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Takeout Treasure: Salty Cargo in North Austin showcases Hawaiian flavors

Matthew Odam
Austin 360
Huli huli salmon pops with sweet, umami flavors of soy and caramelized fish sauce, ginger and brown sugar.

The Americanization of cuisines is a process that can sometimes distort and embarrass the food: think cheeseburger egg rolls or barbecue chicken pizza. 

But that’s not the type of shape-shifting chef John Gocong is talking about when he discusses the Hawaiianization of food. The California native, who is of Hawaiian ancestry, is referring to how Filipino, Chinese and Japanese culinary cultures have influenced the cuisine of the 50th state. 

Gocong and partner Michael Carranza, a native of Corpus Christi, celebrate that exciting mixture of flavors and techniques at Salty Cargo, their food court stand inside the Hana World Market in North Austin. 

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The fire from the grill gives the Hawaiian style pork ribs a crusty armor.

You can taste the Chinese char siu flavors in hefty Hawaiian-style ribs that are braised to incorporate deep cinnamon, anise and red bean curd flavors and finished over a yakitori grill to create a crunchy armor. 

The two chefs previously led the sushi bar at downtown restaurant She’s Not Here, and the tropical Asian flavors from that restaurant are mirrored with a supple cut of fatty New Zealand salmon prepared huli huli style. Salty Cargo adapts the Hawaiian take on teriyaki by enriching it with a brown butter poach. The salmon packs a sweet umami blast from brown sugar, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar and caramelized fish sauce, with the chefs crisping the exterior in a pan before it comes out of the kitchen. 

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The tropical flavors extend to pastry chef Danielle Martinez's dishes, like a light coconut-pineapple bundt cake topped with roasted coconut flakes and mint.

Gocong and Carranza met while working at Uchi. Their love for raw preparations has inspired Osome, an intimate omakase pop-up they hope to rotate around town and for which they may eventually find a small, permanent home. Uchi’s trademark respect for ingredients is also on display at Salty Cargo. And the menu benefits from Carranza’s work at quality fish purveyor Minamoto.

The chefs wisely keep their poke relatively unadorned, the ruby baubles of sustainable bluefin slicked with a touch of sesame oil and pork fat to complement the fish’s natural richness, with pickled pineapple cutting it all through with its acid bite. I guess we can call that Salty Cargoization of poke. 

Chefs John Gocong and Michael Carranza opened Salty Cargo in the Hana World Market food court in October.

If you go

Information: Salty Cargo, 1700 W. Parmer Lane, Suite 100. 737-465-1821, saltycargo.com

Hours: 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. 

Pro tip: Grab your takeout and head to either nearby Scofield Farms Neighborhood Park or Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park for a picnic.