It all started when four college friends bonded over food…
Friends Nate Adams, Ali Safavi, Yin Song and Chela Tu spent many nights at UNC around a table making dumplings. “Any time we threw a party, we ended up in the kitchen,” Nate says. But the roots for those gatherings were planted years earlier as they grew up separately around the globe as cultural transplants (in a different country than their parents’ native country). Nate lived in Taiwan thanks to his American parents’ work and remembers the weekly Sunday beach trips that always ended at a little dumpling shop right by the ocean. “Dumplings were like my macaroni and cheese,” Nate fondly recalls. Years later in college, the group’s attempts to recreate the comfort food of their youth were a way to tame the culture shock, and they soon saw “no reason kids of the South [couldn’t] enjoy real dumplings.”
The canary yellow Chirba Chirba truck arrived on the scene during the first wave of trucks in 2011. Dumplings, they discovered after pulling a few all-nighters, were a labor-intensive product. Now the team has the routine down: A truck crew arrives a few hours before the service to prep, and this happens twice a day, every single day. (Their record is 10,000 dumplings in a week.)
“We’re very limited in space,” Nate says. “It forces you to be creative with [the ingredients] you have.” Still, the crowds keep coming for their Asian street fare including the “Poultry-geist,” a chicken-and-turkey dumpling made with habaneros and ghost chilies. Nate’s the only original founder still involved with the truck on a daily basis (he bought out the others’ shares), and he dabbles in a little bit of everything, including marketing, bookkeeping and, yes, dumpling-making. “When I was a kid, I wanted to be a fireman, and that’s what I do now – I put out fires all day,” he says with a laugh.