"I would always bug my grandmother and my aunts with questions about cooking," recalls chef Penelope Wong, who's getting ready to launch her own food truck, Yuan Wonton, this summer. "And I remember the day they finally invited me into the kitchen to help cook. It was my biggest accomplishment."
The chef has gone on to even bigger accomplishments since then; by the time she turned seventeen, she was able to run the kitchen at her parents' Chinese restaurant. And then there was her twenty-year career as the executive chef at Glenmoor Country Club. But Wong was looking for a way to combine her love of cooking traditional Chinese cuisine with a way to spend more time with her family, so she and her husband, Robert Jenks, are now in the process of building out a food truck that will serve a variety of Chinese dumplings and noodles. The couple recently purchased an eighteen-foot freight truck that will serve as the shell of their mobile kitchen; they hope to have Yuan Wonton up and running by June 1, which Wong admits is a very tight timeline, considering the truck will need to pass inspection before she can begin serving food.
Earlier this year, Wong worked with the Adobo food truck's chef, Blaine Baggao, on a series of dumpling pop-up dinners that featured fusion dishes made with Baggao's Filipino and New Mexican ingredients. She says to expect something more traditional from her new venture.
Wong's menu will be inspired by her family's Chinese and Thai background. The Denver native says her grandparents are from Hong Kong but raised their family — seven children in all — in Thailand. "I have a very large family," the chef explains. "My brother and I are first-generation [American], and my dad brought the rest of the family over from Thailand over the years."
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Yuan Wonton is named for China's currency, but it's also a pun (if you say it like a question), something Wong is fond of — just peruse her Instagram account for examples. The wontons in the name aren't the typical deep-fried variety available at your neighborhood takeout joint; they're soft-cooked dumplings served with chili-garlic oil and are the signature item on the menu.
There will also be potstickers, eggplant dumplings and noodle dishes, as well as specials like steamed buns and other fried, steamed or boiled dumplings. The chef says she has also been learning how to make hand-pulled noodles and is working with her food-truck consultant to see if they can put extra windows on the side or back so that customers can watch her make the noodles.
Once Yuan Wonton receives its license to operate, Wong and her husband plan to set up at craft breweries and other prime locations about four days a week. See yuan the streets!