I’ve posted a number of write-ups of outdoor and covered markets in Minnesota (Hmongtown Marketplace and Hmong Village), Montreal (Jean-Talon) and London (Borough Market). I’ll have more of these as the opportunity arises (there’ll be another from London soon enough). However, in 2018 I’ll have a far more regular series of write-ups of formal markets/grocery stores that cater to various immigrant communities in the Twin Cities metro area. I’ve already posted one of these—a quick look at Andale Mercado in Richfield. Here now is a look at the Shuang Hur mothership on University Avenue in St. Paul, one of the mainstays of the Southeast Asian scene. I’d call it a quick look—it’s light on text—but there are rather a lot of images. The main goal of this series of posts is to give people who’ve not shopped in these markets a decent sense of what’s available there and hopefully give them a reason or two to go. Hence the maximalist approach to images.
I hasten to add, however, that this should not be taken as a comprehensive look at what is available at Shuang Hur. These pictures were taken on the run with my cellphone, while dodging other shoppers, and there are many aisles and vegetables and fruits and meats often/always available that are not represented here. I think you’ll get a decent feel for the place anyway. Because I tried to stay out of the way of other shoppers and to not include them in the frame if I could help it, you won’t get a good sense of how lively the market can be, or of how it draws people from a wide range of immigrant communities. While the vegetable section skews heavily towards the needs of Southeast Asian shoppers, you can find nopales next to lemon grass. Indeed, Shuang Hur—many of whose employees are Hispanic—carries a fairly decent selection of Mexican spices and ingredients (better than at my local Cub Foods).
Unlike the celebrated United Noodles in Minneapolis, Shuang Hur does not have a restaurant attached (see my report of UniDeli)—though it does sell some prepared food. Its clientele, in general, includes far fewer white people. And they don’t really have much representation of Japanese or Korean or Indian foods and ingredients. It’s a much more chaotic store but it’s also a much larger store. This is most apparent in their vegetable, fish and meat sections. In each of these, there are far more things available than you’ll find at United Noodles. For us, the major draw here is the fish section. It’s hard to get whole head-on fish at most mainstream markets, and things like whole pompano, mackerel (various types), milkfish and head-on shrimp are just not available except at large Asian markets like this. United Noodles also carries some of these things but the selection at Shuang Hur is far superior. In the early summer they sometimes have live blue crab as well—this is the only live seafood I’ve purchased from here.
The meat section too is stocked with things you’ll not see at Cub Foods: tendon, oxtails (at very good prices), various kinds of tripe etc. If you like making pho at home, this is the place for you (they have lots of soup bones too); if you like making chicken stock, for that matter, you can get a large tray of chicken feet too. Turnover is brisk and we’ve never had complaints about the quality of any of the produce, seafood or meat (though oxtails are the only things we buy regularly here). And you won’t pay through the nose for anything here.
Launch the mega slideshow below to take a look and scroll down to see what’s coming up from the Minnesota food scene.
It should be clear from the foregoing that I am a big fan of Shuang Hur on University Ave. in St. Paul. However, I cannot say the same about their location on Lake St. in Minneapolis. I went in there one time not too long after arriving in Minnesota and never went back in again—it was dark and depressing and the fish section in particular did not inspire confidence. Things may have looked up since (assuming it is still in business), so if you’ve been recently, please let me know. Also let me know if there are other store in the genre, large or small, that I should visit.
Given how much we’ve eaten out in the UK on this trip (we return to Minnesota tomorrow), I don’t think we’ll be eating out much at all in July. Next up from the Minnesota food scene, therefore, will be another grocery store report, this time Indian.