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Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month: Chenue Her's favorite Asian restaurants in Des Moines and what you should order

One way Chenue Her celebrates AAPI Heritage Month is with his love language: food. He shares his regular spots and what he's eating.

DES MOINES, Iowa — May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and I’m so excited to celebrate it in Des Moines for the first time!

I’m Hmong, and coming from a Hmong family, I show my pride during AAPI Heritage Month through telling stories about my family and educating others on Hmong history. But more than anything, I love sharing our food.

Like many other AAPI cultures, our cuisine tells a story. It’s shaped through our history and where we’ve been. It’s the center of how we interact as a community.

In my family, it’s also our biggest love language. 

I always joked with my four siblings growing up that my mom never apologizes, she just asks if we’re hungry. Hearing my mom ask “Are you hungry?” is food for the soul because that’s when we’ve always known she’s thinking of us and showing deep affection.

So, as I move around the country as a journalist, one of the first things I do when I get to a new city is look for food that resembles my mom’s, food that feeds my soul. It makes me feel at home and it helps me feel settled.

Here are a few of my favorites right here in Des Moines and what I order when I go there.

Rolling Wok Café

1534 E Grand Ave, Des Moines

Located just east of downtown Des Moines near Grand and 15th, Rolling Wok Café has become one of my go-to places when I need some comfort food that takes me back to sharing a meal with my family. Even the staff is friendly, inviting, and always engaging in conversation which makes me feel like I’m around family.

My order: the sticky rice and papaya salad combo with the Lao sausage, beef laab extra spicy.

Sticky rice and papaya salad, to me, goes hand-in-hand. Top that off with the Lao sausage they make in-house and you’re set. Of course, I have to have an order of beef laab on the side too. That’s my dad’s favorite dish so it really brings it home for me.

Make that laab and papaya salad extra spicy, please!

Pho 888

1521 2nd Ave, Des Moines

Pho 888 is like all the pho shops I grew up going to. You walk in and see every table with a bowl of fresh, hot pho. It’s a beautiful sight to see the steam rising from the bowls around the restaurants.

I’ll admit, I tend to be a creature of habit at pho places.

My order: large combo pho, which comes with all the meat fixings, the chicken wings and a house special banh-mi.

Heads up for tripe lovers: the restaurant doesn’t serve tripe. However, the pho comes with a generous portion of protein.

Thai Flavors – Ingersoll

2301 Ingersoll Ave, Des Moines

I always joke (but am I really joking?) that my favorite outdoor activity is a patio beverage and meal. If that’s also your jam, then Thai Flavors – Ingersoll might do the trick.

I’ve been a fan of Thai Flavors ever since I had this dish.

My order: roast duck curry with rice.

This is probably the best roast duck curry I’ve ever had. The meat is roasted perfectly and packs on the flavor from the curry. The spice scale runs from 1-to 10, and I rev it up and get a 10 every time.

ASIAN FOOD 😍😍 I’m so excited for AAPI Heritage Month! For our family and most Asian families I know, food is such a love language. When my mom asks “Are you hungry?”, that’s the biggest show of affection. So, I’m kicking off the month by highlighting some of my favorite Asian restaurants in Des Moines! This is comfort food that warms my soul. If you come to Des Moines, check them out! If you’re from Des Moines and know more places, let me know! Shoutout my spots: Lucky Lotus Pho Real Kitchen & Bar Thai Flavors Ingersoll Nut Pob Restaraunt Rolling Wok Cafe and Pho 888

Posted by Chenue Her on Sunday, May 1, 2022

Nut Pob Restaurant

3322 Indianola Ave, Des Moines

I can’t say enough good things about Nut Pob Restaurant. This was the first restaurant I went to when I moved to Des Moines. It instantly made me feel at home. When you walk by the register, you see pictures of the owners’ family: graduations, sports, family photos, etc. What’s not to love?

Then, the menu. It was tremendous and have so, so any options.

My order: combo pho, angry catfish, and sticky rice.

You can’t go wrong with the pho at Nut Pob. It competes for my favorite pho in Des Moines. But then let’s talk about the angry catfish. It’s a whole catfish, perfectly grilled topped with a house vinaigrette along with Thai chilis and green onions. The meat falls right off the bone and the sauce, over rice, is a chef’s kiss.

Pho Real Kitchen & Bar

200 4th St, Des Moines

In the heart of downtown, this mom-and-pop shop is just the epitome of cool and chic, from the restaurant aesthetic to the menus. And, it's open late.

The great thing about this menu is if you’re not feeling pho, there are so many great options. If you are a beginner to southeast Asian cuisine, Pho Real has options that can slowly introduce you to our food! There’s everything for beginners and experts.

My order: salt and pepper shrimp, pho special, pork belly bowl, boba tea.

The salt and pepper shrimp is a classic appetizer that pairs well with the pho special. Similar to Pho 888, the pho doesn’t come with tripe. But, the pho more than makes up for that. The pork belly bowl – where do I even begin? The braised pork is cooked perfectly. It comes on a bed of rice with a chef’s sauce.

Try it and tell me what you think!

Also a big bonus: this is my favorite spot for boba tea in Des Moines. 

RELATED: Pho restaurant in Des Moines responds to customer who complained about traditional Vietnamese dish

Lucky Lotus

2721 Ingersoll Ave, Des Moines

I’ve never been to an Asian restaurant like Lucky Lotus. The vibes are out of this world! The food is spectacular too.

This place has done wonders in taking our food and presenting it in a way that’s not intimidating for those who want to try southeast Asian cuisine for the first time.

Plus, it’s probably got my favorite merch in the area.

My order: Lao Links, papaya salad, spring rolls and Heavenly beef jerky

The Lao links and Heavenly beef jerky with sticky rice is a meal I can remember eating since the beginning of time. It’s simple yet hits the spot. The papaya salad at Lucky Lotus packs that lime, but get it spicy, and it’s just the perfect balance. It’s refreshing and one of my favorites.

These are just some of my favorites in Des Moines but if you have some you’d like me to check out, feel free to connect with me on FacebookInstagram or Twitter. I’d love to check them out and report back!  

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