In this article

“At that time, I could feel my acting career building loads of momentum. [I was] signing with the biggest talent agency in Toronto, Canada, [after making my film debut alongside Sigourney Weaver in The Good House],” Adrian Choong, the founder of Gyoza For Life, shared. 

“And then COVID-19 happened.”

Everything in the entertainment industry halted. Having built a career in theatre acting for five years by then, Adrian was still hopeful of things turning around. His career was just growing, surely it’s only up from here, right? 

Then he got a call from his talent agent informing him that they were going to resign. Add that heartbreak to the pandemic jitters and you’ll understand why he had to fly back home.

Image Credit: Gyoza For Life

But he never expected this trip to lead to a career pivot into dumpling-making, especially not one offering novel flavours like Bak Kut Teh and Sawadee Kra Pao.

The beginning of a new chapter

Shortly after returning home, Adrian’s cousin texted him with a pitch—help sell gyozas for a commission. Times were tough and his cousin was suffering from pay cuts at the restaurant he worked at. The side hustle was his means of gaining extra income.

Adrian figured, “Why not?” It would be a good way to spend time with family, earn some wages, and develop a new skill. F&B being an essential service during lockdowns also made it an easy choice.

So the two banded together and got the wheels turning. 

Image Credit: Gyoza For Life

Initially, his cousin was the person behind the gyozas while Adrian helped in marketing and order deliveries. The tasks brought him a lot of joy as he enjoyed connecting with and meeting new people. 

But eventually, the orders started piling up and exceeded his cousin’s solo capabilities, which encouraged Adrian to pick up the craft as well. 

Looking back on it now, Adrian expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to learn at his own pace. When MCO 2.0 lifted, his cousin went back to working his day job which left Adrian with two choices—continue making dumplings, or start something else.

Flavours that aren’t too crazy

As a pandemic baby, Gyoza For Life laid its roots at home using just the freezer section of Adrian’s refrigerator. 

Image Credit: Gyoza For Life

You’d think it would be easy since he already acquired the necessary skillset. However, the dumpling market is quite saturated with a number of established brands available in grocery stores. 

This left Adrian a little stumped on how to stand out, specifically in terms of sprucing up something traditional with a creative spin. While unique, the flavours shouldn’t be too weird either, as they should appeal to the general public too.

He started listing all the foods he loved and narrowed them down to what most Malaysians loved too. This gave him the idea to create Gyoza For Life’s first two out-of-the-box flavours—Japanese Curry and Bak Kut Teh. 

“It’s never been done before so definitely we were a little nervous. But we kept pushing through and helped our audiences to think out of the box when it comes to gyozas or dumplings,” Adrian shared. 

Image Credit: Gyoza For Life

From there, he tried different vegetable pairings to ensure they combined well with the selected flavours and chosen meat. The testers were sent to his family and previous regular customers for feedback.

“The reception was astounding and the feedback we got inspired us to create Sawadee Kra Pao.” This continues to be his bestseller to this day and has landed them an appearance on 8TV’s Chinese food series called Ho Chak!

Making “pouches of happiness”

Almost three years into the business, Gyoza For Life’s dumplings are still handmade by Adrian and a group of part-timers. The team is able to make between 10kg to 20kg of gyozas on an average weekly basis. Prices start from RM18 for a box, where each comes with 12 pieces of dumplings.

Based on his calculations, Adrian shared that the total dumplings they’ve sold come up to about 200,000 pouches.

Image Credit: Gyoza For Life

It’s quite a feat considering the manpower at hand and the fact that it operated from home during the pandemic. Not to mention the fact that dumpling-making itself is labour-intensive. Hours are needed to marinate the meat before wrapping it in dumpling skin. 

It would be easier and more time-efficient to introduce automation into the brand’s production line. This would also help Gyoza For Life scale up quickly.

Nevertheless, the brand still sees value in hand wrapping each flavourful pouch as it allows them to better control the quality. “Until we find one that can give us quality and works best for us, I think automation is a road to cross in the coming years,” Adrian elaborated.

At the moment, customers can order their dumplings that are sold frozen through their Oddle page. Adrian recommends first-time buyers to get packs of their Original, Sawadee Kra Pao, and Mala Gyoza to get a good range of flavours and spice levels.

Image Credit: Gyoza For Life

Bigger and bolder growth plans

Besides the plan to use automation in the future, the team is actually striving for another short-term goal. That’s to take the gyozas out of the kitchen and onto the plate of diners. 

To achieve this, the brand has worked with other F&B businesses for pop-up collaborations. Its most recent one was with Many Aprons where they served Gyoza For Life’s dumplings fresh off the stove. 

There will be an upcoming one in June in partnership with Brella Bakehouse in PJ. There, Adrian teased that customers will get to try their three new gyoza flavours.

This is part of their approach to increase offline brand visibility and allow new customers to taste them before purchasing. The hope is that it’ll be able to convert these diners to become new online customers too. 

In the bigger picture, this is a segue into growing the brand further by opening up a restaurant alongside the frozen dumpling business. He admitted that there’s still a way to go, but they’re working on supplying restaurants and increasing manpower soon.

Image Credit: Gyoza For Life

“We are still small but eager to grow!” he summed up enthusiastically. As for his personal acting career, Adrian’s still active in the industry and was part of the recently released Rain Town film. That goes to show that you can juggle two passions at once if you’re ambitious enough.

  • Learn more about Gyoza For Life here.
  • Read other articles we’ve written about Malaysian startups here.

Featured Image Credit: Gyoza For Life

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated with Vulcan Post weekly curated news and updates.


Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)