NJ’s First Filipino Food Truck Offers Authentic Cuisine With A Twist

The cousins ​​had a dream.

Joseph Maglaqui and Jeffrey Fama are two of 12 cousins ​​in their family who always hoped to open a business together, whether it was a small cafe or even a food truck.

They planned to combine Maglaqui’s years of restaurant experience and Fama’s financial background. And in the end, that’s exactly what the pair did.

Twelve, named after the cousins, is New Jersey’s premier Filipino food truck serving authentic dishes – some traditional and some with a light twist.

Twelve near Newport Center in Jersey City. (Lauren Musni | NJ Advance Media)

Customers can find Filipino classics such as pancit (a stir-fried noodle dish) ($9) and lumpia (Filipino spring rolls) ($7) as well as pork and chicken skewers ($8). There are also specials and desserts that change weekly and with every event they attend.

Previous specialties have included nachos bistek (a Filipino dish of thinly sliced ​​beef braised in soy sauce, calamansi juice, garlic, ground black pepper and sliced ​​onions fused with nachos) and champorado (sweet chocolate rice porridge) with dulce de leche ice cream drizzled with nutella.

“All the recipes are family recipes, so pancit and lumpia are my grandmother’s recipes,” said Maglaqui, from Old Bridge. “But the daily specials and the desserts come from us. We try to fuse Filipino recipes with other cuisines.

Co-owner Joseph Maglaqui prepares a dish at Twelve.

Co-owner Joseph Maglaqui prepares a dish at Twelve. (Lauren Musni | NJ Advance Media)

The food truck has been criss-crossing New Jersey since 2019, with a home base at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Old Bridge.

“We always post our schedule on our Instagram page for the week on Sunday evening or Monday morning so everyone knows where we are at,” Maglaqui said.

“In the middle of each month, we plan what we will do next month,” Fama added. “Our schedule changes every week, but we already know where we’re going a month in advance.”

Just Maglaqui and Fama made the family dream come true, so Twelve is only run by two.

Maglaqui is a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, where he specialized in bakery and pastry. He has also worked in restaurants such as Trabelli’s Ristorante, Grand Marquis and Classic Cafe. He brings the culinary know-how. Fama, meanwhile, worked at Bank of America, Napus Federal Credit Union, and Navy Federal Credit Union.

NJ Advance Media asked why they chose to drive Twelve in New Jersey. The answer was simple, they said.

Jersey is home.

“It was more convenient for us because we’re just comfortable here,” Maglaqui said. “Plus, there’s a huge Filipino population in New Jersey.”

“I was born in New York and raised in Virginia, but New Jersey is my home for sure,” Fama added. “No matter where I go, I always represent New Jersey.”

Lumpiang Shanghai dish from Twelve.

Lumpiang Shanghai of Twelve. (Lauren Musni | NJ Advance Media)

Twelve’s food took me back to my childhood as a Filipino American. All the dishes on the menu were the ones I used to help my grandmother make or the dishes I ate at family gatherings.

So I had to try some of his cooking.

The lumpia was wonderfully crispy, flavorful and slightly spicy when dipped in the chili sauce.

Lechon Spam Longanisa Rice Bowl special at Twelve.

Special Lechon Spam longanisa rice bowl at Twelve. (Lauren Musni | NJ Advance Media)

I also ordered the daily special, Spam longanisa lechon rice bowl. This dish combined all of my favorite comfort foods in one dish – lechon (roasted pig), Spam and longanisa (sweet Filipino sausage) over fried garlic rice and topped with red cabbage, white sauce, scallions and of a fried egg. It was garlicky, meaty, crunchy and so heavenly.

Ube Banana Pudding dessert at Twelve.

Ube banana pudding at Twelve. (Lauren Musni | NJ Advance Media)

And of course, I couldn’t forget the dessert.

The day I visited they offered ube banana pudding. The velvety purple pudding was vaguely nutty, sweet with the banana crust and nilla cookies on the bottom. I could eat this banana pudding all day.

Notice of Twelve at the Union Farmers' Market.

Twelve at the Union Farmers Market. (Lauren Musni | NJ Advance Media)

It makes me happy to see the growing interest in Filipino cuisine, especially now with Twelve roaming the state. Fama mentioned that a majority of their clientele are actually non-Filipinos who take an interest every time they pass the food truck and are keen to learn more about their dishes.

Now I can taste the Philippines without having to travel to Jersey City. Mabuhay!

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Lauren Musni can be contacted at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @Laurengmusni. To find NJ.com on Facebook.

Helen J. Jimenez