What does it take to bring traditional Chinese dumplings to the streets of Denver? For chef Penelope Wong, it took quitting her executive-chef job of twenty years, practicing her dumpling skills for the better part of a year, and building out a food truck with her husband, Robert Jenks, for several months. And then when everything was in place with permit in hand, the clutch went out on her truck.
But after this minor but aggravating delay, Yuan Wonton is ready to sell some dumplings. Wong says the truck posted up at the corner of Third Avenue and Broadway on Saturday, August 26, to celebrate passing the food truck's final inspection the day before. She and Jenks rolled dough and stuffed dumplings into the wee hours of Friday night, then fired up the burners at about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night.
"We have a really good following on Instagram, and they all showed up within a few minutes," the chef recalls.
The clutch problems grounded the vehicle for another week, but Wong is now scheduling stops at food truck rallies, breweries and special events — so it's finally time to eat some dumplings. Yuan Wonton's menu includes chile wontons stuffed with chicken or pork and shrimp, pork and chive pot stickers, Sichuan eggplant dumplings and chicken and ginger dumplings. The chef says that she'll also have specials at each appearance, including the Thai curry she'll be serving at the Mile High Spirits Block Party (a ticketed event), starting at 2 p.m. this Saturday, September 7. "I went back and forth on whether to roll out Thai cuisine this early, but it's part of my heritage, so I wanted to make it happen," she explains.
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On September 10, the truck will be serving dinner at Seedstock Brewery, at 3610 West Colfax Avenue. After that, Wong plans to ramp up the schedule to three or four nights a week. She says that limiting the number of days the truck is running will allow her to spend more time with her family (a rarity as a full-time chef).
And making dumplings by hand takes time, though she's getting fairly speedy. Wong and her sous-chef can turn out about 75 wontons every six minutes, but the other styles take longer. She can make 150 dumplings an hour by herself, or twice that with an assistant to roll dough.