Mony Vangsoulatda came to the U.S. when she was nine years old and learned at an early age the meaning of hard work. While growing up in Stockton, California, she helped her parents make desserts to sell at local grocery stores and food vendors. In addition to getting up early to prepare the products, she would go on deliveries with her parents to translate English for them. Mony’s family immigrated from the Kan Thao region of Sayaboury, a northwestern province of Laos, which has close historic ties to neighboring Thailand. Although they lived in an all-American city, the family retained their cultural heritage through their recipes. Her family went on to start a very successful Lao/Thai restaurant, well known throughout the area.
Mony earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from University of Phoenix, then worked six years with Panda Express as a general manager and training leader. Mony’s mother was approaching retirement, so she sensed it was time to return to the family restaurant to help manage the business. She spent a year re-learning from her mother how to cook traditional Lao and Thai dishes. Although she enjoyed cooking, Mony was not sure being in the kitchen was something she wanted to do in the long run. The family sold their restaurant to an eager buyer in November of 2012. Mony recalls this turning point very well: “My mom, who has been a chef for over 25 years, was getting ready to retire from our restaurant, so I had to think of the next step. After managing a restaurant for a few years, I wanted to do something fun where I was not stuck in the kitchen of a restaurant. I recruited my cousin Reagan who has a passion for food and my sister-in-law Linda who is very creative. We just started brainstorming about the new business together. We still can’t believe we are here.”
The idea of joining the food truck movement first came to the group while attending a food truck event in Elk Grove, California on September of 2012. The informal outdoor setting was lively and fun for the entire family. There were dozens of unique and delicious food truck vendors in attendance. From that moment she knew that she wanted to be part of the food truck scene: “After researching and attending several food truck gatherings in the Central Valley, I knew we would be welcomed with our type of food, since there really has not been one with our type of menu.”
She did extensive research on pre-existing food truck vehicles and came to the realization that in order to bring the highest quality of food to her customers with her limited budget, she would need a customized mobile kitchen: “It was very hard to decide which direct to take between buying a food truck versus food trailer. Financially, I couldn’t afford a customized food truck tailored to my cooking style, since I needed a kitchen customized with certain equipment. A food trailer on the other hand was more affordable. Finding the right builder to build my trailer was very important to me. I was lucky enough to have found Food Cart USA, located in Costa Mesa, California, to assist me with a dream trailer.” She invested in a built-in wok, a 6-burner oven, fryer, char-broiler, steam table and even a mortar stand, in addition to the standard freezer, refrigerator and 3-compartment sink. The brand new trailer was then custom wrapped with a sleek new logo, which was designed by her sister- in -law Linda Vangsoulatda. The Green Papaya Food Truck had their grand opening March 10, 2013 to a huge crowd of friends and loyal supporters at Planet Autosport in Stockton. The team includes Chef Reagan Chantriack, Linda Vangsoulatda (creative designer) and Mony’s dear mom (aka secret weapon) who volunteers her time to help the team.
Green Papaya has a good mixture of delicious and flavorful Lao/Thai dishes. They utilize local, fresh herbs and ingredients in each of their menu items. Their top sellers are Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles, Basil Chicken, Spicy Lao Sausages, Nam Khao, Laap and Sticky Rice. The menu rotates depending on the location and events. Special items that are introduced from time to time include: Khao Poon, Khao Piek, Thom Khem, Curry, Angel Wings and Mango with Sticky Rice. You can find the Green Papaya Food Truck at many food truck gatherings like SactoMoFo and FoodMob in Sacramento, CA. When they are not in Sacramento, they are serving up food in their local hometown of Stockton, Ca. They are also available for special events and private locations. Most recently they served lunch to an enthusiastic crowd at the Tesla Motors’ electric vehicle manufacturing plant in Fremont, California. To confirm locations, please check their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/greenpapayaft.