Yum Dum is Chicago’s Dumpling and Bao Truck! We are serving fresh, authentic steamed dumplings crafted from family recipes, steamed bun sandwiches that we call baowiches, rice balls, and more of Mom’s home cooking favorites.
Tell us The Yum Dum Truck Story
After college, I worked in finance. It was your typical 9-5 job behind a computer. I quickly learned it wasn’t for me and I couldn’t see myself doing it for the next 40 years. I wanted to do what made me happy so I quit my desk job on a whim to pursue my passion for food. My parents owned a few Chinese restaurants growing up and I was always trying to help out. I pretty much lived at that restaurant as a child, I knew I would eventually find my way back. During a trip to a Taiwanese night market, I had some amazing baos and dumplings. I knew these were special and they reminded me of my own mother’s home cooking. I wanted to bring this amazing food that my parents grew up eating back to Chicago. I have memories of making dumplings with my mom as a child and I wanted to share my culture with others. So, I told my parents I was going to open a restaurant… on wheels. Not sure if my mom cried tears of happiness, or tears of fear.
What’s your dream for The Yum Dum Truck?
It’s been almost 5 years and we’re proud of our growth. When we started as pop-ups at little markets across Chicago, I just hoped people would like our food and be interested in our story. Now, we’re booked every single weekend and I’m having to turn away events or catering orders left and right. This is a job of passion though, so I wouldn’t want to expand without knowing it wouldn’t sacrifice quality. So eventually, I’d love to roll out a second truck so we can do more events and handle more catering orders. Eventually, when the time is right, we may look into a storefront.
What was the very first menu item for The Yum Dum Truck?
The first menu item was our Pork Belly Bao. My mom used to make me these for me growing up. I remember bringing them to elementary school. While other kids had bologna sandwiches, I was eating pork belly steamed buns. I knew this was going to be a staple on our menu and it has been there from day one. It’s a slow braised pork belly in Taiwanese spices with pickled mustard greens and crushed peanuts in a steamed bun.
Tell us about one of your signature dishes? Where did the idea come from? What makes it so great?
Our signature item is our Kimcheesy Rice Balls. They are a delicious mix of cheddar jack cheese, our house kimchi pureed, jalapenos, green onions, Korean and Japanese spices mixed with white rice. We hand roll these and lightly bread them with panko breadcrumbs. They’re fried to perfection and then topped with a jalapeno sriracha aioli. These were invented from a childhood snack I used to make. One thing that all Asian families have on hand is white rice. So when my mom was at work, I would mix white rice with her kimchi, then the American side of me would put cheese on top and microwave it until it was a gooey, spicy, cheesy mixture that I loved. I knew I wanted to recreate the flavors when I started the truck, and now people hunt us down for these rice balls.
What’s your favorite thing about bringing The Yum Dum Truck to offices in Chicago?
We love being able to bring our food to offices in Chicago. Whether it’s the truck or catering, it just makes me feel great to be able to share my food with so many people. We’re still a family run business, not a huge chain or a huge kitchen that rolls out big batches. In fact, my mom and I still hand roll all the rice balls and fold all the dumplings, so it’s a special experience. I still deliver most of our catering orders myself. Most clients think this is funny, but I just love to put my own personal touch on things.
What is one thing not many know about The Yum Dum Truck?
One thing many don’t know is that we have a sister restaurant in Chicago called MAK – Modern Asian Kitchen in Wicker Park. The Kimcheesy Rice Balls are a secret menu item there, and MAK is the only place you can find them, outside of The Yum Dum Truck of course.
What is your biggest challenge as a restaurateur?
The biggest challenge has been wearing so many hats. Any given day, I’m the delivery driver, the accountant, the event planner, the catering manager, or just working the line. The list goes on and on and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do. It’s exhausting. Some days I work a 14-hour shift, just to get home to an inbox full of emails. Even with a great staff in place, we’re small enough that the job is never done.
What piece of advice would you offer to a new restaurateur or someone starting out in the food business?
You have to love what you do. This industry is not one to get rich quick. If you love it, then you’ll always feel fulfilled and will always have family within your workplace. There are so many amazing restaurants, so you’ll have to stand out. Don’t just be a copycat or follow a trend, but tell your own story through your food. Try something new. Be adventurous. Be bold.
How has office catering helped your business grow?
Catering has been integral to our growth. It’s the difference between the status quo and growth. Catering has helped us grow our menu and grow our customer base. So often, we will have people see our food truck and say: “Oh, we have tried those guys. They cater for our office,” which is really cool. Before we catered, we didn’t know if we could feed 100 people. Now we do catering orders for 250+, with way fewer people needed to complete the order than how it was when we started. It has really taught us how to scale up. This has helped us grow our confidence and know that there’s nothing we can’t handle.
What do you like most about partnering with ZeroCater?
ZeroCater has been fantastic to work with. I have truly connected with all the reps and built lasting relationships. I feel like they really care about helping us grow, and have us in their best interest. I don’t get that from all the other third-party catering agencies and it is a big reason why ZeroCater stands out to me.
ZeroCater corporate catering and snacks services provide curated meals and snacks to companies for any office occasion. We partnered with a diverse range of local restaurants, caterers, and food trucks alongside a personalized selection of snacks, beverages, and kitchen supplies, all tailored to your teams’ tastes and dietary preferences. ZeroCater is currently available in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, Washington D.C. and Chicago. More About ZeroCater
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