Local Chinese restaurant offers traditional dishes, dessert options
UTD has seen a lot of growth over the years, so it should come as no surprise that the area around the university is always developing. Despite the almost seasonal changes, I’m excited to revisit a classic Richardson restaurant, Jeng Chi.
Seemingly small and unassuming, Jeng Chi sits near the center of Chinatown, preceded by a row of imposing stone sculptures. Red paper lanterns shine down on the seating area’s dark hardwood, creating a soft glow throughout.
Looking over Jeng Chi’s selection, I was immediately struck by the variety of tastes they could appeal to. Their juicy steamed dumpling, kung pao tiger shrimp and jellyfish with cucumber made Jeng Chi stand out to me as a location where anyone, regardless of their experience with Chinese food, would feel comfortable. Starting with an appetizer of marinated tofu and a green onion pancake, I was immediately struck by how light both were. With their own uniquely subtle and salty flavors, the two were the perfect way to ease myself into the evening.
As the main courses came out, I was struck by Jeng Chi’s simple showmanship. Contained within a regular bamboo steamer, the small juicy steamed dumplings appeared with a cloud of steam. I had high expectations for this signature dish, and I wasn’t disappointed. Hand-made in house, each dumpling wasted no space, filled with a delicate balance of pork and soup. The mapo tofu, filling its container to the brim, was overflowing with a variety of spices and sauces, combining perfectly with the silky texture of the tofu. Jeng Chi’s dishes stood out to me visually, not in a traditionally flashy manner, but in the simple commitment to flavor made apparent from the moment they’re set down.
General manager and co-owner Janelle Teng talked about Jeng Chi’s history as a small family business, and her role in helping it grow to its current size. Teng said they eventually outgrew their original location in the Chinatown Shopping Center.
“Over the first couple decades, the restaurant became more successful. They knocked out a wall one way and made the kitchen bigger. Some years later, they knocked out a wall another way and made the dining room bigger,” Teng said. “The business was doing very well starting around 2011-2012, and it was time to grow but there were no more walls to knock out.”
Founded in 1990 by Yuan and Mei Teng, Jeng Chi originally sold only dough items, such as steamed buns and noodles. Now serving a largely expanded menu, Teng said the restaurant seeks to appeal to a diverse customer base while maintaining their authentic cooking.
“The menu is my mother-in-law’s menu. We brought it with us from the original restaurant and these recipes all harken back to her family,” Teng said. “It’s her family’s cooking, and so the roots are there with my mother-in-law’s family.”
Teng said that because the restaurant serves such a diverse audience, it was important for them to be able to accommodate various dietary restrictions. Alongside their regular menu, Teng said their separate vegetarian and allergen menus helped ensure a safe and comfortable experience for diners.
“I worked very hard to make sure that we are transparent with the menu ingredients so our customers can make good, safe decisions for themselves and their family,” Teng said.
Jeng Chi, derived from a Chinese family name, loosely translates to “House of Joy.” Now as co-owner alongside her husband Francisco, Teng said she hopes to honor both the legacy and name of the restaurant.
“I want (customers) to remember how amazing their meal was,” Teng said. “That the food was prepared perfectly, that their service staff treated them kindly and efficiently and that they leave with that sense of joy and satisfaction, that they’re happy with this is where they spent their time with their family or coworkers.”
With the growing success of Jeng Chi, Teng said they hope to expand to a second smaller location, more similar to the original Jeng Chi from 1990. As the business continues to grow, however, Teng said they are determined to keep the same hands-on, family run operation going for years to come.
“We do have some young family members that are involved with the family business,” Teng said. “ I have been really fortunate to curate a management team that have worked with me for six years or more.”
At first glance, Jeng Chi’s elegant and thoughtful interior struck me as that of a location beyond my means. My time there has shown me that behind its stunning decor and increasing success lies a caring restaurant, truly committed to honoring their guests.
“My mother and father-in-law have put down some really amazing roots for us … They are well respected in the community, and I hope that we have honored them by being able to provide the environment and the staff to share our food with more people today than ever before,” Teng said. “I have the most respect for all that they have done and all that they continue to do for us, and I hope that the mutual respect shows here in the restaurant. I hope that radiates back out into the community.”
As a response to recent developments surrounding COVID-19, Jeng Chi has temporarily halted dine-in eating, offering instead a weekly menu of Grab and Go options, including bento boxes, dumplings and soups. Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Teng said the restaurant would continue operating for as long as the government would allow them to.