This Tiny South Philly Food Cart Specializes in Bangin’ Japanese Curry
Two friends are turning Japanese comfort food into a Philly street food.
Japanese curry is Japanese comfort food. It’s a household staple, a school lunch, a two-punch combo of starch (often rice or noodles) and sauce — rich and sweet, with little-to-no heat unlike Indian and Thai curries. It’s one of the most popular Japanese foods there is; packages of instant curry are kept in home pantries the same way Americans keep boxes of mac and cheese — there if you’re hungry but too lazy to make something from scratch.
Though, as popular as it is there (so popular it has its own emoji), it’s definitely one of the harder food finds here in Philly. You’ll likely skip over it in the city’s ramen shops in favor of, well, ramen. Both Tampopo locations have it, too, but unless you’re specifically seeking it out, noodles and bibimbap steal the show. It wasn’t until this year, when splashy Chinatown Square entered the scene, that Philly actually started paying attention to the dish (thanks to Kurry Korner’s pan-Asian curry menu).
But there’s a tiny food cart in South Philly that does Japanese curry and only Japanese curry. It’s called Bangin’ Curry Franklin, and its operators, Kazutoshi Iyama and Viet Nguyen consider themselves specialists.
Iyama is from Japan — born and raised — and Nguyen is Vietnamese, born and raised in Philadelphia. They met at Temple University fourteen years ago and have stayed best friends ever since. The two always wanted to open some sort of food business together, and after a trip to Kyoto for Iyama’s wedding, they thought they’d bring ramen to Philly. But when push came to shove, they settled on curry instead (variety!).
They opened Bangin’ Curry Franklin in January, a food cart with just two food items on the menu: curry rice and furikake fries — shoe strings seasoned with a highly addicting mix of salt, nori and sesame. The curry rice plate comes as a full meal with shredded cabbage salad topped with pickled onions, white rice, and a thick-like-gravy curry made hearty with potatoes, carrots, and beef — all homemade, of course (no instant mix). Top it off with an ultra-crispy, panko-battered cutlet of chicken or pork.
Both guys work day jobs during the week, so Bangin’ Curry is only open between 4-9 p.m. on Fridays and noon-9 p.m. on Saturdays. They accept credit cards, but if you don’t feel like making the trip to the corner at 18th and Washington Avenue yourself, try them on UberEATS instead.
They’re keeping the menu as tight as they can for now. “We wanted to make one thing and to make it as well as we can. Our plan is to get a full-sized food truck — more capacity, smaller wait times. Eventually, we’d like to get to [a brick and mortar].”
What’s with the name? Simple, really. Nguyen explains it, “‘Curry’ is what we sell, ‘Franklin’ — after Ben Franklin, and ‘Bangin’ is slang I grew up with. You know, like man, this shit is bangin’!
Bangin’ Curry Franklin [Official]