A few things you maybe don't know about Tammy Wong:
1. She has been running her restaurant, Rainbow Chinese, since she was 22 years old and just arrived in Minneapolis from New York City where she was a garment worker in a sweatshop. "I loved it!" Really. She loved the sweatshop.
2. She never wanted the restaurant in the first place. It was her father's idea.
3. She once owned two other businesses, in addition to Rainbow, while her children were one and two years old. No wonder she liked the sweatshop!
4. She's at it again.
The woman is a machine. you may not know that in addition to running the 28-year-old stalwart (she's still executive chef), she was also the general contractor when they originally moved into the space (the original location was on the other side of Nicollet). The family couldn't afford contractors, so she and her sister did it themselves. But that wasn't enough. Meanwhile, she rehabbed an old south Minneapolis Victorian home and put in a big pond and garden so that her kids would have a place to splash and play. The contractors refused to repaint the radiators because of asbestos, so she hauled them out to the yard one by one and hand-chipped them herself. It took a long time, but she did it.
Speaking of hands and chips, and doing things oneself, Wong rolled out a new snack line last year. Move over Terra Chips, because these are better, local (she only uses seasonal ingredients purchased from local farmer's markets) and more beautiful. Taro, yams, parsnips, beets, squash, and Asian sweet potatoes all make their way into her dehydrator.
Wong, now 50 (which she repeatedly mentions she has no taste for): "I don't want to think of myself as a 50-year-old woman! I just want to be 30s!" is on a health kick. She's trying to eat low-carb, a tough order in her rice- and noodle-rich culinary environment. The veggie chips fit into her new diet and they'll fit into yours, too, especially if you're gluten-free. She also makes pectin-free citrus marmalades and toasted coconut that's lovely for strewing over yogurt or salads. Not into chips? How about some nuts? Candied walnuts, spicy and sweet candied almonds and spicy peanuts can all be yours.
In the works: A line of bottled sauces including her famous black bean sauce, ginger syrup, (for use in stir fries and cocktails) and fried okra chips.
Wong comes alive at this new endeavor; she says she'd love to retire into it. "The music at the market really gets me going, and when I'm under the umbrella in that sun, I feel like I'm in Hawaii!"
Some other ideas she's had all her life: "I always wanted to retire at 50, and go to the salon and get my hair worked on by a young man at least twice a week. And wear only Chinese dresses."
She's managing to get to the salon about once a week. Help her make her other retirement goals by looking for her snacks at Linden Hills Farmers Market as well as at Rainbow Chinese. BiteSquad will even deliver them to your home along with that order of shrimp with black bean sauce.
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