Chang Li Lin, owner and sushi chef at Ali Asian Cuisine, knows all the ins and outs of authentic Asian fare. Born in Southeast China, Chang came to the United States at age 12. In 2002, he moved to McLeansboro, IL where his parents owned the Hong Kong Chinese restaurant. After graduating from Hamilton County High School, Chang then headed to the northeast where he worked in over 100 restaurants in the New York, New Jersey and surrounding areas where he built chef experience, learned countless recipes, and gained the knowledge to open his own restaurant here in August of 2014. In China, Chang is often known as “Ali”, hence the name, Ali Asian. When living in McLeansboro, Chang’s family would often come to Mt. Vernon on the weekends to shop. They were familiar with the area and wanted to try opening a new Asian restaurant in the city. Upon opening Ali Asian, Chang’s parents sold the Hong Kong restaurant to come work as kitchen cooks. Chang’s wife, Ling Chen works as a server at Ali Asian, as well.
Being open in Mt. Vernon for 5 years now, Ali Asian has gained several dedicated customers. “Some customers, they sit at the same table every time, same day, same time. We still have many people come once or twice a week. If they don’t come, sometimes they call us,” Chang comments. Chinese, Japanese, and Thai cuisine is what makes up the menu at Ali Asian. Chang notes that when the restaurant first opened, most of the sales came from Chinese food. As time has progressed, however, more of the public are trying their Japanese and Thai dishes. “People who like Chinese food, they can still come here. But we want to try our best to introduce our Japanese and Thai food,” Chang says.
Ali Asian Cuisine offers unique Fusion Japanese Sushi. Fusion is the combination of different cuisines from a region or sub-region. Sushi is by far the best-selling dish at Ali Asian. They offer dozens of delicious sushi rolls all artfully hand crafted by Chang himself. “Our special rolls are much bigger because we put more ingredients inside the sushi rolls. We put at least nine shrimps inside our Ali’s Special Roll. Other restaurants may use only three shrimp in a roll.”, Chang comments. Ali Asian also offers regular sushi rolls including the California Roll, Chicken or Shrimp Tempura Roll, Spicy Salmon, Spicy Tuna, Philadelphia Roll, Sweet or Spicy Crab Roll. Currently, you can buy 4 regular sushi rolls and get the 5th for free or buy 5 special sushi rolls and get the 6th free! Chang expands on a common misconception about sushi. He says, “When many people think of sushi, they think of raw fish and we continue to tell them, not all sushi is raw fish. If you don’t want raw fish, you can choose cooked sushi, with nothing raw.”
Classic Asian dishes such as egg rolls, egg foo young, pad Thai, orange chicken, crab Rangoon, hibachi and fried rice are all served at Ali Asian. Their more unique dishes include a variety of soups, Ali’s special pan fired noodles, Ali’s Special Shrimp, Thai pineapple chicken, Ali’s special Thai curry, and more. All of Ali Asian’s special sauces combine styles from over 100 restaurants that Chang worked in.
Many travelers have found Ali Asian through Google, Facebook, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. Some will stop just to eat at Ali Asian every time they pass through Mt. Vernon on the way to their destination. Chang is very thankful for the support he has received and always wants to keep his customers happy. For Chang, his favorite aspect of owning a restaurant is having customers come back regularly and seeing them smile. Looking to the future, Chang hopes to expand Ali Asian into a larger restaurant with an Asian Style Super Bar, possibly including dining hibachi and Korean BBQ.
If Asian food is what you crave, consider ordering take-out from Ali Asian for dinner tonight. Or, take the whole family out for an authentic Asian dining experience!