“My parents were merchants in Vietnam,” Wong tells me. “They pretty much left everything behind and had to start all over again. When we came here, we had nothing. So what do you do? You have to work -- and work hard.”
Wong’s restaurant, which she opened in 2005 under the name East River Market, reflects both her personal story and Minneapolis’ growing diversity. After meeting her husband, Thomas Gnanapragasam, who immigrated to the US from Malaysia, she changed the name to ChinDian Cafe and the menu to a medley of Chinese and Indian dishes.
“I put a little bit of Vietnamese spring rolls and noodle salads on the menu, some Chinese items, some of his Malaysian items, some of his Indian spices,” Wong says. “It’s not really a fusion of foods. It’s a fusion of us, of who we are. And that’s what makes it interesting.”