Out & About: Chez Yasmine

Chez Yasmine

Tanya Barrientos

WHAT: Chez Yasmine is more than a food truck. It’s a vehicle of change for its owner, Jihed Chehimi, a research scientist who until recently worked at the Wistar Institute. In the lab, his specialty was the study of innate immunity and HIV/HCV infection. But, Chehimi says, he was burned out and decided it was time to do something completely different. Now, his specialty is creating and serving international sandwiches and salads to the Penn and Wistar crowds. And, he says, he loves it.

TUNISIA TO SPRUCE STREET: Open since December, Chez Yasmine, located near the corner of 37th and Spruce streets, provides its customers with a global sampler of street cuisine. The truck is named after Chehimi’s daughter, and the menu represents the many nations in which they have lived, worked, visited, and studied. Chehimi was born in Tunisia, grew up in Paris, and for a time worked in Sweden. Yasmine was born in Philly, lived in Sweden, and has an affinity for everything Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

SALMON TO STRAWBERRIES: One of the most popular menu items is the Swedish salmon Smörgås, a sandwich sporting smoked salmon, cucumber, radishes, hard-boiled egg, dill, lemon, capers, and a sprinkle of caviar. When berries are in season, the Swedish berry salad is also a customer favorite, with strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, grapes and kiwi, sprinkled with chopped mint and rose water.

WISTAR AND WHARTON: As a nod to the truck’s location, and to Chehimi’s former workplace, there are sandwiches on the menu called The Wistar and The Wharton. The former includes brie, sautéed mushrooms, avocado, basil/walnut pesto, and herbes de Provence. The latter features dolphin-safe albacore tuna, emmental cheese, carrot, hard-boiled egg and herbes de Provence. Chehimi says the sandwich is a nod to the popular French crudites au thon, one of Hemingway’s favorite things to order for lunch when he was in Paris.

FRESH AND HEALTHY: You won’t find soda at this truck. You won’t find chips. You will, however, get a free piece of fruit and bottled water with your meal. Chehimi gets bread fresh from a local bakery every morning and uses only extra virgin olive oil on the salads. No item on the menu includes pork or beef. In the coming months, all the spices and vegetables will be home-grown.

SAY CHEESE: At your first visit, Chehimi will snap your photo and place your smiling face on the Chez Yasmine truck’s busy Facebook page. So far, the truck has scored more than 200 “Likes,” and glowing comments about the Tunisian couscous salad made with potatoes, carrots, turnips, zucchini, celery, cabbage, bell peppers, garbanzo beans, and a special sauce.

LEARN MORE: Find out more about Chehimi’s interesting past and his philosophy of the importance of fresh and healthy food at www.chezyasmine.com.  The site explains each item on the menu in detail, and even has a page devoted to the ethnic origins and health aspects of each dish. On the homepage, the former scientist declares his newest experiment was “founded upon the concept of healthy gastronomy and a passion for offering reasonably priced, delicious global recipes.”

Originally published on May 10, 2012