Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota Since 1875 / Coming to bookstores in October

By Phyllis Louise Harris
September 2012

Imagine living in a state with no chow mein, no egg rolls, no sushi, no pad Thai, no curries or any other food from the Asia Pacific Rim.  That was the State of Minnesota until 1875.
The land of sky blue waters was home to the Sioux and Ojibwa in the 1700s when settlers began to move in from France, England, Northern Europe and Scandinavia. The first immigrants from the Asia Pacific Rim began to arrive in the mid-1870s and were from China.  They brought with them a whole new cuisine based on food many Minnesotan’s had never tasted and it was immediately labeled “foreign food” by the more than 150,000 already living here. Even today, some people still refer to Asian food as “foreign.”
When the first Chinese restaurant opened in 1883 the tastes of Minnesota began to change. Twenty-one year old Woo Yee Sing and his younger brother Woo Du Sing opened their Canton Restaurant on Marquette Avenue in Minneapolis. Featuring the food of their homeland, the restaurant became very popular and in 1903 the brothers moved the restaurant to 6th Street off Nicollet Avenue across from the Dyckman Hotel and changed the name to John’s Place.  It successfully operated there until 1967 when it lost its lease.
By the time Walter James opened his Canton Grill in the basement of the Dyckman Hotel in 1918 there were more than1.2 million people in the state with fewer than 100 Chinese.  A year later he moved the restaurant to Seventh Street next to the Radisson Hotel and called it the Nankin CafĂ©.
The food of the Philippine Islands, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, India and other Asia Pacific Rim countries soon followed and by 2009 there were 1100 Asian restaurants in the state.  Reiko Weston, Supenn Harrison, David Fong, Thom Pham, Wing Ying Huie, and Leeann Chin are among the familiar names of people who helped make Asian food popular in Minnesota.  But there are hundreds more including farmers, home cooks, food producers and cooking teachers who help expand the popularity of Asia Pacific Rim cooking throughout their communities and the state.
After 20 years as food editor of Asian Pages I had accumulated a file of more than 500 articles I had written about Asian food in Minnesota, the nation and the world.  It is from this treasure of information I selected stories and recipes for the book Asian Flavors and went in search of a few more.  Mumbai native Raghavan Iyer joined me as the book’s collaborator, Wendy Jedlicka was the book’s designer and Tom Nelson took dozens of food and on-site photos to make this a most colorful, interesting book.  It is filled with personal stories, historical facts, 160 recipes and a wealth of information about the food of the Asia Pacific Rim. Published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press Asian Flavors will be in bookstores in October.  We are looking forward to sharing it with all of you!  For ordering information go to

TeaSource Wins National Awards
Bill Waddington’s TeaSource received two awards from the recent North American Tea Championships held in Las Vegas.  TeaSource was awarded first place in the 2012 Spring Blended White Tea Category for its Jasmine Silver Needle and won third place in the 2011 Spring Hot Tea Class for its 1999 Green Puerh Cake.
The North American Tea Championship (NATC) is produced by World Tea Media, a division of F+W Media, Inc. NATC is an independent event, judged by professional cuppers, that evaluates premium teas from around the world that are sold in North America.  More than 200 teas were entered in the competition.
Opened in 1996 TeaSource carries more than 225 teas in its Highland, St. Anthony and Eden Prairie stores and through the TeaSource catalog.  For more information visit

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