New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

New York University's independent student newspaper, established in 1973.

Washington Square News

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Behind Fafu, Washington Square’s beloved Chinese food truck

The story behind one of NYU’s most popular food trucks is an unfeigned testament to Chinese immigrants everywhere.
A+white+food+truck+that+reads+on+the+side+%E2%80%9CFafu+Traditional+Chinese+Cuisine%E2%80%9D+and+photos+of+different+menu+items+posted+on+its+exterior+parks+outside+N.Y.U.%E2%80%99s+Stern+School+of+Business.+Three+people+are+standing+outside+the+food+truck+waiting+for+their+food.
Fafu Traditional Chinese Cuisine Food Truck parked outside of the Stern School of Business. (Courtesy photo by Rene Yap)

When you think of grabbing a quick bite from a food truck in New York City, you might immediately think of tacos, hot dogs or maybe even chicken over rice. But what if you could also order beef noodle soup, tea eggs or a spicy lamb pancake?

Enter the Fafu Traditional Chinese Cuisine Food Truck — a mom-and-pop vendor on West Fourth Street between Bobst Library and Gould Plaza, selling piping hot and authentic Chinese meals to customers. Fafu stands out among all of the food trucks lining West Fourth Street. Every weekday during lunch time, it attracts a long queue that can span nearly half a block.

Run by Elena Wang and her family, Fafu has been stationed outside NYU for the past 11 years. The truck is a family business started by Wang’s father, who moved to New York from Luoyang, a city in the west of Henan province in China.

“Making a life here for Chinese immigrants isn’t easy,” Wang explained. “Even though we’ve been [in New York] for over 10 years, we’re at the food truck everyday.”

Fafu was first a restaurant in Flushing, Queens, but closed shortly after. The business then moved to a pushcart at Columbia University, similar to the halal carts around New York city — but selling the same dishes as the Flushing restaurant.

It was only upon several requests from visiting NYU students that the Wang family made the decision to open a food truck downtown on NYU’s Washington Square campus. Wang found that the bustling environment of Greenwich Village was much more open to all sorts of customers compared to Columbia’s neighborhood.

Wang finds interacting with students enjoyable, and part of the reason she keeps the business alive. “I’ll serve you as long as you have a good attitude, and you’re patient,” she said with a laugh.

Wang shares her struggles of owning the food truck. Besides having to get to campus at 8 a.m. and sometimes having to tussle with construction workers over road space, Wang is limited by her limited proficiency in English.

“We’re in the food business because our English isn’t good,” Wang said. “My English is sufficient to converse with customers. And the work I’m limited to is things like working in restaurants, this sort of simple work. For Chinese immigrants who don’t understand English, working here is exhausting.”

Fafu is the perfect spot for students to grab a satisfying Chinese meal between intense classes and grueling studying sessions. For many students, Fafu presents an affordable alternative to local restaurants — a full meal costs $10 to $12.

Wang has found Number 13 on the menu, 每日盖饭, or the Daily Special Rice, to be an NYU crowd favorite — and, coincidentally, her favorite dish, too.

Even if you don’t usually crave Chinese fare, Fafu Traditional Chinese Cuisine is definitely worth a try with its authentic flavors and cheap prices.

Contact Megan Sim at [email protected].

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