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A Taste of Asia in Bloomington

As an international student from Jakarta, Indonesia, one of the biggest sacrifices I had to make going to IU is the delicious food at home. I went from having access to many different authentic cuisines from many cultures into having cheese as the most flavorful food on my plate (#CollegeStudentGrind). This upsetting realization motivated me into going on a hunt for some of the best Asian restaurants that Bloomington has to offer. When thinking of Asian cuisine or café’s, you’ve probably heard of the Ami Restaurant or even been to Bapu Teahouse at Kirkwood to study. I am here to introduce you to some of my favorite Asian restaurants in Bloomington that are not as popular as the aforementioned places.

1. Do Asian Fusion Restaurant

Do is a Korean fusion restaurant that has just about any popular Korean cuisines that exist (and so much more). One of the plus sides of this restaurant is that it is open late. For night-owls like me, they have been a healthier and more tasteful option than some other fast-food restaurants. It is also a great hang out spot for you and your friend to relax and talk about your days in. Of course, do so while also following the proper social distancing guidelines.

Recommendations from this restaurant are:

  • Pork Steamed Dumpling (there are also other protein options according to your dietary preferences!)

  • Kimchi Fried Rice: if you’re looking for a fulfilling rice dish, this is perfect for you. The kimchi might sound intimidating but trust me it isn’t spicy at all (but then again, I am Indonesian).

  • Jjajangmyeon: it is a noodle dish with black bean sauce and the sweetness of the sauce, intermingled with the savory flavor coming from the pork meat is definitely something that will refine your palate.

  • Kimchi Bibimmyeon: a cold noodle dish that is mixed in with kimchi. The coldness of it definitely is a nice fulfilling refreshment for the summer!

  • Samyeopsal: it is essentially BBQ pork belly and is something you can find a lot in Korean BBQ (K-BBQ) restaurants. What sets the samgyeopsal here from other K-BBQ restaurants is the tenderness of the meat.

Address: 404 E 4th St, Bloomington, IN 47408, United States

2. Mr. Hotpot

With just $23.99 per person, you can get an all you can eat experience at Mr. Hotpot (perfect for a feast). Hotpot is a Chinese cuisine where you choose a broth flavor of your liking and you get to put any ingredient in it. It is a great place to get to know your new friends as well as have some deep reflective talks with your old ones.

As it is all you can eat, my only recommendation is to eat as much as your body lets you! Make every last penny count!

  • My go-to broth of choice: Assorted Mushroom

  • Favorite proteins: Premium Slice Thin Beef & Ham (spam)

  • Favorite meatballs: Masago Fish Ball, Imitated Crab Meat, and Mini Sausage

  • Favorite carb: Potato Noodles (trust me)

  • Favorite veggies: Fried Tofu Skin (cannot recommend this enough), Soft Tofu, Bok Choy, Baby Corn Root, and Enoki Mushrooms

Address: 2550 E 3rd St, Bloomington, IN 47401, United States

3. Judy’s Kitchen

Say you’ve just had a long day running errands, shopping, or even treating yourself at the College Mall and you are looking for something to help you recharge your energy; Judy’s Kitchen is the place to go. Judy’s Kitchen is a food stall in the College Mall food court that houses some of the most authentic Chinese cuisines in Bloomington.

Some food items you should definitely try out:

  • Spicy Steamed Wontons: This spicy steamed dumpling dish accompanied with chili oil is an appetizer that is good to snack on but can also make you full.

  • Rice Vermicelli Noodles: Underrated noodle option and it’s the perfect dish for you and your friend to share.

  • Milk Tea (don’t sleep on their Milk Tea, it is one of my favorite ones in Bloomington)

Side Note: I have never had a miss from them so try whatever food that interests you!

Address: 2892 E 3rd St, Bloomington, IN 47401, United States (across from Ulta at College Mall)

4. Lotus Garden

Despite being a part of the Lotus Interest Group at IU, my love towards this restaurant is completely unintentional. I was introduced to this restaurant because it was close to my old apartment and it is one of my personal favorite Chinese restaurants at IU isn’t as popular as others. The menu is definitely variant despite the attachment that I have with a few food items.

Those would include:

  • Sweet and Sour Pork: something about this sweet and sour pork dish is different from the red sauce that I am usually more exposed to. The sauce feels more like a glaze and makes this dish unique and perfect to go along with any other proteins.

  • Tomato Egg Drop Soup: this is a staple dish that I eat especially when I am sick. I would not recommend this if you are looking to experiment with food but this dish is perfect when you are feeling a little congested.

  • Egg Yolk Prawn: this might not sound appetizing if you have never been a part of the egg-yolk craze a lot of us have been going through for the past few years. However, this crispy prawn dish with a touch of saltiness from the yolk is a combination you should definitely try.

  • Hot Candied Yams: a sweet snack you should definitely order. No questions asked.

  • Mantou: bit of a hot take but Mantou is one of my carbohydrates for choice (us Asians always have carbs with every meal). You can also snack on it with the condensed milk dip if you’re not too hungry!

Address: 110 S Washington St, Bloomington, IN 47408, United States

5. Café Bali

Of course, I have to include this restaurant on this list to represent my country. Café Bali is an Asian cuisine restaurant that serves just about anything. The owners of this restaurant are Indonesian so they do have a lot of Indonesian cuisines here. Although the choices are not as much as what I am used to back home, it is a great start to expose yourself to the Indonesian cuisine.

Some of their Indonesian dishes you should try out are:

  • Fried Rice with Fried Egg: Fried Rice or Nasi Goreng is one Indonesian meal that is impressionable to a lot of foreigners. If you like spicy, I highly suggest you to ask for a spicy one!

  • Beef Rendang: This is also one of our signature dishes. It is slow-cooked beef that is drenched in rich spices, coconut milk and curry. The best way to enjoy this is with rice.

  • Sate Babi or Pork Satay: Sate Babi is pork skillets that are served with sweet sauce. It is perfect to have on its own or along with rice.

Side Note: Not an Indonesian dish but try out their Mille Crepe cakes for dessert (vanilla one is my favorite).

Written By: Denessa A. Bismarka

Denessa is a Professional Development Associate in The Women’s Network at IU. She is a junior from Jakarta, Indonesia, studying Economics and Finance. Besides TWN, she is also involved in other organizations such as Solar Chapter at IU and Lotus Interest Group. When she is not studying or at a meeting, she enjoys watching mukbangs and doing self-care to unwind.

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