Traditional Vietnamese cuisine calls for at least five spices, five nutrients, five colors and an appeal to all five senses in every dish. These complex culinary creations are the specialty of Simply Yummy, a food truck on Main Campus.
At Simply Yummy, located on Montgomery Avenue near Conwell Hall, some students consider the Vietnamese dishes to be the hidden gems on the truck’s extensive menu.
Owned and operated by Hailey Hua, Simply Yummy has been on campus for three years. Hua, however, said she learned how to cook traditional Vietnamese fare at a young age. Since her family members have frequently owned businesses in the food industry, she said opening one of her own was second nature.
“My family members have been in the restaurant business for over 20 years – it’s just something we do,” Hua said. “I learned to cook at home and I’ve continued to do it since then.”
At first glance, the Simply Yummy menu looks similar to other trucks on Montgomery Avenue. It includes burgers, sandwiches and hoagies. The menu also offers Vietnamese staples. Some of these options are wonton soup, lemongrass chicken with rice and the most popular choice, banh mi.
“Banh mi is a Vietnamese hoagie with chicken or pork, or the traditional style with Vietnamese ham,” Hua said. “It’s what I’d recommend to someone who’s never eaten here before. If someone gets a cheesesteak and sees someone else get the banh mi, they’ll try it the next time and never go back to the cheesesteak.”
Despite the popularity of the Vietnamese dishes, Simply Yummy still offers standard food truck options. Hua said she believes the truck should have enough options to keep people interested and that it allows her business to have a competitive edge.
“I feel like we’re in competition with everyone,” Hua said. “It’s not so much about the food, but there are just so many places to choose from. If it’s cold, people want to go somewhere close by, so they may not want to walk four or five blocks for food.”
Regardless, Hua said she believes involving heritage in the food industry is important for any food truck owner. She said representing Vietnamese food culture is what keeps Simply Yummy going.
“We’re one of the few places that serve Vietnamese cuisine around here,” Hua said. “We all eat it every day, so it’s nice to see others interested in our food and enjoying it.”
Owning a food truck as opposed to a restaurant can often be a challenge, Hua said, when it comes time to cook some of the dishes for hungry and often impatient customers. Hua initially decided to open a truck instead of a restaurant because of easier maintenance, but said she now realizes the drawbacks.
“We’re limited by the space in the truck, but we’re trying to put more grills in because the ones we have can only fit so much food at a time,” Hua said. “We get busy at lunch, but we may be slow because of the lack of space, and that may cause us to lose customers. That’s just part of being in the truck business, though.”
Hua also said she believes she would do better business if the truck were closer to the Student Center. Nevertheless, she said she is still happy with her choice to open the business at Temple.
“We’re closer to Broad Street and more of a place that people come to on their way to campus,” Hua said. “We thought about going to the University of Pennsylvania with the truck, but we’re happy that we chose Temple. We like it here so far.”
Though it’s the truck specialty, not all customers have tried the Vietnamese fare. Steven Baranowski, a senior tourism and hospitality management major, said he’s a fan of the quick service and consistency.
“Their breakfast is great and it’s cheap and fast,” Baranowski said. “I haven’t tried any of the Vietnamese dishes here, though.”
Hua said she believes the diversity among the Temple food truck community has improved since she arrived three years ago and hopes to see it progress during her time on campus – including the open-mindedness of students when it comes to trying new food.
“When I first got here, there wasn’t really any diversity and it was kind of disappointing,” Hua said. “Now, I see quite a bit of different cuisines and I’m happy about it. It was much needed.”
Ariane Pepsin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.