The Chirba Chirba Dumpling Truck is a fixture in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area of North Carolina. The area boasts more than it's fair share of "Food Truck Rodeos," and Chirba Chirba seems to manage to be at all of them.
My Story with Chirba Chirba
The first time that I had Chirba Chirba was at Apex's Peak Fest in 2018, and the line for a tray of dumplings was more than double that of the other trucks parked nearby. As a big fan of dumplings in general, I was willing to wait in line, and I sure am glad that I did. Getting two orders, one of their Bok to the Future dumplings, and the other of their Bayside Chive dumplings, my wife and I were in culinary heaven.
Over the past couple of years we've had their dumplings every time we happen to run into them, and on several occasions, when the mood has struck us, they've been our destination. (We're not afraid to drive a decent distance.)
After a couple of weeks of staying at home to help not exacerbate the COVID-19 crisis, we were desperately craving something that would cheer us up, something that was a little less routine than our fully non-perishable stocked pantry had been allowing, and found out that Chirba Chirba was going to be in a neighborhood ten minutes from our house. I arrived and noticed cones set up across the parking lot letting people know where to wait while observing social distancing.
Most people must have been feeling similarly to my wife and I, because everyone patiently waited, and respectfully observed all of the distancing, in order to eat something fresh and exciting. When I had worked my way up to the truck, the crew was wearing masks and gloves, and they were happy to be working, and the food was as good as ever (maybe a little bit better because they were giving out a little extra per order).
We got the Bok to the Future dumplings, which had been my favorites, but then we also ordered some of the juicy buns. The juicy buns are by far my favorite now. I hadn't ordered them in the past, because I was picturing something a bit more like a traditional bun, and they are more like dumplings in the shape of a bun, and they are so juicy, and absolutely delectable.
How They Handle Crisis
The reason that I wanted to make a video about Chirba Chirba, in addition to being absolutely satisfied every time that I've visited them, was kind of the story of the truck over the last year. I've been following them on Instagram for a while, as a good way of getting updates on where they're going to be.
Last year on Instagram, Chirba Chirba posted that the truck had been stolen, and even though the truck was recovered there was some high priced items to be replaced, and the patrons really came out and supported them, helping through a GoFundMe, and showing up to their different events.
Before I saw the back and forth on Instagram of Chirba Chirba and their customers, I had just thought of them as really good food, but watching how they interacted, and how loyal their customer base was, I was pleasantly surprised.
When things started shutting down, most restaurants that I frequent have stayed open in some capacity, but I honestly didn't know what would happen to the food trucks. From what I've witnessed, they seemed to thrive primarily off of highly social situations; parking in office parks for special lunches where coworkers come out, eat and mingle; food truck rodeos, where a half a dozen or more food trucks fill a parking lot, and people walk around from truck to truck in hoards; or parking at breweries to offer some dinner to the evening commiserators. How could a food truck survive, let alone thrive?
As I mentioned before, Chirba Chirba has been going to different housing developments, and apartment complexes, and parking, and advertising well, and the people are showing up. If Chirba Chirba is coming to a neighborhood near you, and you're aware, and feeling like food is a bit mundane, during this time, you're probably one of those people showing up. Like I said, I certainly have been.
The truth is, that the greater Raleigh-Durham/Research Triangle community, is a foodie community, and that foodie community has really adapted to this new and temporary way of doing things, and Chirba Chirba did the work ahead of time to ensure their survival during COVID-19, by making great food, and engaging the community, and now when community is a very different thing than it was two months ago, they're still managing to engage the community, in a safe and responsible way.