Tiny pleasure packages

By Charles Campbell, Emilie Minnick, Grace Tran

By now everyone knows, or should know, the difference between authentic Chinese food and, well, inauthentic Chinese food. Rumor has it most Chinese places will have signs (in Chinese) that notify those in search of more authentic places that they serve ƒ?oeAmericanƒ?? Chinese. Thereƒ?TMs a great place in Chicagoƒ?TMs Chinatown whereƒ?”if you look as though youƒ?TMre in search of something elseƒ?”the waitress will unexpectedly exclaim, ƒ?oeLetƒ?TMs be honest; hereƒ?TMs the real menu!ƒ?? Soon youƒ?TMre in an underground network of truly delicious food.Most likely, the ƒ?oeAmericanƒ?? Chinese food came about sometime in the 19th Century by Chinese railroad workers who began to open restaraunts and found they had to cater to different tastebuds. You can see the aftermath everywhere, from chains like Panda Express to our own Minnesotan phenomenon: the cream cheese wonton.
Enveloped in a wonton skin (a thin, square dough made from flour, eggs, and salt) the cream cheese wonton comes in many different shapes, sizes and flavors. Authentic or not, these wontons can be delicious.

However, the average person in search of a delectable wonton will find herself overwhelmed by the number of restaurants in the Twin Cities and the variety of cream cheese wontons, for not one is the same. Theyƒ?TMre almost like snowflakes.

Pad Thai Grand CafAc
1659 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105
(651) 690-1393
$4.28
Our survey really begins and ends with the delicious wontons at Pad Thai. We began ordering wontons here for take-out as often as three times a week at the beginning of fall semester. Now they have become the standard against which others seem to pale in comparison. The addictiveness of Pad Thaiƒ?TMs wontons lies in the ingredients: smooth cream cheese tempered by green onions which give the wonton an extra zing. With a side of Pad Thaiƒ?TMs bright red sweet-and-sour sauce, these wontons hit the spot. Nevermind the fact that you cannot beat the accessibility of Pad Thai, whether you are dining in or taking out. Youƒ?TMll cream your pants for these exceptional cream cheese wontons.

Grand Thai
758 Grand Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55105
(651) 293-9124
$4.95
Not to be overshadowed by Pad Thai, Grand Thai has a lot to offer in the way of cream cheese wontons. With the addition of an extra special secret ingredient (red bell peppers) as well as the trusty green onion folded inside of the cream cheese mixture, these delicious wontons are bursting with flavor. However, the sweet-and-sour sauce accompanying the wontons left something to be desired. Insiderƒ?TMs tip: try the wontons without the sauce. They are so good, you donƒ?TMt even need it! (They also have delicious orange-scented water.)

New Asia
474 Lexington Parkway
St. Paul, MN 55104
(651) 647-6264
$3.75
New Asia hides in a modest little stripmall along with a nail shop, clothing boutique and a small grocerƒ?TMs. Boasting a rather substantial menuƒ?”the General Tsoƒ?TMs chicken does not taste half bad, if youƒ?TMre in the moodƒ?”the dishes are cheap, and hell, they even deliver. But donƒ?TMt bother with the cream cheese wontons. You get twelve wontons for $3.75, which is a steal if youƒ?TMre interested in digesting deep-fried cardboard stuffed with globs of thick glue. You know that feeling of thick peanut butter stuck to the top of your mouth? Thatƒ?TMs what happens when you take a huge bite of New Asiaƒ?TMs cream cheese wontonƒ?”and there are no other ingredients in the wonton to kill the overwhelmingly dairy odor. Instead, try their crab rangoon (8 for $3.75), for a more pleasant version.

Village Wok
610 Washington Ave. SE
Minneapolis, 55414
(612) 331-9041
$3.25
Ah yes, Village Wok! It may be on the East Bank of the U of M campus, but it is open until 2 a.m. most nights which will give you ample time to get there by bus or bike. Surprisingly, the restaurantƒ?TMs patrons are not limited to university students: In the witching hour, youƒ?TMll find a pretty eclectic crowd to match the bountiful menu. Village Wok is renowned for its late night wonton noodle soup (delicious, a must-have!) and enormous vegetarian selection. The cream cheese wontons are a nice complement to any meal. The texture of both the skin and the cream cheese is just right, and the sweet-and-sour sauce, inoffensive. The filling is plain cream cheese, mixed with a few nice-smelling spices, and the folding of the wonton was like nothing weƒ?TMd seen before.

Azia Restaurant
2550 Nicollet Ave. S
Minneapolis, MN 55404
(612) 813-1200
$9.58
For the yuppie in training, Azia is a perfect match. Located on ƒ?oeEat Streetƒ?? and holding title as one of the trendiest restauraunts in the city, Aziaƒ?TMs atmosphere alone is reason enough to eat there. However, doing so might require going into debt: Decidedly out of a studentƒ?TMs price range (an average entrAce runs $20), take-out is a viable alternative. (For the typical moccasin-wearing Macalester student, this route is most advisable.) Where the presentation of the wontonsƒ?”or ƒ?oeCranberry Puffsƒ??ƒ?”was impressive, folded into little origami hats like Village Wokƒ?TMs, the taste did little to validate the price. This was an unusual case of ingredient-overload. The green onions, lemongrass and fiery spice completely canceled out the cranberries, resulting in a surprising lack of flavor. Perhaps something can be said for the simplicity of the typical cream cheese wonton.

Red Dragon
2116 Lyndale Ave S
Minneapolis, MN 55405
(612) 874-8877
$3.75
Not just an Uptown dive bar, the Red Dragon offers tasty, cheap classics. The atmosphere harkens back to the 60s and the drinks will knock you flat on your face (but you donƒ?TMt have to be 21 to eat there). The cream cheese wontons arrived with just the right amount of presentation, sitting atop a little aluminum pedestal. Verdict: a nice balance of everything; however, these cream cheese wontons relied on the two sauces that accompanied it for fuller flavor. While I was disappointed by the lack of red dye #40 in the sweet-and-sour sauce, the mustard that came with it made up for it. Cheap and delicious, you can make a modest dinner of the array of appetizers (try the chicken wings and pot stickers).