The Pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings from Jewel’s Noodle Kitchen have the perfect amount of filling.

I’m ashamed to admit this, but I love Panda Express.

I’m even more ashamed to admit that when I’m craving Chinese food, Panda Express has become my go-to spot.

I don’t know what it is, but something about their orange chicken and lo mein has had me in a chokehold for years. Whenever I was craving Chinese, I would jump in my car and head to a nearby drive-thru to get my fix.

As I sat in my apartment earlier this month, I finally came to a realization: I deserve better than Panda Express.

With that in mind, I’ve been asking friends what their favorite local Chinese spot is. Of course, I’ve heard Tucson favorites like Chef Wang and Noodleholics, but during lunch last week, a friend mentioned a spot I hadn't heard.

Sandwiched between a Big Five Sporting Goods and a spa sits Jewel’s Noodle Kitchen, a small restaurant that’s been serving up meat pies, noodles and so much more since 2019.

While it doesn’t have all the glitz and glam you might see in a P.F. Chang's chain, Jewel's Noodle Kitchen makes up for it with its juicy dumplings.

Jewel's Noodle Kitchen has been serving dumplings and noodles since 2019. 

When you first walk into the building located at 5683 E. Speedway, you immediately notice all the pictures of their food hung up. Images of dumplings, pork buns, various noodle dishes and potstickers cover the counter, so you can point to exactly what you want.

When it comes to décor, it's a bit bare. But if this restaurant taught me anything, it's to never judge a book by its cover.

Jewel's Noodle Kitchen has a pretty extensive menu, making it tough to decide what dishes to choose. I had to hold back — I could have easily ordered a whole feast.

The menu features eight different dumpling options, meat pies, a few noodle dishes, pork buns, potstickers, green onion pancakes, salads and soups. While trying to figure out what exactly I wanted, I decided to try some of my friend’s recommendations: the green onion pancake and the pork and Chinese cabbage dumplings.

Obviously I couldn’t leave without trying noodles — I mean, it’s in the name. I also added the noodles with pork bean sauce to my tab.

The pork bean sauce noodles from Jewel’s Noodle Kitchen are topped with ground pork and cucumbers.

About 20 minutes later, I had a bag full of delicious-smelling food and was heading home, proud to have kicked my Panda Express habit.

As soon as I got home, I ripped open the bag and took a big bite out of a dumpling. The dough was the perfect texture: soft, tender and slightly chewy. I didn’t find them to be mushy or soggy at all.

Then, you get a mouthful of the filling. This filling is what dreams are made of. The pork and cabbage mesh together so well it’s like a flavor explosion, reminding me a little bit of sausage.

The best part: they put the perfect amount of filling in each dumpling. There is nothing worse than biting into a dumpling and barely getting any of the tasty filling. Thankfully, that was not a problem at Jewel’s Noodle Kitchen.

The green onion pancake from Jewel’s Noodle Kitchen is crispy on the outside and chewy inside.

Next, I moved on to the green onion pancake. The outside of the pancake was nice and crispy, but the inside had a chewy texture that I enjoyed. The green onion flavor was subtle, and I liked that it tasted like more of a flatbread rather than a thick, fluffy pancake. I also appreciated that it wasn’t too oily or greasy.

Lastly, I tried my pork bean sauce noodles. For this dish, the noodles are topped with a bean sauce and ground pork along with strings of cucumbers. The sauce is salty, tasting similarly to soy sauce. The ground pork helped combat the saltiness and gave it good flavor.

My favorite parts of the dish were the cucumbers. They blended with all the flavors so perfectly and added a refreshing kick to the noodles. I definitely preferred the cucumbers over other vegetables you might commonly see in noodles like carrots or cabbage.

Jewel's Noodle Kitchen is comforting — it's like getting a home-cooked Chinese meal. While this hidden gem may be overlooked, its flavors and execution deserve all the attention. The pork buns and potstickers are next on my list.

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Jamie Donnelly is the food writer for #ThisIsTucson. Contact her via e-mail at