Support Your Local Food and Drink Businesses II: El Triunfo (Northfield, MN)


People who pay attention to my restaurant reviews know that I am not very high on most of the food options in our small town in Southern Minnesota. This, however, is not a time for restaurant meal reviews of the kind I write in normal times. These are not normal times. I am rooting for all the restaurants out there even as I know that many/most of them will have a tough time making it through the business crash of the pandemic. And I am particularly rooting for the restaurants whose owners don’t have deep pockets or investors backing them or easy access to loans or the ability to leverage most of the strategies that more established and savvy restaurants are deploying to survive. Which brings me to El Triunfo, a small grocery and informal restaurant in our town that people who pay attention to my restaurant reviews know I am very high on. I am rooting for all the restaurants in our town to make it—even the ones I’ve said the rudest things about in normal times—but I hope they’ll forgive me if I admit that I’m rooting the hardest for El Triunfo.  Continue reading

Maachher Jhol


Maachher jhol is a name for a rather broad genre of fish dishes in Bengal—it’s not actually very descriptive at all. “Maachh” means “fish” in Bengali and “jhol” (rhymes with “goal”) would translate to “gravy” or “sauce” in English. So “maachher jhol” literally means “fish in gravy”. As such, in English “fish curry” would be an entirely adequate translation in the sense in which “curry” is used in India. The particular sub-genre of the preparation that this recipe falls into involves a paatla or thin jhol and various versions of this form one of the central pillars of Bengali comfort food. In its most basic form the dish involves mustard oil, kalo jire, ginger, green chillies, fish and water. Vegetables are often added: sometimes potatoes, sometimes brinjal/eggplant, sometimes cauliflower. It’s also not uncommon to add bori (a type of dal-based fritter). Though tomatoes and garlic are not very traditional in Bengali cooking, it’s not unheard of for either or both to be used as well. Some may use no tomato, some may use a little, some more than a little. My approach comes to me from my mother, who learned to cook after marriage while living outside Bengal. Her cooking therefore employs more tomato than that of my Calcutta aunts but is—as far as I’m concerned—no less Bengali for that. Continue reading

Pork and Beans II


One of my earliest recipes on the blog was this one for an Indian-style stew of pork and beans. Five years later, here is another. It is a simpler preparation than the previous but no less delicious. There are a number of similarities. Both use large white beans from Rancho Gordo. The first uses the very popular Royal Corona bean, this one uses the Large White Lima. The Large White Lima is a very underrated bean, in my opinion, if somewhat in the Royal Corona’s sizable shadow (I don’t mean to set up a Royal Corona backlash on account of its namesake.) You set the beans to cook simply with water and while they’re getting done you prepare the pork. When both are done, you add the pork to the beans, stir, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or so to let the flavours meld. You’re basically adding the pork as a sort of tadka to the beans. The pork itself in this recipe is made very simply, with very few ingredients, as a dry’ish curry. The combination of the pork and beans, however, is anything but basic: the flavour is complex and rich; and the whole is highly comforting. That’s a good thing at any time but especially in these times. Give it a go: you won’t regret it. Continue reading

Hog Worth (Goa, Jan 2020)


After a shaky start at our first lunch on the beach (more on this later), we had our fourth very good lunch in a row at Hog Worth. I’ve already posted write-ups of the three previous: at Martin’s Corner, Palácio Do Deão, and Fernando’s Nostalgia. Unlike those three places, Hog Worth is not located in South Goa. It is located in Panjim, the capital of the state. This was another restaurant recommended by Vikram D. (who’d also recommended Fenando’s Nostalgia) and after the previous day’s experience we were looking forward to a meal there after a spot of tourism at various cathedrals. It did not disappoint. Continue reading

Sakura (St. Paul, MN)


You’ll never believe it but I went and ate sushi again in the Twin Cities. What can I say, I didn’t make it to Los Angeles with the family in December and my last sushi meal was in New York last August (and that was no great shakes either). My raw fish longing therefore overcame the disappointment (and worse) that I’ve experienced in the past at lauded Twin Cities spots such as Origami, Sushi Fix, Kyatchi and even Kado no Mise (where I found more theater than substance). Where did I go in the desperate hope that I might find some decent fish? To Sakura in St. Paul. This is another place that I’ve been told for years is good; but thanks to my experience at the places listed above, my trust in recommendations of good sushi in the Twin Cities has dwindled. Did this experience bear out my old skepticism and suspicion? Read on. Continue reading

Fernando’s Nostalgia (Goa, Jan 2020)


The day after our visit to Palácio Do Deão we once again spent most of our day at Cavelossim Beach (okay, so that was true of every day we spent in Goa but one). In the middle of the day, however, we took a break from the beach and drove up about 30 minutes to the village of Raia. We made the drive in order to eat at a celebrated restaurant, Fernando’s Nostalgia (or just Nostalgia). The Fernando in the name is Chef Fernando da Costa, who passed away in 2007, too young at the age of 56. The restaurant carries on, however, in his name and is still true to his vision: celebrating classic Goan Catholic food in its traditional avatar. Continue reading

Palácio Do Deão (Goa, Jan 2020)


In my write-up last week of my visit to the Paul John distillery I suggested that visitors to North Goa might make a good day trip to the south by combining a visit to Paul John with a visit to the Palácio Do Deão in Quepem. Here now is a description of our visit there which may convince you that it is a good thing to do.

