The Dumpling Lady has become a much-loved staple of city life. NoDa Company Store, Gateway Village, Resident Culture, One Wells Fargo, Triple C—The Dumpling Lady and her red and blue truck make the rounds every week, delighting taste buds from Uptown to Sedgefield to Plaza Midwood.
Also known by her real name, Zhang Qian, The Dumpling Lady has a loyal spice-sampling, noodle-guzzling, line-forming lunch and dinner crowd across the city. Soon, her fans will also have the convenience of finding Qian and her delectable dishes at a fixed physical location. The Dumpling Lady is setting up shop at Optimist Hall, an emerging mixed-use space in a former mill building just northeast of First Ward.
Genesis of The Dumpling Lady
The brick and mortar iteration of the food truck will open four years after Qian started slinging dumplings. Charlotteans first discovered Qian’s culinary gifts at a table outside of Hattie’s Tap and Tavern, before Qian expanded to sell frozen dumplings at the NoDa farmers market and Atherton Mill. Her frozen dumplings sold like hot cakes, but there was one problem. “People loved our frozen dumplings but weren’t sure how to cook them!” recalls Qian. So, in 2016, she outfitted a trailer in order to bring her recipes fully to fruition.
Across the front of the pre-truck trailer, delicate cartography proclaimed “Authentic Sichuan Cuisine,” and authentic it is indeed. Before settling in Charlotte, Qian lived in the Sichuan province of southwest China. There, she grew up cooking with her grandmother.
“My grandma taught me all the foundations,” said Qian. “She essentially raised me and would cook for me every day. I learned from her. The rest has been dedicated studying and, of course, trial and error. I’ve taken classes at a few top restaurants in Chengdu, as well.”
In fact, it was in Sichuan where Qian met the American who would one day become her husband. The pair studied together at Sichuan University and courted for four years until 2015. Then Qian moved to North Carolina, where he was working, and the two were married.
Since then, the Dumpling Lady food truck has been one of Qian’s gateways to the city.
Past, Present, and Future
“It’s a ton of work, but we can go to different parts of town and share our food with Charlotte.” At the same time, it affords Qian an anchor to her past. “I love Sichuan noodles. I make them from scratch and follow traditional recipes. It reminds me of China and my family’s cooking.
Sichuan noodles are made with Sichuan peppercorn, a unique spice that packs a punch. Crispy and delicious, these noodles are just one of the mouthwatering noodle dishes available from The Dumpling Lady food truck, in addition to dumplings, of course.
Once the physical location opens, Qian will expand the new menu to include additional noodle dishes, soup dumplings, and dim sum.
“We’re gonna pump up the spice level on some items, too,” Qian promises.
From table to trailer to truck and, finally, to stall, The Dumpling Lady has spiced up the far corners of Charlotte, and we can’t wait to see what this next chapter brings.