Discovering Asian Food and Culture in KC

Big time foodie, here. The kind that obnoxiously takes photos of her food. What I crave most? Asian food. But let’s face it. When you think of Kansas City, it doesn’t exactly scream “Asian food.” I grew up in California and New Jersey, where diverse food options are good and plentiful. After a few years of living here, some Yelp! help, and lots of taste tests — I’ve found a couple satisfying options for Asian food and culture. Cross countries and eat your way through my list of local (two chain exceptions), favorite restaurants!

Sama Zama: Think Japanese tapas! Ebicala mayo (shrimp and calamari in a creamy sauce), asupara itame (garlic-sauteed asparagus), and cha shu spare ribs are musts. But the main reason this Westport spot makes my list is because they have potato korokkes (panko-crusted potato croquette), something I used to eat with my grandfather.

Boru Ramen: My husband is obsessed with their pork belly baos (steamed bun)! But really, any of their apps are amazing. Hello, kimchi fries! They are a ramen bar, and I do like the ramen, but I always make sure to say “easy salt.” Also, they have happy hour EVERYDAY. Need I say more?

Hong Kong
ABC Cafe: Dim sum plates everyday, anytime. My recommendations? Everything. Seriously. I’ve pretty much tried it all, but you can’t go wrong with shrimp anything, sticky rice, chicken spring rolls, and any of the sweet plates. The owners are Cantonese and hearing them speak the language is reminiscent of my childhood. Growing up, my mother would take me and my siblings to dim sum all the time. The shareable plates are a great way to bond with friends and family.

Thai Spice: I frequent the Independence location the most. I love the staff almost as much as I love the food. They know my son and my order. My go-tos are: pad thai, pineapple fried rice, and panang curry. Pair any one of those with a Thai iced tea, finish the meal with mango sticky rice, and you’ve got yourself one happy tummy. Thai food is definitely a strong contender for my last supper. (Tip: The Lee’s Summit location has sushi!)

Baby’s 1st Korean meal was on St. Patty’s Day…because he’s more Asian than Irish. We wore green, though! (Choga)

Choga: The lunch specials! You get a bento box worth of so much food. LA kalbi (grilled beef short ribs) or bibimbap (sauteed meat, veggies, rice, and a fried egg) with a glass of iced barley tea has never let me down. I used to work near the restaurant and ate here all the time. It’s a decent drive from home, but I like to casually schedule play dates near there with our JoCo friends, so I have an excuse to go for lunch.

Nguyen Pho & Grill: Located in the City Market area, this is the perfect stop after a morning at the Farmer’s Market. Their grilled pork rolls, bahn mi, and grilled steak vermicelli with shrimp made me a believer in Vietnamese food. More fish sauce, please!

South Indian
Moti Mahal II (formerly Korma Sutra): An old tradition after church was going to their Sunday lunch buffet. The butter chicken is perfect. Don’t forget to ask for the garlic naan!

Blue Koi: It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives! I never thought I’d have anything in common with someone like Guy Fieri, but here I am saying YES… Blue Koi for the win! You have to try the dumplings, which are very generous in size. The scallion biscuit (more like a pancake) is similar to the ones I had growing up, and it is kid-approved by my son. For entrees, I love the tofu sauteed in the traditional black bean sauce. They also have a decent selection for bubble tea, with occasional flavors of the season. The pumpkin spice bubble tea blew my mind, last fall.

Aside from restaurants, there are also some other categories worth mentioning.

Tous Les Jours: franchised, French-Asian bakery (Recommendations? All the breads and any slice of cake!)

“It’s so fluffy!!!” (Glacier Cove)

Glacier Cove: shaved ice, fluffy as snow (Matcha green tea classic is my favorite!)

Food truck
KC Pinoy: Filipino food (My pick is the adobo chicken with garlic rice, but there are occasional updates to the menu.)

Grocery shopping at the Asian market: smelling all the fishy smells and seeing the live seafood…yup, sounds about right. Mommy used to do the same thing with her family, growing up.

Grocery stores
888: The largest Asian market in KC (Mostly Chinese products, with live seafood, whole roasted duck, a bakery, and a cafe.)
Oriental Supermarket: Mostly Korean products with some Japanese and Filipino products. The owner also owns the Korean/Vietnamese cafe next door (Cafe Vie) and Tous Les Jours a couple doors down. Cafe Vie offers pho, bubble tea, gimbab, bulgogi wraps and more! Grocery shop, eat lunch, and grab dessert within the same area–it’s the Korean-influenced trifecta!

Language schools
Kansas City Institute of Chinese Language and Culture 
The Chinese School of Greater Kansas City
Kansas City Japanese Language Teaching School

Ethnic Enrichment Festival
Chinese New Year Celebration
Greater Kansas City Japan Festival

New to the scene
Chewology: Dumplings and kushiyaki (Japanese-style, skewered and grilled meats and veggies) in the new, Lenexa Public Market.

Kung Fu Tea: This New York-based chain serving bubble tea, espresso, and slushies is coming to JoCo. Grand Opening is Jan 30!

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