Startup Spotlight

Laoban Dumplings merge traditional Chinese flavor, ingredients with convenience

By Deniz Ataman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Startup CPG Dumplings frozen

Laoban Dumplings pays homage to traditional Chinese flavors and ingredients that combine convenience, quality and flavor in its line of homemade-style frozen dumplings and an upcoming launch of bao buns explained Patrick Coyne, the company’s co-founder and CEO to FoodNavigator-USA.

Laoban Dumplings began in a restaurant in Washington in 2017 before expanding into packaged frozen dumplings in 2021 and in 2023 landing on shelves in Whole Foods nationwide.

The inspiration for Laoban Dumplings came from Coyne’s experience after college teaching English in China where the comfort food could be enjoyed “any time of day [as] a snack [or] a meal,” Coyne explained.

He added, “The idea was to recreate that experience. We call the guy that ran the shop ‘laoban,’ which means ‘boss.’ So, the whole thing is an homage to him and to that experience.”

The brand’s recipes are created by Laoban’s co-founder, culinary director and Michelin-award winning chef Tim Ma, whose family heritage of creating traditional Chinese cuisine dates back to the 1970s in New York.

Laoban uses premium ingredients like free-range chicken, Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef in its menus, which were carried to the CPG side, Coyne said.

Each recipe in the restaurant went through "a lot of testing," which informed the formulations for Laoban's CPG products, Coyne said.

"When we got started, we were rotating flavors every couple of weeks. We would start with a ginger chicken and a pork cilantro and then you would rotate to a pork and chive. We just tried out a lot of different variations," he explained.

He continued, "Coming from that restaurant perspective, we were making things the way we would make them in the restaurant. It was not like an industrial … process, it was more [that] these ingredients … bring out the most flavor."

Laoban currently offers a variety of meat dumplings, including Ginger Chicken, Pork and Chive, Mala Beef, Pork Soup Dumplings and a vegetarian option, Livin’ On the Vedge, which contains bok choy, shiitake, scallions and chili crisp.

Bao buns to launch in Whole Foods featuring the 'same quality of flavor, ingredients'

Coyne described the brand’s Bao Bun line as “kindred souls to dumplings,” where the recipe includes the “same quality of flavor, quality of ingredients.”

The line, which includes Barbecue Pork, Spicy Beef and Sesame Chicken, are microwavable in one minute and expected to launch exclusively at Whole Foods nationwide next month.

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