Tarn and Toom Tayanunth
Owners, Dumpling Drop, Victoria
It’s becoming a typical sight in Victoria: packs of strangers standing around a parking lot, bracing against the wind and rain, waiting anxiously for take-out orders of Tarn Tayanunth’s dumplings. It would have to be an unusually ugly day for them to not sell out within the hour.
Dumpling Drop, for those living outside of Victoria, is easily the hottest food craze to hit B.C.’s capital city. For nearly a year, Tarn (pictured here) and her mother Toom have been hand-making Chinese-style dumplings—filled with pork belly, kimchi, duck and chive that Tarn sources locally—and selling them online and at weekly pop-ups around town.
Thailand-born Tarn, who grew up in Victoria, isn’t a trained chef, but managed restaurants for years. When her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s last summer, Tarn quit her job to spend more time with her. “The doctor said there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s; the only thing you can do is to keep her happy and keep her busy. I’m an Asian only child; the only thing that keeps her happy is me,” she says with a laugh. They started making dumplings together—lots of dumplings. A friend suggested Tarn sell them online, another friend offered to design a logo, another made her a website, and Dumpling Drop was born. A local restaurant even gives her kitchen space for free.
“It’s kind of a dark story, but maybe something good has come out of it,” she says. Dumpling Drop helps support her mother financially, and others too: Tarn has collaborated with 49 Below Ice Cream to donate meals to Our Place, and offers dumpling workshops for kids with disabilities—just a few opportunities she’s thankful for. “But that’s Victoria. It’s such a community.”
“The funny thing is, every week my mom forgets why we’re making so many dumplings. She says to me, ‘Don’t eat them all, you’re going to get so chubby!’” laughs Tarn. “‘You think I eat thousands of dumplings a week?’ It’s pretty cute.”
Photo by Lillie Louise Major
Q&A with Tarn Tayanunth
Lucky Peach’s 101 Easy Asian Recipes. I usually don’t follow recipes to a T, but I take inspiration from my cookbook collection and I use this one the most.
Most underrated ingredient?
Water chestnut. Texture is sometimes not considered to be as important as flavour, but it can really make or break a dish. Water chestnut really adds a nice texture, especially to my meat-filled dumplings.
Most overrated ingredient?
Kale. Unpopular opinion on the West Coast: it doesn’t have to go in EVERYTHING.
Song always on your dinner party playlist?
Anything by Frank Ocean.
Biggest restaurant pet peeve?
Carnations on the table.
Whiskey soda. (First drink of the night, last drink of the night, and most drinks in between.)