Mr. Noodle and Mrs. Dumpling want to offer Asian fusion cuisine, share Chinese culture

Get the latest Syracuse news delivered straight to your inbox.
Subscribe to our newsletter here.

Chao Li and Jenny Chen don’t know how to cook. But the couple still made it their mission to share Chinese food and culture through their restaurant Mr. Noodle and Ms. Dumpling, which opened in December.

“I don’t cook, but I know how to eat, so I know what good Chinese food is,” Li said.

The restaurant, located on Erie Boulevard, is equipped with a large dining room with round tables that can seat up to eight people. Each table has a Lazy Susan ready to be filled with an array of sharing dishes. This style of seating is in keeping with traditional Chinese brunch culture, which includes dim sum, where small plates of dumplings and other dishes are accompanied by tea and served for groups to share.

Mr. Noodle and Mrs. Dumpling opened in December with a soft launch. Not too many people came at first, but after an image of a noodle dish that appeared to include floating chopsticks was featured on the popular Where Syracuse Eats Facebook group, the restaurant quickly gained customers and began selling out of food before the following nights were over.

Chen, also known as Mrs. Dumpling, said Li invented the dish and it has a deeper meaning behind it.

“Shoulders represent Asian culture and the elevation of Chinese food,” Chen said.

The couple is not new to restaurant ventures and has a history of working with Syracuse University students. The two own Jiang Hu Cafe on Fayette Street, which caters to international students at SU and often delivers food to South Campus, Chen said.

Megan Hendricks | Photo editor

Chen said Mr. Noodle and Ms. Dumpling may soon offer a 5 percent discount for students who show their SUID. She said she understands what it’s like to be in an unfamiliar place, having come to the United States from Shanghai when she was just 15 years old.

“They feel lonely when they go to a new country and everything is new to them,” Chen said. “When they see a Chinese restaurant, they’ll feel good.”

Mr. Noodle and Ms. Dumpling offers a mix of traditional and Americanized foods with dishes inspired by Beijing and Shanghai, a combination of the owners’ heritage. Chen believes that nothing is like what she grew up with.

“I love American food, but I still love Chinese food more because I grew up with it,” Chen said.

The staff is working to keep up with the rapidly growing popularity of Mr. Noodle and Mrs. Dumpling. The spacious restaurant can accommodate nearly 300 customers in intimate booths and round, family tables. But Chen said the restaurant is currently understaffed, with only ten employees working in the kitchen.

Chen said the few chefs they have are still refining the recipes and developing the menu. There are currently two chefs in the kitchen — one who prepares many of the main dishes and another who specializes in dim sum.

Looking at the large menu as a newcomer can be overwhelming, but Chen says there are a few standouts for those unfamiliar with Chinese cuisine to try — Peking duck, pork soup dumplings, beef onion pancakes, and dessert, taro shortbread and red bean paste cake.


Stephanie Zasso | Design Editor

Peking duck is Li’s favorite dish on the menu. This dish is considered a delicacy in China, so Mr. Noodle and Mrs. Dumpling only prepare about six ducks each day. The meat is covered in sauce and a mixture of spices overnight to dry out, making the skin extra crispy when baked in the oven.

“Most people don’t really know Chinese culture or Chinese people,” Chen said. “I want them to explore food to understand it.”

The restaurant’s lunch hour proves to be a popular time as customers fill the tables quickly. Two women scanning the menu said they decided to stop by after seeing an Instagram post and were excited to try the new restaurant.

“This is our first time here so we just ordered a bunch of different dumplings that all look delicious,” Cindy Stimson said. “We are already planning to return with the rest of our family.”

The restaurant will roll out new menu items in the coming months, Li said. After a new chef from New York’s Chinatown comes to Syracuse, the restaurant will serve homemade ramen noodle dishes. Another addition to the restaurant will be Hot Pot, an interactive dining experience where customers are given raw ingredients to cook in a boiling pot of broth.

Chen and Li said the chefs make everything from scratch with authentic ingredients sourced from China. Chen added that he hopes Mr. Noodle and Ms. Knedli create a space where everyone can learn while enjoying the true flavors of Chinese food.

“We want more people to pay attention to Chinese food,” Chen said. “We want more people to enjoy Chinese food and see how amazing Chinese culture is.”