N.J.’s first Filipino food truck offers authentic cuisine with a twist

N.J.’s first Filipino food truck offers authentic cuisine with a twist

The cousins had a dream.

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

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

Twelve, named after the cousins, is New Jersey’s first Filipino food truck serving authentic dishes — some traditional and others with a slight twist.

View of Twelve at the Newport in Jersey City.

Twelve near Newport Centre 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 at every event they attend.

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

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

Co-owner Joseph Maglaqui preparing a dish at Twelve.

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

The food truck has been cruising around 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 night or Monday morning so everyone will know where we’re at,” Maglaqui said.

“In the middle of every month, we plan what we’re doing the following month,” Fama added. “Our schedule changes every week, but we already know where we’re going a month ahead.”

Just Maglaqui and Fama followed through on the family dream, so Twelve is run by just two.

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

NJ Advance Media asked why they chose to drive Twelve around 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 I grew up in Virginia, but New Jersey is home for sure,” Fama added. “No matter where I go, I always represent New Jersey.”

Lumpiang Shanghai dish from Twelve.

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

Twelve’s food brought me back to my childhood as a Filipino American. All the dishes on the menu were ones that I would help my grandma make or food I would eat at family functions.

So I had to try some of its cuisine.

The lumpia was wonderfully crisp, savory and sweetly spiced when dipped in the side of chili sauce.

Lechon Spam Longanisa Rice Bowl special at Twelve.

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

I also ordered the special of the day, the lechon Spam longanisa rice bowl. This dish combined all my favorite comfort foods into one dish — lechon (roasted pig), Spam and longanisa (sweet Filipino sausage) atop a fried garlic rice and garnished with red cabbage, white sauce, scallions and a fried egg. It was garlicky, meaty, crunchy and oh 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 dessert.

The day I visited, they offered ube banana pudding. The velvety purple pudding was vaguely nutty, sugared with the banana and Nilla cookie crust at the bottom. I could eat that banana pudding all day.

View of Twelve at Union Farmers' Market.

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

It makes me happy to see the rising interest in Filipino cuisine, especially now with Twelve roaming the state. Fama mentioned that a majority of their clientele is actually non-Filipinos who take interest whenever they walk past the food truck and are willing to learn more about their dishes.

Now I can get a taste of the Philippines without having to travel all the way to Jersey City. Mabuhay!

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Lauren Musni may be reached at lmusni@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @Laurengmusni. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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