Lisa Wong, owner and operator of the WongWay Veg food truck, has always had a passion for good food. With a desire to change the perception of vegan and vegetarian food as boring and bland, the concept for WongWay Veg was born. We talked to the chef about her food-truck business and taking plant-based cooking to the streets of Denver.
Westword: What do you think of Denver's vegan community, and what is it like to be a part of it?
Lisa Wong: In just the short time that WongWay has been on the road, the plant-based community has really grown. It is so exciting to witness and be a part of the movement. More and more people are researching what is in their food, how it gets to our plate, and so on. It is empowering to be a part of such a growing force.
Tell us the best feedback you've ever received.
It is always great to hear "Wow! You don't even miss the meat," since that was always my goal — to prove that you don't need meat or animal products to have a really great meal. I am proud that I have convinced people of that.
What are the most popular items?
Our most popular item is our Boulder Philly. It's WongWay's take on the Philly cheesesteak. I marinate portobello mushrooms and roast them off with onions, peppers and green chiles. We mix that in with our housemade avocado-cashew cream and cashew cheese, and a spicy blue-agave mayo. People also really like our veggie tots. Even if you hate vegetables, you usually like a potato. Our tots have a few extra veggies added to them and are served with house hot sauce and banana-pepper ketchup.
How is cooking vegan food different than cooking with meat or cheese?
Technically, there isn't a huge difference. I use a lot of the same techniques that one would use when cooking a meat dish: roasting, braising and so on. For me, the biggest difference with vegan cooking is that you get layers of different flavors. You can get individual flavors of herbs and spices rather than an overpowering flavor of just the meat.
How does winter and cooler temps impact business? How do you deal with the slow season?
Having a food truck is definitely a seasonal gig. There are no longer a lot of outdoor events, and most people want to stay warm and toasty at home. We will go out for specific special events, but cold weather is very hard on the truck. We offset that by offering our vegan/gluten-free holiday meals plans, and this year we are planning a few vegan popups. I have received quite a few requests for cooking classes, as well, so we are working on putting something together for the community.
Your menu items are based on seasonality. What changes can we expect to see for winter?
We love to switch gears with the seasons. You will see a lot of hearty dishes go up on the board: curries, soups and stews, all using seasonal produce. Our biggest fall and winter item is the pumpkin curry. Vegan eaters are just like non-vegan eaters in that when it gets colder, we want hearty and filling meals, too. It's not just about salads anymore.
What's it like to be part of the Denver food-truck scene? Is it competitive? Friendly?
That is another scene that I am so happy to be a part of. And just like the vegan scene, it has grown so quickly. There is definitely a deep camaraderie among the trucks. We all want to help each other out and see each other succeed. We share event experiences, food ideas — even mechanic information. I'm sure it does get competitive from time to time, because we are all just a bunch of crazy chefs, but I have formed many friendships with my fellow truckers, and I think that runs deeper than competing for who has the best burger out there.