May 30, 2023


World's finest Food

At Dumpling Haus, mother-daughters trio make memories into meals

Born in Guangzhou, China, Elaine Won’s childhood was steeped in tradition and fond recollections of food — mostly meaty dumplings and barbecue pork. Won says she learned to craft the perfect dumpling from her father, who managed a warehouse cafeteria buzzing with staff who were well versed in Northern Chinese dishes. 

When Won immigrated to the U.S. from China, it was a challenge finding restaurants that resembled the shops back home, especially when it came to dumplings. Though tiny, these decadent treasures packed memories she wanted to share with the world, so preparing them for the masses became her passion project. Tucked away in Sawyer Yards is the fruit of that dedication, Dumpling Haus. The restaurant serves a hearty roster of comfort dishes like dumplings (also sold frozen for customers to create meals at home), fried rice, protein and veggie bowls slathered in a chili garlic relish, fresh wontons and more.

Dumpling Haus' green dumplings.

Dumpling Haus’ green dumplings.

Roger Tam Photography

Won’s journey to sharing her dumplings with the world began at an unlikely spot — the Heights coffee shop A 2nd Cup, where her daughter Ashley worked at the time. 

“I knew how much she loved cooking, so I thought this would be a fun experience for her,” Ashley says. “She actually made dumplings for [the shop] a couple more times before telling me she was interested in hopping in some farmers markets and seeing what they had available.”

Aside from Ashley serving as a general manager at A 2nd Cup, her sister Amiley’s job history was also customer service-oriented, specifically in restaurant food prep and inventory management. It wasn’t long until the sisters hopped on board, and in 2016, the restaurant Dumpling Haus was officially born. Over the next three years, the mother-daughters trio unveiled their popular pan-fried dumplings — alongside other treats such as braised pork belly and steamy noodle soups — at spots such as Johnny’s Gold Brick, Grand Prize Bar, Asia Society Night Market, Axelrad and more.  

From left: Elaine Won, Ashley Lai and Amiley Lai with their staple dumplings at Dumpling Haus in Houston.

From left: Elaine Won, Ashley Lai and Amiley Lai with their staple dumplings at Dumpling Haus in Houston.

Tyler Horne

“When we first started cooking and selling dumplings, my sister and I really didn’t consider the heritage aspect of it. We just enjoyed seeing how happy our mom was at these pop-ups and how excited she was to share a little piece of her immigration story,” Ashley says. “However, the more involved we became, we learned more about Chinese cooking, all the different foods we could make — just exploring how sacred tradition is.”

After doing pop-ups for more than half a year, the family started discussing moving to a brick-and-mortar location. 

“So many people were asking us ‘when are guys going to open a restaurant?’ and telling us how they’d love to have the dumplings every day instead of just on the weekends, so that really excited us to start exploring other options,” Ashley says.

A wall inside Dumpling Haus reads "Love our people like you love our food."

A wall inside Dumpling Haus reads “Love our people like you love our food.”

Ashley Lai

 Thanks to a close friend, they found a real estate broker who nurtured their architectural vision and family concept, and they ended up scoring a spot in Sawyer Yards early last year. With a fuller kitchen, it only took several months for the restaurant’s clientele and food options to flourish, such as the addition of their garlicky Vegetable Stir-Fry, richly sauteed tofu, and Honey Glazed Chicken and BBQ Pork signature bowls. While customers indulge in these delicacies, they can also relish Dumpling Haus’ architectural odes to its Cantonese heritage. The cozy nook sports a resplendent array of New Year’s lanterns above the dining area, a mural advocating to ‘Stop Asian Hate’ and a trendy ‘dumplings around the world’ map holstered above the freestanding bar.  

As for future plans, the trio wants to strengthen their retail presence and begin shipping their frozen dumplings to other cities in Texas. 

“As a new generation of business owners, we want to be more open, collaborative and grounded while also preserving our authenticity,” Ashley says. “And though we just started here at this location, there’s a lot of opportunities to grow here and to continue sharing our story, so we’re very excited.”