I wouldn't call this list the best Asian restaurants in Charleston — since I haven't tried all of them, that wouldn't be fair — but these are a handful of some of my favorite places and what I order there.
Pink Bellies (Tuesdays @ Edmund's Oast Brewing Co. currently)What to order: #1 Special Banh Mi
Pink Bellies doesn't have a brick and mortar location, but they're always serving up delicious food wherever they are. Many go for the garlic noodles, the #1 Special, originally called The Realest, Banh Mi is the go-to food item when available. It puts a modern spin on the Vietnamese classic. The fresh, savory ingredients of the #1 Special soaks into the soft inner fluff of the bread, while the outside maintains a nice, crispy crunch with every bite. Throw a few slices of jalapeno in there, and you got yourself a party.
843 Korean BBQ & Sushi House (6601 Rivers Ave.)What to order: AYCE Korean BBQ
843 isn't a typical restaurant. One side is a traditional sit down and dine in restaurant with traditional Korean dishes like bulgogi and bibimbap. The other, however, is an entirely new dining experience for many Charleston restaurant-goers. With Korean BBQ, you do the cooking yourself. Fresh, raw ingredients are brought out to the table by order, and with the hot grill in the center, you cook everything to your desire. It's a great experience to have with a large, or small, group of friends.
Ice & Pan (567 King St.)What to order: Rolled Ice Cream (any flavor)
Rolled ice cream was a recent fad that dominated social media, with videos of chefs mixing and rolling ice cream on a freezing slab of metal therapy to the eye. Unfortunately, Ice & Pan doesn't have that experience, but the quality of ice cream and food they serve trumps that. The rolled ice cream offered at Ice & Pan is delicious and comes in a variety of flavors and toppings, including mochi, strawberries, chocolate syrup, condensed milk, and much more. It's the perfect dessert on a hot Charleston day.
Ice Bing (93 Spring St.)What to order: Q-Ball Matcha Bing & Nai Gai
The desserts and drinks at Ice Bing are beautifully crafted. Ice Bing is a unique style of shaved ice, mixed in the sweetness of condensed milk and a scoop of ice cream. But the Matcha Bing adds a hint of bitterness from the matcha-infused ice, along with shaved coconut and tapioca pearls for a diverse texture. Add a Nai Gai drink to your order and give yourself a sea salt cream foam mustache, too.
Kwei Fei (1977 Maybank Hwy.)What to order: Dim sum during Sunday brunch
Dim sum, like tapas, is a variety of small plates or bite-sized appetizers. At Kwei Fei, it's only offered on Sundays for brunch during the Sunday Brunch Farmers Market, but it's worth the wait. Take a friend, or a group, and order from lamb dumplings, scallion pancakes, drunken wings, shrimp shau mai, and more. It's a good way to fill an empty belly or cure a hangover if you need it. And if you're not feeling dim sum, they have hearty noodle bowls that can fill you up, too.
Little Miss Ha (1503 King St.)What to order: Thit Rang
Little Miss Ha is currently one of the booths at Workshop, giving Charleston another taste of Vietnamese food. They're serving different dishes than Pink Bellies, the previous Vietnamese spot in Workshop, displaying the diverse dishes Vietnamese food has to offer. Try the Thit Rang, caramelized pork and shrimp over a steaming bed of white rice. The mixture of savory and sweet countered with the rice is the perfect balance for your taste buds.
Mama Kim's (349 King St.)What to order: Pork Bulgogi
Mama Kim's is a staple in Charleston, and a place everyone needs to try at least once (but the more, the better.) It's a great place to grab lunch in between classes, or dinner for a good celebration. The pork bulgogi is a classic, and comes with sides like cabbage and daikon kimchi. It's served on a sizzling hot plate and the smell is to die for. Make sure to let it cool before you take a bite, though, unless you want to feel it for a few days.
Mei Thai Restaurant and Sushi Bar (7685 Northwoods Blvd.)What to order: Lechon Kawali
Despite "Thai" being in their name, Mei Thai serves more than just Thai food. In addition, they serve sushi and a small selection of Filipino cuisine, including classics like sinigang, adobo, and halo halo. But the real game changer is the lechon kawali — crispy fried pork belly over a bed of steaming white rice, combined with a sweet, savory, and sour sauce to either dip the pork belly in or drizzle over the dish. The flavors combine to hit all the right notes in your mouth for a full and hearty meal.
Riso Noodle House (1890 Sam Rittenberg Blvd.)What to order: Sweet BBQ Buns
It's a quiet restaurant tucked in the side of the Outback Plaza on Sam Rittenberg. They have an array of different menu items for any palate. For entrees, they're reasonably priced for the portions you get, and pack a lot of flavor. But if you want something small and easy or an appetizer to kick off your meal, get the Sweet BBQ Buns. The spicy, savory BBQ pork is partnered with small vegetables, wrapped inside a steaming, fluffy bun, then drizzled with a sweet honey sauce to balance the flavors.
Tapio (221 Coming St.)What to order: Frozen Honeydew Slush w/ Tapioca Pearls, but really any flavor
Boba is becoming a trend in many places around the country, and Tapio is one of the few places in Charleston to deliver the delicacy. They offer many styles and flavors of drinks, but if you want a nice, refreshing sip, try the frozen honeydew slush with tapioca pearls. The frozen honeydew leaves a fresh and cooling flavor in your mouth, and the tapioca pearls give a nice chewy texture to help fight brain freeze. And if honeydew isn't your thing, there are plenty of other options to try out.
Taste of Thai (874 Orleans Rd.)What to order: Pad Thai
Thai places don't joke around with their spice, and Taste of Thai lives by it. Their pad Thai is full of rich flavor. The plate is packed tightly with eggs noodles, bean sprouts, and your choice of protein. Crushed peanuts are sprinkled on the bed of noodles, with a lime on the side to add a bit of acidity to the dish. Spice level varies to your taste, so you can order it really spicy, or not at all.