The story of restaurant/retail business, Dumpling Drop, began with owner Tarn Tayanuth seeking out a form of repetitive therapy that she could do with her mother, who has Alzheimers. Six-ish years later, the dumpling rolling hasn’t stopped, and the now wildly popular Victoria spot, known for putting out deep-fried deliciousness during the daytime, has adopted a different persona every Thursday to Sunday night (6-9pm). It’s called ‘Chaiyo Nights‘.
We sat down with Tayanuth armed with a list of rapid-fire questions aimed at finding out more about her – in and out of the kitchen – and her business’ fun new nighttime concept…
Obviously, Dumpling Drop is all about dumplings, but on weekends, you made the decision to transform the space to an alternate identity called ‘Chaiyo Nights’. Why did you decide to do this? What is the second concept all about and how do you want people to experience it? We have an empty space after 6pm every day, and it was alway a dream of mine to open a restaurant serving the kind of Thai food that I want to eat – more like drinking food/small plates. Sharing food is a big part of Thai food culture, so this is a way for us to show the different side of Thai food.
You don’t do it all on your own, right? Who helps you out? We call her Auntie Lynn. She was the original owner of Baan Thai. I worked with her for almost 20 years, and she is like family to me. After I came up with the concept for Chaiyo Nights, she helped me make it possible. Basically, I tell her what I would like to eat each week and that’s what goes on the menu.
Opening or closing the kitchen – which suits your personality best? Opening the kitchen for sure. I like to get things ready and start looking forward to the day!
Describe the knife that you’re most sentimental about: where did you get it and what’s the story? My fave knife is a cheap Kiwi knife from Thailand that my aunt gave me – that’s all we have in our kitchen in Thailand. It’s what I learned how to cook with and I still mostly cook Thai food with it, for sure.
What is your favourite type of cuisine to cook? What is your favourite cuisine to eat? I love all kinds of Asian food – anything that reminds me of home.
What’s the one dreaded kitchen task that you’d be glad to staff out to someone else so you never have to do it again? Cleaning the deep fryer.
If money was no object and you had the night off, where would you take your co-workers for dinner tonight? In Victoria, I’d take them to Brasserie L’Ecole for sure. Anywhere else in the world…maybe for Korean BBQ in Seoul.
What is Victoria missing in terms of cuisine? Lots, actually. We need more kebab places, Korean BBQ, Filipino food, hot pot, etc.
How did you last burn/cut yourself? I burnt myself with the deep fryer at Brewery and the Beast – it was busy!
Who have been some of your most impactful mentors? Jo Zambri (Zambri’s), Clif Leir (Fol Epi), Autumn Maxwell (Cold Comfort), and so many more. I’m so lucky to get so much love and support from the community!
Which cuisine or single dish/food item do you ‘know’ well enough to have a running score of where to find ‘the best’? Thai food or dumplings. I’ve definitely done a lot of research on them both!
So tell us, beyond Chaiyo Nights and Auntie Lynn, where is the best Thai food that you’ve had lately? The Best Thai food that I have had recently was at a Thai Kid Club event in Sidney, BC. It is an annual event that sees a whole bunch of Thai people come together to make their favourite Thai food (most often their family dishes) for sale. All the proceeds go to Thai Kid Club, which is an orgaisation of community members that supports Thai kids. It’s quite a showoff of Thai food. It was my first time going to the event but I’m for sure going back next year and I’m recommended to anyone who wants to taste some really good and authentic Thai cuisine.
Name your all-time favourite three ingredients. Fish sauce, garlic, and chili – with that I can make other things taste good.
Dish on your menu right now that everyone should try? The Massamun Curry on our Chaiyo menu.
Default drink/cocktail of choice? Whiskey and soda.
Dogs or cats? Dogs.
Forest or beach? Beach – I grew up in Thailand.
Beer or cocktail? Beer.
What keeps you up at night? Dumpling Drop – I can’t stop thinking about it, lol.
What do you do when you can’t sleep? I start writing down ideas.
A character from a movie that you’d love to share a meal with? Ponyo – she loves ham!
What trend have you followed that you now regret? Crocs.
Shoe of choice? Vans slip-ons.
Where’d you grow up? Thailand.
Three words that would describe you as a child? Curious, friendly, and generous.
First impression of Victoria? Cold! I’m from Thailand and got here in the winter. (But it’s also beautiful.)
Do you have a favourite family photograph? If yes, can you describe it for us? Yes, it’s of the whole family – probably about 25 of us – at our beach house that we go to every summer.
Favourite tool in the kitchen? My Thai knife.
Proudest moment of the last year? When we won the New Business of the Year from the 2021 Greater Victoria Business Awards.
Proudest moment of your life? Being able to take care of my family, friends and my sick mother.
The ingredient/dish you’d like to see more customers be brave about trying? MSG – let’s all get over it! It’s delicious!
Your favourite curse word? F%$#.
Love Dumpling Drop and how the business began. We have been so privileged to promote Tarns Dumpling through our Victoria Chinatown Lionesses as a Fundraiser. We have a great following and the Product is outstanding,
Thank you Tarn for supporting our Project.
I also enjoy dropping by your restaurant, as a volunteer at the New Chinese Museum in FanTan Alley, I refer our visitors to Dumpling Drop