‘Comforting, simple, and delicious’: Dumpling Daughter to be served on campus next month


Hailey Akau

Starting Feb. 1, Dumpling Daughter will operate from the grill in the Lion’s Den.

By Maddie Khaw, Assistant News Editor

Students hungry for traditional dumplings and buns soon won’t have to venture off campus for authentic Chinese cuisine; Dumpling Daughter, the college’s latest dining option, will debut in the Lion’s Den on Feb. 1.

The restaurant will operate off the grill where renowned itamae Victor Choi served sushi for four years before opening his own restaurant right on Emerson’s campus. In the Lion’s Den, students will be able to use Board Bucks, EC Cash, or a credit or debit card to purchase goods from Dumpling Daughter, a local restaurant that produces dumplings, buns, and noodles using authentic Chinese methods.

“According to our annual survey last November, ‘dumpling bar’ was one of our dining program’s top requests for meal offerings,” said Thomas Moseley, senior marketing specialist for Café Bon Appétit, the contractor that services Emerson dining. “In the search for solutions, Dumpling Daughter hit our radar.”

When Nadia Liu Spellman, the restaurant’s CEO and founder, heard about the feedback Bon Appétit received from Emerson students, she thought her restaurant could provide an “accessible and approachable” option.

“Students want something different,” Spellman said. “The students have more eclectic and also explorative palates. They want more—they don’t want just pizza, burgers, the usual stuff. Ethnic foods are consumed more popularly now, and it’s rising. And so, they were looking for another type of cuisine.”

While the Lion’s Den has offered rotating options of various cultural dishes throughout last semester—serving, for example, Greek food one month, Indian cuisine the next, and currently French-style crêpes—Dumpling Daughter will operate from the grill for the remainder of this semester, and depending on how it’s received by students, perhaps into next year.

Dumpling Daughter already has three locations in and around Boston, with its original storefront located in Weston, about 15 miles outside of Boston. After the first location opened in 2014, Spellman opened two more locations in Cambridge and Brookline, and will be adding a fourth in South Boston within upcoming months.

Spellman hopes to “​​share this underexposed cuisine to as many people as [possible],” she said.

Throughout her childhood, Spellman’s parents owned Chinese restaurants that she described as “high-end” and “fancy.”

“As I got old, I realized that even though I got spoiled with all this amazing food, my favorite food is still my childhood comfort food—which is simple Chinese snacks like dumplings and buns,” Spellman said. “The goal really is to share this childhood food that is so comforting, simple, and delicious.” 

Dumpling Daughter will supply frozen dumplings and buns to Bon Appétit staff, who will prepare and serve the food to students, “as if you’re at a Dumpling Daughter restaurant,” Spellman said. 

“This is our first time having somebody else handle our food and serve our food with our brand name.”

Although Dumpling Daughter’s frozen products have never been served in this manner, Spellman has already found success with her frozen dumpling line, which originated at the start of the pandemic when restaurants were unable to serve patrons in-house. After customers began requesting frozen products and take-home bottles of sauce, the frozen dumplings had a “domino effect,” Spellman said, with supermarkets buying and selling the products as well.

“It’s really exciting to be able to share it with the college students, because this is a demographic that we haven’t really targeted specifically,” Spellman said.

Sophomore interdisciplinary studies major Jillian Hetherman said she is excited to try Dumpling Daughter on campus, as she has never had dumplings before. Despite Emerson’s proximity to Chinatown, she said she wouldn’t know what to order from the nearby authentic restaurants, whose menu items she is unfamiliar with.

“I think it’s nice that it’s in a more condensed setting, so I can try something that I’ve never tried before,” Hetherman said. “It’s great that there’s going to be limited options for students who are interested, and hopefully give another restaurant a chance to have a bigger footing in the Emerson community.”

This fits with the core concept of the restaurant, which is “to make this food approachable to everyone,” Spellman said. 

“I want everyone to be able to try it and have it,” she said. “Because if you didn’t grow up Chinese, you [might not have] eaten dumplings every week.”

Spellman recalls that when she was young, her father told her to pursue a career in something she’s passionate about and to try to make a difference in the world by doing so. As the first generation of mixed Chinese-American children in her family, he told her it was her job to “bridge the gap between East and West.” As Spellman developed a passion for food, she discovered that she could achieve this goal by opening a restaurant that “the Easterners and the Westerners can all relate to and find healing and approachable.”

“I’m just so happy that we can bridge the gap here at Emerson, and be able to make the Chinese or the Asian or the mixed [students] feel at home because dumplings or buns is something you might’ve had,” Spellman said. “And then for the people that haven’t had it to feel, ‘Oh, I can try this.’ That’s really bringing people together, and that really makes me happy.”