Get founder Ricky Ly’s take on three of the tastiest Asian American-owned restaurants in Orlando (James Beard Finalist Chef Henry Moso’s MICHELIN Guide Recommended Kabooki Sushi in Orlando’s Milk District pictured).

Growing up, I recall fondly our family road trips to Orlando. After a day in the theme parks, my dad would take us all in the minivan and make our way up I-4 to downtown Orlando’s Mills 50 district, home to the largest concentration of Asian American businesses, restaurants and markets in Florida. I remembered my dad pointing out the hanging roast duck and crispy roast pork in the windows at the local markets, ordering a few pounds to go, as well as bags of Thai basil, mint and other produce you couldn’t get at the local Publix at the time.

Discover: Asian American and Pacific Islander History & Culture in Orlando

Every week, thousands of people from all over Florida make the drive to Orlando, just like my family did, to get a taste of home that they otherwise might not in their own towns. Here, visitors can enjoy a hot bowl of pho, the Vietnamese beef noodle soup, or some steamed shrimp dumplings at one of the local Chinese dim sum restaurants, and then head over to one of the local Asian markets to pick up a week’s worth of Asian groceries and food products, and maybe a bag of Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches for the road home.

Whether you are coming to Orlando to visit the theme parks or doing business, take some time to venture out and experience some of these local, Asian American-owned restaurants and businesses.

Here are a few suggestions for your next trip to Orlando:

Kabooki Sushi

Milk District Area: 3122 E Colonial Dr, Orlando, FL 32803
Restaurant Row Area: 7705 Turkey Lake Rd, Orlando, FL 32819

Kabooki Sushi’s Chef Henry Moso was a James Beard nominee for Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2020, and it isn’t hard to see why. Chef Henry draws inspiration from his childhood growing up in Laos and Southeast Asia to his travels in Japan and across America with his menu — dishes like the maguro truffle, seared tuna with rice cracker bubu arare and drizzles of shiitake mushroom crema, and housemade balsamic truffle soy are works of art that delight both the sight and taste.

Dishes here feature locally sourced, seasonal ingredients that celebrate the vibrancy of Mexican flavors, the sophistication of French preparation, and the curated integrity of Japan. Don’t miss the nigiri tasting, which is a culinary journey featuring chef’s selection of 10 seasonal nigiri, piece by piece, and the explosive C-4 chocolate lava cake with dulce de leche on the dessert menu.

Dochi Donuts

Audubon Park: 3201 Corrine Dr. Orlando, FL 32803
Mills 50: 1222 E Colonial Dr. Orlando, FL 32803

Start off the day right with some Japanese mochi donuts at Dochi, founded by longtime friends Jason Le and Frank Phan. They have the soft chewiness and lightness of the traditional Japanese mochi (glutinous rice flour) dessert with the crispy fried texture of American donut — the best of both worlds. These donuts are shaped with eight smaller balls in a ring that allows for sharing or just having it all to yourself.

The donuts are glazed with flavors that are uniquely Asian and American inspired, such as Ube Glaze, Taro Fruity Pebbles, Fererro Rocher and the Japanese-inspired Matcha Green Tea Oreo. There’s also weekly specials, so if you’re lucky you might find strawberry Pocky-flavored donuts as well.

Hawkers Asian Street Food

Mills 50: 1103 N Mills Ave, Orlando, FL 32803
Windermere: 9100 Conroy Windermere Rd #110, Windermere, FL 34786

Hawkers Asian Street Food started in Orlando in 2011 by four friends with family roots in Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam and right here in Florida. Allen Lo, one of the four partners who was born and raised in Kedah, Malaysia, grew up working in his parents’ Chinese take-out restaurants and one day decided to take his family’s recipes and bring these authentic dishes that they eat at home to the public at large.

Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures from its immigrant population, and the dishes reflect those influences, including Indian, Chinese, Malay, Thai and more. The menu features wonderful renditions of those favorites like roti canai (a kind of pan fried, puffy tortilla-like bread that is served with their addictive and intensive house-made, four-hour curry dipping sauce), rich curry laksa noodle soups, and char kway teo stir-fried noodles, among others.

For more information, Visit Orlando has a great list of local Asian American events, businesses and resources.

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