Asia in Miami: Local Restaurant Guide for Chinese and Thai Food in Miami (Part I)

We lived over three years in Hong Kong and we were spoiled. We traveled and sampled an incredible array of delicious and authentic food. We discovered the true flavors of Asian food, and marveled at its complexity deeply rooted in culture and tradition. Coming back to the US (and especially coming back to Miami), left a void in our hearts and in our palates. What had become traditions - the art of sharing, the joy of pleasant discoveries when sampling new flavors and dishes, and our deep passion for good Asian food were diminished. 

Since our arrival, I set off on a mission to discover and find out where Asian Food was to be had in Miami. In Miami Latin food reigns and Latin flavors are perfected with quality ingredients.  Offerings tend to be a reflection of the local community - so yes, you will find the best Nicaraguan steaks, Venezuelan arepas, freshest Ceviche and the juiciest Pan con Bistec...but comida CHINA?!

The world is flat. Indeed, this is not NYC or the Bay Area, but after much researching and tasting, you can find some authentic and diverse offerings for Asian food in Miami. These are as authentic and unique as you can get in Miami. There is no better place to slurp noodles than in the heart of Saigon or sample a Beef Satay than in a Bangkok night market. Nevertheless, visiting any of these restaurants/shops makes my heart content.

Best Chinese Restaurants in Miami  

Chinese cuisine is complex and diverse. We learned that early on. There are various regions / cuisines that are defined by flavors and ingredients.  In Miami, I've identified the North Miami corridor along 167th street as a "hub" for many things "Asian".  There's been talk of developing a "Chinatown" along 167th/163rd St. and elsewhere in Miami - yet nothing has come to fruition yet. Now, when you visit these places - please do me a favor and don't order a Chop Suey or Honey Chicken - be adventurous and look at the "Authentic Chinese" "Chef Recommended" section in the menu. My top picks are:

Cantonese Cuisine (North): King Palace Chinese BBQ (330 NE 167 Street, North Miami). Great Char-siu (roasted pork or roasted chicken). Limited Dim-Sum menu on weekends. My favorite is their salt & pepper shrimp, clams in black pepper sauce, snow pea tips and the green beans with pork. It's fun to go with a group to sample a little bit of everything. Note that they have American Chinese and more traditional items on the menu. 

Salt & Pepper Shrimp (Ordered without shells)

Salt & Pepper Shrimp (Ordered without shells)

Cantonese (SW Miami area): Kohn Chau (8376 SW 40th Street). You've heard me mentioned them so many times! They are a staple in my life and we are in theirs (as frequent dinners). Cheap dim-sum with a robust list of options - fried taro cake, vegetarian chive dumpling ($3.25!), xia long bao (Shanghai soup dumpling), soy sauce fried noodles (so simple yet so flavorful). We feast. This is a no frills, no decor no non-sense spot.  Visit the Chinese Mini-Mart next door and grab some green tea ice cream or Mochi for dessert.

If you live more Southwest, there's a pretty legitimate dim sum spot (with Dim Sum CARTS! just point to what you want!) on 72 St. and 107th Ave. It's called South Garden Chinese Restaurant.  

@Kohn Chau - I usually jump right in and tend to take pictures of empty plates!

@Kohn Chau - I usually jump right in and tend to take pictures of empty plates!

Szechuan: CY Chinese (1242 NE 163 Street, North Miami Beach). Szechuan style (it's a numbing spicy - either small peppers or red big chillies like you've never had before - addicting and not overpowering). Where else can you try HOT-POT in Miami? Check this place out to cook your own meat/veggies on a big pot of broth (usually divided into a spicy and bland broth). A tradition ideal for cold days (which may not exist in Miami). Nevertheless, this spot is very authentic with a long menu featuring flavors that can take me back to our first Shanghai visit (Dan Dan Noodle, beef with eggplant, dumplings in red Chilly sauce, Szechuan cucumber and Tofu/bean curd soaked in a yummy and spicy Szechuan sauce).

Hakkasan (at the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach, 4441 Collins Avenue). Glam Dim-Sum. Get ready to party and sip a fancy cocktail while you nibble on pan-fried Wagyu beef and lobster and enoki soup. A place for a special ($$$) occasion. It's refined, modern and the Cantonese flavors are spot on. Their weekend Dim-Sum menu will not leave you with an empty wallet.   

Best Thai Restaurants in Miami

Authentic Thai food is actually very spicy and not so sweet. Welcome to America, where the recipes have been modified or watered down. Actually - Pad Thai is not the most popular dish in Thailand. The spots below are anything but ordinary in terms of flavor and authenticity. Keep an open mind, as some are located in very casual (and random) locales. 

Asian Thai Kitchen (3135 Grand Avenue, Coconut Grove). Best Thai (TAKE OUT!). Call for your order and pick it up or have it delivered. You will not want to linger, since it's inside the KWIK STOP on Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove. Seriously delicious and very authentic Thai dishes - Tom Yum Goong Soup, the Thai garlic squid or shrimp is a winner, and so are any of the curries. What a find! I thank Miami Nice for the tip. They've also opened an actual restaurant on Calle 8 (Asian Thai Kitchen 2), which we also enjoyed. It had sort of a "private-kitchen" feel. 

NaiYaRa (1854 Bay Rd, Miami Beach). Thai that rocks. Head by popular Chef Bee (from other popular Thai establishments...remember Khong River House on the beach?). Fun with groups, the ambiance is loud and happening, and it's frequented by local celebrities and public figures. Polished presentation and yummy flavors.

Lung Yai Thai Tapas (1731 SW 8th Street, Little Havana).  Northern Thai Cuisine. Apart from the fact that its name is incredibly difficult to pronounce or remember, this is a delicious and unique spot. Not until we actually traveled to Chiang Mai did I know that Thai food is so diverse. The northern Thai cuisine is complex, with depth and pungent flavors. This is where you will find the Best papaya salad in town. Must-try: the beef Salad, the crab fried rice and the Khao Soi Gai / Nuar (Thai curry with crunchy noodles on top and a soupy bottom - and I don't think you can get this anywhere else).  Tip: this is a tiny spot in the middle of Little Havana right next to a fast-food drive-thru joint. Best not to go when it rains (as there's not much interior seating) and best for parties of 2. 

The freshest Green Papaya Salad @Lung Yai

The freshest Green Papaya Salad @Lung Yai

Treat Alert: Bubble Tea

Before there was a craze over milky tea, this location (237 NE 167 Street, North Miami Beach) had been serving quite a variety of milk and bubble teas. I have been going up there for over eight or nine years. There's a dreamy Green Tea bubble tea with tapioca or my recent favorite, a Thai Slush tea. The name/owners have changed through the years.   It was originally owned by a Taiwanese lady and at some point the place was all vegetarian, but now it's called Dumpling King, and I think the owners may be from the Mainland. It's absolutely no-frills, located on a random and sketchy strip mall as you come off I-95. If you have time to linger, it's worth seating down and ordering some pan fried dumplings or cold noodles.  It usually hosts an Asian crowd. 

Bubble tean in miami

Stay tuned. I've divided this "Asian Restaurant" post in 2 parts. Next week you will read up on other Asian favorites in the Miami area.

Here are some photos from our travels and adventures. Enjoy #TBT