This is my second account of eating at Hmongtown Marketplace. I posted the previous three and a half years ago. If you’re interested in finding out a bit more about the demographics of the Hmong in Minnesota, and also in a bit of description of the market as a whole, please take a look at that post—I won’t repeat it here. We went back this past weekend with a friend in town from India. She’s a documentary film-maker and when I offered her a list of Twin Cities food experiences she might be interested in, this was at the top of her list. It had been a couple of years since our last visit, and I was curious to see what the condition of the market would be—given the success of the larger and relatively shinier Hmong Village, a bit further north in St. Paul. Well, I was glad to see that they’re still thriving.
The setup is exactly as it was. A chaotic parking lot, crammed full of cars; an outdoor market (vegetables as well as clothes etc.); and on either side of the outdoor market, two large indoor shopping areas with attached food courts. We ate at the larger, principal food court. There’s been some turnover among the vendors since we were last there—and there was one empty counter—but a couple of our places of choice are still there. And so are the crowds of people eating.
It’s also still the case—as also at Hmong Village—that there isn’t much variation in the menus at adjacent vendors. All/most have chicken/meatballs/sausage and rice, khao poon/coconut-curry-noodle soups, freshly pounded papaya salad, and so forth. Each place has one or two things that distinguish their menus from the others; all offer large quantities of very tasty food for not very much money.
What did we eat? We got a bunch of things to share:
- Quarter chicken and rice from Mr. Papaya Kitchen. This was for the boys and they ate most of it. Came with a spicy, fish-saucy sauce that we appropriated for dipping other things in.
- Fried smelt from Mr. Papaya Kitchen. Would have been better if we’d got it right after they’d been fried, but still pretty tasty despite not being crispy.
- Meatballs from 5 Star Deli. Three massive meatballs for $5, this was as tasty as it was excellent value.
- Hmong sausage from 5 Star Deli. Also very good.
- Sticky rice from 5 Star Deli. In a pork casing and very nice accompaniment to the meats.
- Cooked beef larb from Golden Cuisine. Quite good. They also have raw beef and chicken versions.
- Khao poon/coconut-curry soup from Mama’s Fusion. This was rather good—perhaps the consensus favourite.
- Sesame ball from B.T. Restaurant. This had a yellow bean filling. I did not try it but those who did were divided on the bean filling.
For pictures of the space, the counters, and what we ate—and also of things we did not eat—please launch the slideshow below. Scroll down to see what else I have coming soon from this Hmongtown Marketplace outing.
Since we ordered bits and pieces of our meal from most of the vendors, I didn’t keep track of the prices. I’d be surprised though if we cracked very much more than $10/head, not counting drinks. Speaking of which we had a bunch of soft drinks and a bottle of water and a can of something called White Gourd Drink that our visiting friend couldn’t resist trying but also couldn’t get past one small sip of. After seeing the face she made, I did not bother taking a sip myself. The missus did and said it wasn’t so very bad but that it was different. Which means she’s Minnesotan now.
After our meal we spent a fair bit of time wandering through the indoor and outdoor markets, and I took a lot of pictures. I’d initially thought I’d combine the food and market report into one post but it’s a lot of pictures. So, today you get the food and on Thursday you get the market. The green market is not in full swing, obviously, but there’s lots of good stuff that’s worth going out there for this next weekend; if you’re in the Twin Cities, you should come back and take a look.