Thursday, August 6, 2015

“Cheap meals” with Asian flavors

By Phyllis Louise Harris
August 2015

The current issue of Mpls/StPaul magazine lists 95 “great cheap meals” available in the Twin Cities including a $30 lobster dinner at Jax. While $30 is cheap for lobster it is not an inexpensive meal. And, in their listing of chicken wing sources, one of the best in town was missed – Christos Greek Restaurants whose oregano chicken wings at $7.45 are absolutely delicious and affordable! The magazine also missed Christos special "3 courses for $20" menu with some very interesting choices. But, most surprising, the list did not include a single item from a Chinese restaurant.

If ever there was a cuisine that offered a variety of flavors and nutrition at reasonable cost it is Chinese cooking. Among the many offerings in the Twin Cities and throughout the state there are a multitude of choices available to enjoy at very reasonable prices. Portions are usually generous and often include rice and tea. Here are just a few you may have missed:

Shuang Cheng Restaurant in Dinkytown has 18 lunch specials every day for under $7.39 (with most at around $6.25) including the entrée, chicken fried rice or steamed rice, eggroll or wonton and tea. Choices include shrimp, fish filet, sesame chicken, Mongolian beef and more. Their Cantonese style rice plates are also a bargain for roast duck, seafood with broccoli or 18 other plates all under $7.79. In addition, owner Daniel Lam offers one of the most extensive Chinese menus in the area with over 130 items including a wide variety of seafood including lobster and walleyed pike. See the full menu at

David Fong’s, Bloomington’s first Chinese restaurant, opened 53 years ago is still run by the Fong family and has always featured American as well as Chinese food. Two of the most popular entrees are the U.S. Tenderloin Steak dinner for $10.25 and the Breaded Pork Tenderloin at $9.25. Their Chinese menu includes dishes from David Fong’s father and grandfather that have become such popular favorites that when customers move away from the area they call long distance for the recipes. See it all at

Chindian, that delightful restaurant on East Hennepin run by Nina Wong and Thomas Gnanapragasm combines several Asian cuisines for a variety of flavors at reasonable prices. She is from China, he is from Malaysia and the menu offers traditional and blended dishes from both traditions. Nina is a noodle fan and offers some interesting dishes including Chow Mai Fun, a gluten-free rice noodle dish flavored with curry spices and served in a variety of styles at $11. Or try Thomas’s signature dish from Malaysia, Nasi Lemak featuring coconut rice, chicken, egg, peanuts and anchovies for $10. And, here is another take on chicken wings from Nina for $7. For more information go to

Harry Singh (look for him at the State Fair) Original Caribbean Restaurant on Eat Street in Minneapolis also has tasty chicken wings plus a variety of India- and Chinese- influenced dishes. A nice change from the usual sandwiches is the hot-off-the-grill roti, the Indian flat bread served with jerk chicken, curry chicken, curry beef, curry shrimp or browned chicken for $9.95. Splash on some of Harry’s special hot sauce and you have a taste of the islands right here in Minnesota. Harry also offers chicken wings and a variety of jerk dishes. Go to  for more choices and information about this one-of-a-kind place to dine.

These are just a few suggestions. So instead of the usual “cheap” choices, why not try some of the classic inexpensive Asian dishes served every day throughout our state by talented, creative chefs who love what they do and look forward to brining you something special to enjoy.


Read more about Asian food in Minnesota and try more than 160 recipes in Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875, now in bookstores and on 

Buy online:  Asian Flavors: Changing the Tastes of Minnesota since 1875 

Watch the EMMY® award winning “Asian Flavors” television show based on the book on tpt MN. Check local TV listings for broadcast times or view the show streaming online at: