Wok Right In

Posted: Saturday, December 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm
By: Doug Lund
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I love Chinese food; well, most of it anyway. I’ll leave the sea weed, rumaki (chicken livers) deep fried whole fish and chicken feet dishes to those with more adventurous palates. I realize that Asian cuisine offered in this country has been dumbed down for American sensibilities but that’s okay because I’m a sensible dumb American  I remember my first exposure to it was through a double decker can of Chun King chow mein back in my high school days.

chinese chun king

My mom was a terrific cook but her menu choices were based on familiarity. So it was a bit shocking when one evening for supper she placed before us a bowl of limp vegetables mixed with diced chicken swimming in a slimy translucent sauce. Then she took a pan of hot crunchy noodles from the oven and told us to dig in. Well, the only thing I knew about Chinese  were Charlie Chan movies and comic books showing American soldiers fending off attacks by hordes of them during the Korean War.  But mom insisted we give this a try.

Instead of the usual salt and pepper on our table, there was a bottle of strange dark liquid called La Choy soy sauce which, according to the directions, was to be sprinkled to taste over the rather unappetizing pile on our plates. One by one, we slowly sampled this exotic concoction and much to our delight, all found it to be delicious and asked if mom had another can on the shelf to warm up so we could have seconds. She may have gotten the idea from seeing this commercial.

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I still get hungry for canned chow mein and crispy noodles to this day.

When I first moved to Sioux Falls in 1969, I used to frequent the newly opened Ming Wah restaurant for lunch. It was located just a block or so from where I worked and I really liked their egg foo young, shrimp fried rice and chow mein which turned out to be even better than the canned stuff.

During the 70’s, after playing music at the Red Lantern Lounge, several of us would head over to the Canton Café on Main Avenue which stayed open until 3 a.m. on weekends. That’s where I learned to love a wider variety of Chinese food like cashew chicken, Mongolian beef, teriyaki beef on a stick and egg rolls. The Canton’s egg rolls were the best I’ve ever tasted then or since. I don’t know what made them so special but if I had the recipe I’d open an egg roll shop and get rich. The Canton Cafe..named for a region in China not the town South of Sioux Falls, eventually relocated to West 12th street but kept the same menu and our business until the family decided to sell out several years ago..a sad day indeed. Since then, Chinese restaurants have opened all over Sioux Falls..most using the world “Golden” in their name for some reason which can lead to customer confusion I would think.

Yumm..and don't spare the MSG (most of the concerns are unfounded)

Yumm..and don't spare the MSG (most of the concerns are unfounded)

Linda likes Chinese food okay but wouldn’t care for a steady diet of it like me. In fact, I’ve been kind of doing my own city wide taste test; sampling two or three of my favorite dishes from each of the 8 to 10 Asian restaurants in Sioux Falls.  (I don’t count buffets because I think proper Chinese food was meant to be served hot and fresh from the wok..not scooped out of a metal pan at a steam table.) The truth is, everybody’s tastes vary so much it would be difficult for me to pick one restaurant over another and go unchallenged. I like most of them but for different reasons. Szechwan has the best egg rolls and brown sauce for cashew chicken. Kow Loon is my favorite for Orange beef; Golden Harvest for Mongolian Beef and Golden Dragon for sweet and sour.  Plus it depends on which cook is working the wok. Consistency is important and that’s not always the case at some places. 

 I do make Chinese food at home once in a while and its okay but I still prefer the adventure of going out to do some culinary exploration. Besides, I don’t have fortune cookies. (An American invention not Chinese.)

If you’d care to share some thoughts about your favorite Chinese restaurant and why…please leave a comment below.

Now, all this talk about Asian dining has my gut growling so loud the  neighbor’s dog started barking.  Oh, no wonder..it’s a Shih Tzu.


  1. Cam Lind says:

    Doug, the old Canton had the greatest egg rolls as you say. The Ming Wah used to have shrimp and tomato noodle. It is no longer on the menu, but she will still make it for me. The Golden Bowl by Suburban Lanes has the best chicken wings and egg foo young. The old bathroom in the middle of the kitchen at the old Canton cage was a scary place, it was best to be drunk if you went back there. Hu Hot was a fad for me for a bit, but I lost interest. I am like you I like it real hot right out the kitchen. Hy Vee Chinese is pretty good and a lot for the money. CL

  2. Michael says:

    China Express is the best in Sioux Falls, in my opinion. It’s across the street from Best Buy, right next to Push Pedal Pull. Their General Chicken is the best I’ve ever had. Their Kung Pau is excellent as well. My sister lives in San Francisco, CA so I make annual trips through Chinatown, sampling the best they have to offer. Our own China Express compares very well to the offerings in Chinatown.

  3. grouse says:

    Funny that this should be your blog, because Sandi and I just returned from our favorite Chinese restaurant. We love Szechwan (either location)! I have to agree, and it pains me to do so, but Hy-Vee does have pretty good Chinese. They also have pretty good pizza, but that’s another story. I’m 99% sure that my farm parents never tasted Chinese, Japanese, French, Mexican, Middle Eastern, and all of the other foreign cuisines that their off spring have learned to enjoy. But, when your exotic dish is lutefisk, what other heights of palate titillation are left. Mom did become a fan of Chef Boy Ar Di and his home made pizza. No pepperoni or sausage. Just cheese. Somehow, she could never find it in her heart to totally trust the Italians. The same was true of German fare after their brutal take over of Norway in WWII. Sometime during the holidays, let’s have a few snorts to build up the courage to try the Ethiopian restaurant on East 10th. What could go wrong?

  4. Per Pål P says:

    Uffda,,,Uffda…Uffda….That you….a Norwegian Gutt fra Volga would openly admit to eating such stuff as this….It’s bad enough you eat it…yet to “brag that you do openly?” You…you…yes..YOU… that Norwegian Gutt fra Volga, who has openly and unashamedly bashed that beautiful white cod from the icy waters of the North Sea, near your ancestral home, would openly admit to eating…Uffda…Gud vet (God only knows) what….from chicken tongues, to fish heads, to unborn chickens in the eggs, to rotten cabbage….From looking at that “glob”…who would know what was in there….And then to think….you “openly—in this blog” bashed lutefisk….a simply beautiful piece of white fish in melted butter…What more could I say….uffda…Kån Gud tilgivelse deg….Per

  5. Hemmingsen says:

    Funny you should mention this. The inventor of Chun King…Jeno Palluci (old chinese name) and his wife…just died a few days apart Thanksgiving week in the ancient Chinese city of Duluth. They were in their 90s.

    In addition, I just made an authentic wooden soy sauce barrel I got from the Canton Cafe 40 years ago into an end table. It took 30 years of garage time to lose the aroma. Not unpleasant; just over powering.

  6. Christy says:

    Pei Wei is waiting for your visit in January . . . perhaps I’ll take you on over to Flo’s to give that a try as well.

  7. fsl says:

    Doug; Annie Garcia from Flandreau makes the best egg rolls we’ve EVER had. And that is from many places beyond SDak.
    If you get to Flandreau Park Days held in the summer, she usually has a booth w/ egg rolls ! Come and try & see if you think so also !

  8. joanie says:


  9. Stan says:

    Not Chinese the “Hibachi Grill” was stellar! The fried rice, steak, lobster tail, kalamari, sushi/shushimie, grilled veggies, all top notch! All though the “sake sampler” probably helped. Tokyo’s o.k. but not the same. Man I miss that place.

  10. Helen says:

    I agree – it was a sad day when the Canton closed and I know what you said about chinese buffet, but HyVee really does justice to Chinese food and they have the best chicken egg rolls. They keep it basic and good there.

  11. Michael says:

    China Express also has the best crab rangoon in town.

  12. Carol says:

    If you are ever in the Gregory, SD area stop by the Homesteader where you will get the BEST eggrolls, fried rice, Kung Bao shrimp or chicken, Mandarin Shrimp or whatver oriental dish you might crave. The Nguyen’s have worked hard for many years to provide the best food available in the area! Well worth the trip!

  13. Sheila says:

    Saigon Panda is in the strip mall on East 26th St. Accross from Cherry Creek. When we want delivery that’s where we always call. It is soooo good. I think you can eat in also, but we never have. Next in line would have to be Hyvee. On 26th and Sycamore, they have the best seasame seed chicken.
    I know what’s for supper tonight Doug. Thanks!

  14. Kelly says:

    Go to the Hunan Lion in Marshall, MN. Yummy!

  15. Robyn says:

    My personal favorite is Golden Bowl. I discovered it about a year ago, and I find myself craving it almost regularly. Definitely worth the cost!

  16. Liam says:

    I too have gone on a quest to sample the different foods and I say that Imperial Garden across the street from East side Wal-Mart. BEST EVER! hands down. Everything is fresh, cooked in small batches, and served with utmost care. I highly suggest you try it.

  17. Liam says:

    P.S. Some suggestions: The portions are generous at dinner and satisfying for lunch.

    Chicken Egg foo Young
    Pork Spring Rolls
    Potstickers(order ahead b/c they run out quickly)
    Cashew or Garlic Chicken
    Mongolian Beef
    Any of their Lo-Mein dishes.

    Also a trivia note: All the “Golden” restaurants are owned by family members who had a different technique. The Imperial people are related as well, but decided that they wanted to differentiate themselves from the market with flavorful and satiating foods.

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