s Taco Libre with his chicken tikka masala tacos. But the motivation behind his food is deeper than notoriety and sales. It’s about family, heritage and breaking cultural barriers in a city that’s in need of a little spice.
As Dallas continues to grow in population, the food scene is growing right along with it. But we're not yet considered quite the "melting pot" as other Texas cities, and that’s something Baig quickly realized when he moved from Houston about two years ago and eventually started his food truck business in 2018.
“There’s been times where people would turn away because in their minds, halal resonates to gyros, and kabobs and skewers,” Baig says. “They don’t realize the true meaning of halal. Halal is honestly the way the meat is cut and the way the meat is prepared, that’s it. It’s not a type of food.”
Baig, who is Muslim, not only explains the religious significance of halal, but the reason from making sure his food is inclusive.
“An easy way to explain it is that it’s a cleaner meat because there’s no blood that’s held into the meat,” Baig says. “And a lot of Muslims can only eat halal. So we wanted to target all audiences.”
So he took a page out of the fusion book, creating Pakistani Tex-Mex, if you will. That's where tacos come in. Halal Mother Truckers offers options like tikka, butter chicken and even brisket, all served with seasoned basmati rice, crema raita and green chili chutney.
“We don’t do rice bowls in Pakistan,” Baig says.
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But the rice bowls Halal Mother Truckers are dishing out are packed with flavor. So are the tikka fries, which are topped with chicken Tikka, mozzarella cheese, cheese sauce and green onions. There’s even quesadillas on the menu. All of which are infused with pieces of family recipes that were passed down.
“We called our relatives and went through six months of trying and trying and failing and trying before we got comfortable with the product and rolled it out," Baig says.
It’s safe to say Baig, who had been in the hotel industry for a decade, is happy to serve something that’s true to his roots, and to do it well. Follow the food truck on Facebook to see a weekly schedule of where it will pop up next.