Leeann Chin was probably my first favorite restaurant. And Leeann Chin’s cream cheese wontons were one of my first true loves.
Back when I grew up, Leann Chin was a treat. I grew up in the southern suburbs which didn’t offer a large variety of cuisines. Restaurants were typically fast food or sit-down; fast-casual concept hadn’t gained momentum yet. Leeann Chin made it convenient and affordable to grab tasty Chinese food. I could usually talk my folks into visiting a Leeann Chin between their stops for burgers.
Our favorite entree was the Peking Chicken. A typical order of Peking Chicken in the Leeann Chin Golden Age offered a large serving of crisp(ish) strips of chicken tossed with slices of red pepper and a sweet and spicy red-hued sauce. The Young Jewel fried rice was light and fluffy, dotted with slices of stir-fried mushrooms. I hardly recognize them now.
One could visit the fancy buffet options in Downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul that have since closed. I remember celebrating birthdays at the Union Depot location in St. Paul. Here you could serve yourself scoopfuls of Leeann Chin dishes from buffet dishes and enjoy them in a nice dining room. It was hard to leave room for entrees when you had access to unlimited cream cheese wontons and shrimp toast.
For the most part, the Leeann Chins of yore is just not the same as it is today. I’m guessing this has to do with the fact that Chin actually owned the restaurants until around 2007.
Two items that have stood the test of time (and ownership changes) are the cream cheese wontons and oyster wings. Many have won the hearts and minds of potluck partygoers by bringing a tray of Leeann Chin cream cheese wontons. I remember visiting a Leeann Chin several years ago and feeling dismayed upon finding only boneless wings! They have since brought the bone-in wings back. They also taste just like 1992 ( or something like that).
A Few More Cream Cheese Wontons I Have Loved:
Red Dragon: I wrote about my first visit to Red Dragon here. Nothing, nobody, or any disclaimers could have adequately prepared me for Red Dragon punches. They’re dangerously strong. Comically strong. They’re brightly colored and emit a thousand fumes.
One of my most joyous experiences during the past year was coming here with friends to share punch and eat cream cheese wontons off a silver platter. They arrived hot from the fryer, generously filled with cream cheese. The booth seats are bouncy, the squirt bottle mustard is spicy, and there are disclaimers everywhere that you can’t return anything. Buckle up.
Chef Ma’s, St. Louis, MO: I wrote about Chef Ma’s here. Jake and I started visiting Chef Ma’s soon before we moved from St. Louis back to the Twin Cities. Chef Ma’s serves tulip-shaped wontons which aren’t typically my favorite, but here, they are very good.
Quang: I’m partial to the flat, triangle-shaped wontons like they serve at Quang’s. They usually taste homemade. Frozen pre-made wontons aren’t typically triangle-shaped. I like nibbling around the edges until I get to the cream cheese centers. We visit Quang’s one-two times per month. If you order as many as we do, Quang’s packs them in this nifty foil sack.
We take cream cheese wontons seriously in our household, carefully dividing each order in half. Eating more than one’s share of cream cheese wontons is certainly grounds for divorce.
Also, leftover cream cheese wontons are really delicious the next morning enjoyed with coffee! Think of them like a cross between a doughnut and bagel.
Feel free to share any thoughts on cream cheese wontons below in the comments.