Check out one of United Noodles owner Eric Fung's favorite recipes here.
We usually think of major metropolitan areas as having the best and most unique culinary options, but more and more, retailers and restaurants are choosing locations in the ‘burbs rather than downtown. Aside from more space and better parking, suburban locations also offer the opportunity for businesses to fill voids that exist within communities—and that’s good for everyone.
One of Minnesota’s largest Asian grocery stores, United Noodles, has been filling voids in Minneapolis since 1972. Starting out as a noodle factory and wholesaler, then moving into retail, their 15,000-square-foot store has become a well-respected source of the largest variety of authentic Asian foods, supplies and cookware around. They’ve also been serving up some of the most incredibly delicious Asian food around at UniDeli, a dine-in Pan-Asian restaurant located within United Noodles in Minneapolis.
UniDeli began in 2005. It’s defined on the United Noodles website as “a creative Asian kitchen exploring flavors without borders.” The ramen does, indeed, have a cult following. It’s that good. The menu offers a wide variety of cuisines focused on the freshest and most authentic Asian ingredients available, and they have fun with new food trends, too.
Eric Fung, a former lawyer, started working at United Noodles in 2011 as a creative outlet. In just a couple of years, “it became my life,” Fung says. He saw potential that had yet to be realized, and purchased the business in 2014. Joined by his wife Annie Dingle—a Lt. Cmdr. in the Navy JAG Corps—ideas began to take shape.
To fuel and inspire their ideas, team trips to Asia have taken place and will continue to take place each year. Fung and his team have been conducting intensive culinary and retail research both in Asia and throughout the Twin Cities. Now, residents of Woodbury, and those of us who know a good thing when we see it and will happily drive a bit to get it, are benefitting from all this research.
United Noodles Woodbury opened in May, just off I-94 and Radio Drive on Hudson Road. You can see the understated storefront from the highway. If you’re familiar with the Minneapolis store, your first impression when you enter the Woodbury store is that it’s smaller with a lot less stuff. But once you start walking around, you’ll notice that the 3,334-square-foot space isn’t short on anything. It’s just organized very efficiently.
The Woodbury store is a concept store, meant to fill the void of Asian foods in a community that is home to one of the metro’s largest populations of residents with Asian heritage. The layout is simple, bright and clean, and intended to provide an enjoyable shopping experience where customers can browse at their leisure, or pop in and out quickly. The products are highly curated, and the United Noodles folks are listening to their new customers to learn what they want most.
Shoppers will find everything from an abundance of fresh produce to beautiful jars of fire-red kimchi, to a wall of Asian sauces and condiments. As you make your way past the novelty snacks and wildly popular Pusheen and Totoro (Asian cartoon characters) items, you’ll find the wonderfully fragrant spices. There are numerous seasonings, and, of course, rice and noodles of all kinds. There’s a compartmentalized wall of beautiful serving dishes, saké sets, woks and cookware. Customers can take home specialized items or mix and match dish sets to create their own look.
Then there’s the freezer section filled with all kinds of seafood and thinly sliced ribeye, Wagyu, and lamb ready to go for delicious hot pot dinners. There are also mochi ice cream bonbons and party-size tubs of red bean and green tea ice creams, ready to cure your not-too-sweet dessert cravings, and so many options in between.
Near the front entrance is the grab-and-go section. United Noodles Woodbury doesn’t have an eat-in restaurant like the Minneapolis store, but it does have a wide variety of delicious prepared foods created by chef Adam Wilson—a French-trained chef with serious chops, and the executive chef of United Noodles. He’s largely responsible for the amazing Asian dishes at UniDeli, and he’s also the one developing wonderfully authentic prepared foods for Woodbury.
We tried the Thai red chicken curry with white rice (12 oz. bowl, $6.99), and it was excellent. It had just the right amount of heat, and lots of curry flavor without being overpowering. Definitely something we’d get again. We also tried their Yakult lemonade (a probiotic beverage), and liked it so much we bought a second glass.
The selection of prepared foods changes often, but they always offer a large variety of freshly made, authentic (not “Americanized”) dishes like fried rice, bonchon (a saucy Korean fried chicken), Spam masubi, poké, and curry katsu.
“We want to de-mystify Asian food,” Fung says, “so we offer samples for people to try and we’re always happy to talk about ingredients and different ways to use them.” The folks at United Noodles are clearly passionate about what they do, and they love sharing their knowledge and experiences. Ask them what they like, and you just might find your new favorites, too.
The goal at United Noodles Woodbury is to provide many reasons to shop there, by offering a wide variety of basics and essentials as well as higher-end specialty items. Because of the volume that United Noodles buys, they’re able to offer a bigger selection of unique products at lower prices.
“Grocery shopping is an intimate experience,” Fung says. “You want to do it in person versus buying online so you can see and touch new and different ingredients.” And they’ve succeeded in building a store that allows customers to do just that. Whether you just want to grab lunch or a few quick items for dinner, or if you’re in the mood to explore completely new-to-you ingredients, you can do it all at United Noodles.
United Noodles Woodbury
7730 Hudson Road, Suite 60