This weekend’s eating plans were up in the air. I’d thought we’d probably go out for either Mexican or Filipino food but it didn’t work out that way. The missus and the boys had other engagements on Saturday and so I went out by myself with a few friends for Hmong food. We’d originally considered Hmongtown Marketplace (which I last reported on in 2018). But we ended up at Hmong Village, the larger and shinier of the two major Hmong market/food court complexes in St. Paul. I hadn’t been there in a while and was looking forward to seeing how/if it had changed in the interim. It ended up being a very fun and tasty outing.
I had not forgotten how hard it can be to find parking at Hmong Village on the weekend. It was indeed quite a hassle as lines of cars wound around the not-small parking lot looking for spots. Let’s just say that if you’ve moved to Minnesota from Los Angeles and are missing the excitement of looking for parking at a grocery store on the Westside, you should head to Hmong Village on the weekend. After a few rounds of circling we lucked into a spot and headed into the large warehouse-like building that houses the market and the food court.
If you’ve been there—or if you’ve read my previous report—you know that Hmong Village contains multitudes. There’s a green market; many, many small stores selling clothing and other items; salons; etc. And, of course, the food court. That food court was our primary and first port of call but that report will come on Tuesday. Instead, today I have another look for you at the green market where we went after our meal. It was my first time there other than in the summer and I wasn’t sure how operational it would be. But as far as I could make out there were as many vendors there in mid-November as I’ve seen in the summer. Not the same produce, of course, but not too shabby. Hmong Village is a maze, by the way: but walk around and you’ll eventually end up in the green market or the food court which anchor opposite ends of the large warehouse space. And it’s a good thing to bring cash (though some of the vendors do take credit cards).
As on my last visit, most of the vendors had overlapping stock. Some sell only fruit, some sell only/mostly vegetables, some sell a mix of fruit and vegetables. This, along with Hmongtown Marketplace, is the place to go if you want herbs and greens used in much Southeast Asian cooking; if you want green onions more attractive than you’ll find anywhere else in town; if you want massive bunches of cilantro with the roots still attached; if you want tropical fruit that come from Florida and South America (dragonfruit, longan, rambutan, jocote, mango, cherimoya et al); unfeasible amounts of ginger; etc. etc. And, of course, Hmong Village as a whole is one of the places to go if you want to get a sense of the vibrancy of Hmong life in the Twin Cities.
It can be busy, depending on what time you’re there, but it’s bright, and even though it is indoors, the market has the energy of vegetable markets in Asia and I feel very at home there. The vendors are very friendly—and despite what you may read elsewhere it is very easy to navigate the market as an English-speaker. Prices at most stalls are clearly marked. And if you don’t know what something is, just ask: the vendors will be happy to tell you. I purchased a bunch of things—a bunch each of the aforementioned green onions and cilantro; a large bunch of longan (after tasting some samples the vendor gave one of my friends on learning he’d never eaten longan before); and some pristine ginger root, which that vendor was kind enough to sell me a smaller portion of than their default packaged amounts—we go through a lot of ginger in our house but those packages were a bit much even for me. There were many other things I would have bought if our fridge weren’t already full of vegetables I need to cook up.
For a look at the market, launch the slideshow below.
Okay, come back on Tuesday for the eating portion of this visit.