Asian-inspired Dishes around White Bear Lake

Asian-inspired dishes from six White Bear Lake eateries.
The special zen curry from Zen Asia is enlightenment on a plate.

When you think Minnesota, you probably think comfort food—Tater Tot casserole or mom’s creamy homemade mac and cheese. But in addition to those Midwestern classics, White Bear Lake boasts an array of Asian-inspired cuisine that will rival any of your crockpot creations. We’ve scoured the area for unique Eastern eats, and here are six of our favorites.

If you’re looking for a fast, healthy lunch or dinner that doesn’t skimp on flavor, then check out the sushi counter at Kowalski’s. Handmade right at the sushi counter, you’ll find a variety of delicious options to choose from. Kowalski’s culinary director Rachael Perron loves the yum yum roll—a California-style roll packed with cooked crab, avocado, cucumber and fried onion, and topped with tempura noodles, sliced avocado, sweet yum yum sauce and spicy wasabi sauce ($8.99). “It’s a maki roll, but it’s a nice smaller size so it’s easy to eat,” Perron says. “It’s sweet, spicy and crunchy. The name does it justice!” All sushi rolls come with a piece of pickled ginger for refreshing your palate between bites. 4391 S. Lake Ave., White Bear Lake; 651.429.5913

Ban Thai Restaurant
At Ban Thai, owner Pornouma Marid wants guests to have the experience of eating fresh Thai food in a traditional Thai home. So in true Thai tradition, we suggest the pra ram rong song, which highlights Ban Thai’s special roasted curry, coconut and peanut sauce ($11.95–$14.95). Choose among tofu, chicken, pork, beef and mock duck, or seafood options like shrimp and squid, all atop a delicious mound of steamed baby spinach, spring onions, bean sprouts, broccoli and carrots. Pair this with an order of fresh Bangkok spring rolls and you won’t be disappointed ($5.50–$6.50). 2186 Third St., White Bear Lake; 651.407.8424

King’s City
After 31 years, King’s City is still serving up some of the same delicious Asian cuisine as when it first opened. Co-owner Sam Ma recommends one of the house favorites—chicken lo mein. This dish is full of flavor, with tender egg noodles and a mixture of mushrooms, bok choy, celery, pea pods, carrots and water chestnuts ($9.95). Pair it with an appetizer like the cream cheese puffs ($4.95) or chicken wings ($6.95) and you’ll definitely be coming back again. King’s City also offers an all-you-can-eat lunch buffet from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. ($7.95) and a dinner buffet from 4 to 8 p.m. ($10.95). But make sure to plan ahead, as King’s City only accepts cash. 3959 Linden St., White Bear Lake; 651.426.4565

Leeann Chin
Craving something that’s both deliciously sweet and savory? Then the grilled bourbon chicken is the way to go ($6.39). This is one of Leeann Chin’s top sellers, with its smoky grilled flavor and bourbon sauce, says chief operating officer Mike Loney. We also love the new menu addition of the red Thai chicken stir-fry, with its sweet, fiery chili-garlic sauce and mix of fresh veggies ($6.39). And don’t leave without adding an order of the signature garlic cream cheese puffs ($1.99–$3.39). You’ll thank us later. 4721 Highway 61, White Bear Lake; 651.653.8815

Orchid Restaurant
This family-owned Asian fusion restaurant boasts the distinctive flavors of Vietnamese cuisine, along with some Thai and Chinese dishes. In addition to Orchid, owner Ninh Nguyen and his family also own two restaurants in France, so they’ve brought the best of French cooking to the menu at Orchid. We love the spicy lemongrass chicken, which includes marinated, dark chicken meat that’s stir-fried with white and green onions and lemongrass, then topped off with a kick of chili pepper and a refreshing splash of coconut cream ($12.50). And if you want to share some of your favorite dishes, Orchid can cater any of its menu items. 1190 County Road J, White Bear Township; 651.426.3558


Zen Asia
Zen Asia is a hidden gem, serving authentic Asian favorites for more than five years. General manager Nancy Phan and her husband know a thing or two about Asian cuisine, so you won’t want to skip the special Zen curry. “I love curry because of the texture and spice—and it smells really good,” Phan says. The special Zen curry includes your choice of tofu, chicken or beef (seafood and vegetable available, too), mixed with fresh stir-fried veggies and tossed in a coconut curry sauce ($9.95). Pair this with the spicy lemongrass soup, a traditional noodle soup with your choice of beef, chicken or shrimp ($8.95). And for those with dietary restrictions, not to worry; The Phans are happy to cook gluten- or dairy-free items. 1011 Meadowlands Dr., White Bear Lake; 651.340.1748