“Gotta have a jianbing,” said Katie Voong with a grin and a laugh. It’s a phrase she’s said a lot since she brought the traditional Chinese street food to Downtown Sunnyvale.
K Tea Café opened up in 2018, but it has quickly gained a name for itself locally.
“[Customers] are surprised to see jianbing, I’m one of the only few that have it,” said Voong. “There’s not a signature place [locally] that has jianbing. There are certain foods that bring memories; memories and thoughts and love…I really like to travel, but you can’t always travel for food, so that’s why I brought it back.”
A jianbing, pronounced jee-YEN bing, is a little like a savory crepe. In China, it’s usually served off a street cart and made of egg, cilantro, green onion, sesame seeds. A crispy, fried wonton is put inside before the food is folded together and served up hot.
K Tea Café has added its own twist on the food by putting a protein layer in the middle. Customers get to choose between bulgogi beef, tofu, chicken teriyaki or braised pork belly.
“I remember there’s a customer that came in…drove all the way from Walnut Creek, saying, ‘I want to get this for my husband’s birthday’,” said Voong. “She was waiting at the door before we opened…She said, ‘I haven’t had this for 20 years.’”
“It really melted my heart,” Voong continued. “It melted my heart because having her drive so far…Everything is rewarded when you see a customer have their reaction, how much they love the jianbing, how much they prize the memory.”
While K Tea Café is relatively new, Voong isn’t new to the restaurant business.
“I’ve been in this business for over 16 years before I went to the school, but I wanted to get the book smarts…that’s why I went to Mission College,” said Voong.
Voong went through Mission College’s Hospitality Management program.
“Mission College has inspired me to find my soul of cooking,” said Voong. “I’m grateful for all this opportunity because I made a choice to go back to school.”
After graduating, Voong teamed up with her brother Phu Voong, who helped Katie Voong open the restaurant. Phu Voong is the co-founder and Katie Voong is the managing partner.
Katie Voong says the menu was inspired by her own personal experiences.
“Everything here on the menu is a walk in my life,” said Voong. “From the Vietnamese sandwich…my background growing up eating the sandwich when I was in high school sharing one sandwich with three girls and walking to Chinatown.”
The milk tea was added to the menu because of her son.
“I didn’t want him to drink anything not healthy,” said Voong. “There are a lot of products out there that have high fructose sugar, high powders, which I don’t like. I wanted to change it to transparent ingredients. That’s where I start with real brown sugar, real milk and real tea leaf.”
“It comes from the heart,” said Voong. “Everything comes from the heart.”
In addition to the K Tea Café location, Voong also runs K Tea Café catering.
K Tea Café is located at 139 S. Murphy Ave. in Sunnyvale. It’s open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
You can also find it online at www.kteacafe.com.