Originally from the Shandong Province of China, Haili Li has made a name for herself in the past six years she’s lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Not only is she a beloved member of the community, but she owns and runs Hi-Licious Street Kitchen, the only food truck in Lake Charles with authentic Asian food.
I sat down with Li at Starbucks the other day and asked her a few questions about her and her food truck.
CoffeeColumnist (CC): How long have you lived in Lake Charles?
CC: Where did you move to Lake Charles from?
HL: I’m originally from the Shao-Dong Province in China, but I’ve lived all over in the United States including NYC, Texas, Michigan and Missouri.
CC: What gave you the idea to open your own food truck?
HL: I like to eat and sometimes I’m really homesick. I cannot find the same type of food here as at home, so I have to cook it myself. I think that in America when they cook Chinese food, it’s not really actual Chinese food. I think it’s a kind of way to get people more open minded to accepting the real Chinese food. In NY, California, Texas, and Chicago a lot of the real Chinese food is available and people love it. I want to share my culture and my country with the people around here. I want them to know me and the things that I want to share.
HL: It’s really hard to find a name, you know that. I tried a few, like Great Wall or something but I think that it’s too much. I thought, ‘Well my name is Haili and it’s delicious. I’ll just call it Hilicious.’ I changed the Hai to just Hi cause it’s like, ‘Hi, Licious here!’
CC: I saw that on this week’s menu you’ll have cuisine from China, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, and India. Does your food truck highlight food from different Asian countries every week?
HL: No. It depends because we live in Lake Charles sometimes it’s an inconvenience to buy some ingredients and it depends on what ingredients I can find to buy.
I had an idea that sometimes this week is a Thai week and the next week is an Indian week but it’s hard because if I can’t find the ingredients then I can’t do that. I think that it’s a great idea though.
CC: Where do you get the ideas for your menu items? Are your menu items food that you ate growing up?
HL: Yes. In China, I grew up eating too much food. We have a lot more food than Americans, to be honest. I pick items that I really like and that are healthy. I think that being healthy is very important because a lot of customers they come and I worry about their health.
Americans eat too much sugar, too much MSG, too many things and I really don’t like that. So I try to be conscious of that in my food.
In some restaurants they make a whole giant can of sauce and no matter what you order, it all gets the same sauce. It will keep the same taste but in the sauce, it’s like three cups of sugar and one cup of MSG. If you saw it, it would scare you. We really don’t eat like that in my country and I don’t want to do that.
We eat more healthy and more traditionally. It’s easy to eat and fast and it’s light. We don’t even have butter or cheese. I didn’t eat cheese until I came to America.
CC: Which menu item is your best seller?
HL: The Thai Chicken and before it was the spicy chicken and then the shrimp noodle. A lot of people ask me what’s the best seller and it’s difficult because everyone has their favorite. Everything on my menu sells really good and that’s why I always keep a lot of things on my menu. I do want to take some off but I cannot choose.
Li posts the food truck’s weekly schedule on her Facebook page and updates her loyal customers.
One customer, Rachel Rust, reviewed Hi-Licious Street Kitchen with five stars and said, “Beef buns are delicious! Crab rangoon is richly flavorful. Sweet and sour chicken is my go-to. The food is incredible, to say the least, but I come back for Haili’s smile. She’s always so sweet to her customers. I love when Hi-Licious is in town!”
Interested in finding Hi-Licious Street Kitchen? You can find them on Facebook here. What’s your favorite item from Hi-Licious Street Kitchen? Leave your favorite in the comments below!
Read the version of this article in the Lake Charles Metro Leader here.