This is not food truck season, but try telling that to your ramen.
Like a winter hurricane in its rarity, like Santa in the joy it is spreading, a winter food truck mysteriously appeared in Yellowknife’s Kam Lake at the start of this week.
Noodo Monster, serving a variety of ramen and noodle dishes, sold out on its opening day and trading was steady when Cabin Radio reached its operator, Will Sun, on day three.
“It’s getting busier so we’re trying to speed up!” said Sun on Wednesday. The food truck has proved an instant hit on social media, with gossiping Yellowknifers eagerly sharing news of its arrival – even in the comparatively out-of-the way Coronation Drive, a stone’s throw from the shore of Kam Lake itself.
For the time being, Kam Lake will remain home. Sun says moving downtown too soon would create too much trouble in cold conditions, risking a frozen water tank or problems with propane. The owner of the Coronation Drive lot, a friend, is making sure the truck has adequate access to all the power and supplies it needs to beat the winter weather.
Noodo Monster is the work of Sun, his partner Serena Zheng, and her sister Dani Zheng – the chef. They recommend the rice noodle (“it’s really different to a Vietnamese noodle,” says Sun) and particularly suggest you try it with the spicy sauce, if that’s your kind of thing.
Sun and his partner arrived in Yellowknife two years ago and spent most of the time since trying to find somewhere to set up a downtown restaurant. For a time they were going to renovate the Mackenzie Lounge on 49 Street, but the building proved too old.
As they became more frustrated by the fruitless search, Sun had an idea: “How about a food truck? Rather than only running in the summer, how about in the winter too?”
According to Sun, this was greeted as a novel concept at City Hall and it took a couple of months to establish exactly which rules govern food trucks in winter. Traditionally, the Yellowknife food truck scene is summer-only, with owners retreating to bricks-and-mortar establishments or other ventures in the off-season.
But Noodo Monster had all the necessary food safety training and permitting in place to begin operations quietly on January 22.
‘A magical city’
Originally from China, Sun came to Canada in 2008 and his partner followed three years later. They initially lived in Vancouver, where he worked in commercial real estate and she worked in a noodle house.
“Canada is a family country, it’s open-minded. It’s next to the US but Canada is not like the US, with too many drug and gun problems. It’s much safer,” said Sun, explaining why Vancouver was their choice. However, after a few years the couple had grown tired of Vancouver’s sizeable population, its congestion, and rising prices. They looked north for inspiration.
“We moved to Yellowknife to look for a new lifestyle and a new business. Yellowknife is like a magical city with the aurora,” said Sun, “and we found out that more and more tourists are coming here every year.
“The population here is perfect for a small food business. We love the people here, they are so friendly and so nice. We decided to settle down.”
They found their food truck in Ontario and made a 25-day, 12,000-km round trip to fetch it – including a stop in Toronto to buy all the equipment they would need.
Once they got back and had everything ready, Kam Lake was the obvious choice: plenty of working people but “no restaurants for lunch and no food trailers,” said Sun.
Early reviews posted to the notoriously fickle and occasionally toxic Bite Me Yellowknife suggest the beef meatballs are “really good” and the braised pork “very delicious”.
“So far, so good,” said Sun.