We had the good fortune of connecting with Amiley & Ashley Lai Lai and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amiley & Ashley Lai, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
As entrepreneurs we can always work more hours, forgoing sleep and leisure, but we have found setting aside the time to rest gives us the energy to tackle each week. We have seen so many friends burn out from working nonstop, and taking the time to spend time with loved ones and do things that we enjoy outside of our business reminds us that there are seasons of busy times and slower times and to be grateful in the midst of each of these seasons. When Dumpling Haus first started as a pop-up it was much easier to balance our lives and take time off because our schedules were much more flexible. In previous years that looked like taking annual family vacations, but with the opening of our brick and mortar we have been exploring our own city more and taking day trips to nearby locales.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
We always joke that we are probably the only restaurant in the world where you can get Hong Kong style BBQ pork over Taiwanese style braised pork belly because you would never find these two distinctly regional foods in the same restaurant, but that is our upbringing and our cultures rolled together onto one plate. We grew up in Houston with distinctly Cantonese and Taiwanese foods in our household. The food our mom cooked growing up is authentic to us, authentic to our identity and our experience as Asian Americans with a Cantonese and Taiwanese parents. People always talk about authenticity but we struggle to define this word according others’ definition because our menu might be different from other Chinese restaurants because this is the food we cook and eat at home, but we don’t think that makes it any less authentic.
Dumpling Haus started as a pop-up at local bars and farmer markets featuring all of our favorite foods. Our business grew organically as other market organizers began to reach out to us. Every penny we earned we invested back into the business. The journey was definitely not easy, and although we love sharing the food we serve, there have been obstacles along the way with slow days, rained-out events, and anonymous reviews calling our food “inauthentic”. Running a business so closely tied to our culture and identity, sometimes it is hard to not take things personally. Despite the critics, our family, friends, and regular customers who have become our friends supported and encouraged us every step of the way especially during the pandemic and our first year of business.
One of the biggest lessons we have learned is to first invest in a quality product. We spend months researching and testing different recipes for each menu item. With a small menu like ours every dish counts, and we want to be proud of every dish we send out.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
When people come and visit us we love to show off the city we know and love. On Saturday mornings we have to go to the Urban Harvest Farmer’s market which is home to some of our biggest supporters and an awesome farmer and maker community. The weekends are also a great time to check out some of our city’s outdoor spaces with live performances at Miller Outdoor Theatre, nature walks at the Houston Arboretum, and ice Skating/kayaking at Discovery Green. Each day we will need fuel from some of the best coffee shops in the nation from veteran shops Southside and Blacksmith to newcomers Tenfold and Little Dreamer. No trip is complete without a comprehensive food tour through our favorite China/Asiatown restaurants: Hong Kong’s Café (HK style milk tea, French toast), Nguyen Ngo (Vietnamese Sandwiches), Thien Thanh (Vietnamese Rice Rolls), King Bakery (Cantonese-style Baked goods), Star Snow Ice & Teriyaki (Taiwanese snacks and drinks), and one of the many Viet-Cajun Crawfish joints. It’s no secret that Houston is home to amazing restaurants. Our favorites to take visitors include Nancy’s Hustle, Kata Robata, Nobie’s and of course our home kitchen. A day trip to Galveston is a must with a short ferry trip to Bolivar Peninsula and a stroll along the Strand. Last but not least they can’t leave Houston without a killer cocktail from Anvil Bar & Refuge, Johnny’s Gold Brick, Axelrad, or Bad News Bar. Not only does our city have some phenomenal food and drink establishments the people behind these places are some of the best people we have met and truly embody hospitality.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
This shout out is dedicated to Urban Harvest! Tyler and the team at Urban Harvest have been some of our biggest supporters from the very beginning, and we definitely would not be where we are without them! Thank you for including us in your work for our local community.
Tyler Horne Roger Tam Photography Ashley Lai Amiley Lai