Manchester’s street food scene is always growing and I’m back with another interview with from another vendor. Yen runs Woks Cluckin, a stall selling Pan Asian dishes including Korean fried chicken, tofu rice bowls and kimchi loaded fries. Her cooking reminds me of the food I had growing up.
Read on to find out more about Woks Cluckin’s origins and inspiration.
I always wanted to be self-employed, to be able to control and manage my own time of doing what and when.Yen from Woks Cluckin
Tell me about you and what made you start Woks Cluckin?
I was born and raised in Penang, Malaysia. Part of my childhood was in the Republic of Ireland where my dad was working and our whole family moved there. Many people know me as Yen from Woks Cluckin but all my old colleagues known me as Josephine or Jo. I adopted this name when I was in Ireland in order to be able to register for a Catholic school.
I always wanted to be self-employed, to be able to control and manage my own time of doing what and when. The idea of having a food stall came up in 2013, but I wasn’t convinced the concept was strong enough back then. So after having my son in 2015 and turning 30, I became more driven to have flexibility in my own time. I was very much ready to make the change, telling myself if I don’t try it now it’s never going to happen. So voila! Woks Cluckin was born.
What were you doing before trading as a street food vendor?
I worked for an Import & Export company in the Yarns Industry. My work pretty much involves sales & purchase of the yarn, dealing with suppliers & customers, looking after the imports & exports shipments of the goods from countries like China, Indonesia, Taiwan, India, Vietnam etc. It’s a typical 9-5 office work and nothing related to food or hospitality really. So Woks Cluckin is a huge change for me.
Tell me more about Nyonya cuisine.
‘Nyonya’ also known as Straits-Chinese or Peranakan generally refers to the descendants of Chinese Immigrants who moved to Malaya from China. Their male offspring are called ‘Baba’ and female are called ‘Nyonya’. The inter-marrying of local Malays and Chinese created a new breed of Malaysian dishes combining Chinese flavours & Malay spices emerged. Growing up my Ah Por (Grandma) cooks a lot of Nyonya food. Then it gets passed on to my mum, my favourite are ‘Lor Bak’ (Five Spices Pork Roll) & Bang Kuang Char (Stir Fry Yam Bean).
Your Korean Fried Chicken is really popular, but what else should customers be trying from you?
The ‘Specials’ item I’ve put on the menu every now and then. My noodles dishes like Curry Laksa & Hokkien Mee. And also my take on Char Siu & my Malaysian Karipap.
Tell me about your collaboration with Mama Z.
So Mama Z and I had done a series of Supper Clubs called ‘Kampung Bayan’ which means Hometown in Malay & Tagalog, it incorporates flavours from our hometown (Malaysia & Philippines) and childhood food memories. We created a 3-course menu which both of us loves to eat and would eat over and over again.
What are some of your favourite foods?
Penang hawker food. All-time favourite Char Kuey Teow. It’s the first dish I would eat when I go back home.
Is there any food you are not too keen on?
Not really, I would give every cuisine a go. But I must say, I’m really rubbish at eating wraps or burgers, it just seems to deconstruct & explode on me EVERY time.
Quick fire questions
Are you more of a savoury person, or sweet?
100% sweet. I would eat cakes for breakfast everyday if I could.
Thin fries or thick cut chips?
I love skinny chips. But don’t mind chunky chips with my steak every now and then.
Tea or coffee?
Chocolate or lemon cake?
Half of each please!
You can find Woks Cluckin trading at various markets and kitchen takeovers across Greater Manchester. Please check their Facebook page for up to date information.