By Jim Duncan Asian restaurants have been part of Iowa’s café scene for more than 110 years. Their early days were rather notorious. Des Moines’ first Chinese café opened in 1903, and several others quickly followed. Those owned by George Wee were frequently raided by police. Newspapers reported that “scantily clad women scurried out windows,” […]
From the Editor
Asian menus open new food vocabulary
By Jim Duncan
When I was growing up in Des Moines in the 1950s, the only Asian words I saw on menus were “chow mein” and “foo young.” The only Asian cuisine was Chinese, and it was a hybrid version geared to American tastes. Fortune cookies and sweet-and-sour recipes were invented in America. Today some Iowa children learn to order things like “dosas,” “tom yum gai,” “pho,” “naan” and “shu mai” before they enter kindergarten. A couple years ago, I saw a kid in a mall food court throwing a tantrum and yelling, “No. I want sushi.”
Des Moines diners have enjoyed Asian restaurants for more than 110 years. For most of that time, though, they were represented by something quite different from the marvelous diversity of today. In this issue of Relish, we explore the history of Asian restaurants in town, from some rather notorious beginnings through the mass immigrations of the 1970s to today’s cornucopia of culinary delights. Our cover story puts the history of these cafés into its proper, unfortunate context, and goes on to reveal an array of culinary diversity that might surprise even the most serious food adventurer.
We cover the development of local versions of Chinese, Vietnamese, Lao, Thai, Indian, Korean and Japanese cuisine in central Iowa.
We showcase favorite Asian appetizers, entrées, drinks and desserts. We visit with chefs and other creators. And of course, The Dish is back with three months of food scene news and gossip. RELISH