As you may know, Goa was a colony of Portugal till 1961 (Indian independence from Britain was in 1947). Portuguese presence in Goa goes back a long way—it was Vasco da Gama who found the sea route from Europe to India that Columbus had set off in search of. Unsurprisingly Portuguese cultural influence in Goa also runs deep. If Catholicism is one major expression of this influence, food is the other. And at the Palácio Do Deão you can get a sense of both. Continue reading

Bangkok Thai Deli V (St. Paul, MN)


In January I posted a review of lunch at Krungthep Thai in St. Paul, the second incarnation of the Bangkok Thai Deli spin-off. I noted in that review that I thought that meal compared well with those we’d eaten at the mothership. In saying so I realized that we had somehow not been to Bangkok Thai Deli in almost two years. That error needed to be righted and this past weekend we got around to doing so. We descended on them on Saturday with a few friends we eat out with often. I can report that we had a very good meal. I can also confirm my impression that Krungthep Thai is on par with the original. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Martin’s Corner (Betalbatim, Goa, Jan 2020)


As I’ve mentioned before, after two weeks in Delhi in January we went down to Goa for a week. Old college friends have a lovely home in South Goa that they opened up to us. Ten minutes from Cavelossim Beach and far, far away from tourist-intensive North Goa, this was as idyllic a family vacation as we could have hoped for—especially given how cold it was in Southern Minnesota at the time! We hired a cook from the village to cook breakfasts and dinners for us—the latter all centered on fish and shellfish I purchased from the local market (see my report on those shopping expeditions). Lunches, however, we ate out. Alas, our lunch on our first full day was not very good. Ignoring the warnings of far better informed people, we chose to eat at a shack at the beach. The food was marginal and the convenience of not having to leave the beach to eat it was not any consolation. We’d eaten dinner out as well a few hours after arrival the previous night, and while that had been a lot better than our beach shack lunch, it had not been any great shakes either. My dream of eating excellent Goan food twice a day was in danger of fizzling before our week even got properly underway—especially as miscommunication with our cook resulted in his preparing a debut dinner later that day that was centered mostly on sugar (I said, “put a pinch of sugar in the boys’ dal”, he proceeded to put a LOT of sugar into everything). Thankfully, everything was reset at lunch on our second full day. That lunch was at Martin’s Corner. We didn’t have a bad meal after that. Continue reading

Bharat Bazaar (Bloomington, MN)


My slow-motion survey of South Asian groceries in the greater Twin Cities metro area continues. And I mean slow-motion: the last entry was made more than a year ago when I reported on the then new’ish Mantra Bazaar in Apple Valley; the one before that was on Lekali Pasal, the Nepali store in Hmongtown Marketplace. Mantra Bazaar has expanded since my report—it took over the space of the adjacent business and now has a meat counter. I’m not sure if Lekali Pasal is still around at Hmongtown Marketplace—I should check but in the meantime, if you know, please write in. Today I have a report on another Indian store in the suburbs. The suburb this time is Bloomington (also home to TBS Mart) and the store is Bharat Bazaar, which has been around since the middle of 2017. Continue reading

Punjabi By Nature II (Delhi, Jan 2020)


We enjoyed our buffet lunch at Made in Punjab at the start of our stay in Delhi but, as I said at the end of my review, we liked the Punjabi lunch we had the next week even more. That lunch was at Punjabi By Nature, the OG upscale new wave Punjabi restaurant. We last ate there in 2016 and that write-up has some background information on the restaurant and the larger phenomenon of the rise of fancier Punjabi restaurants in Delhi in the era of liberalization. I won’t go into all that again in this report—you can go read the first few paragraphs of the earlier one if you’re so interested. I am happy to be able to tell you, however, that this meal was as good as our previous, which is to say, it was very good indeed. Indeed having now eaten at most of the major contenders I would say that Punjabi by Nature may still be atop the category. Continue reading

Thai Street Market (St. Paul, MN)


Thai Street Market, which opened a couple of years ago is located in the northeast quadrant of St. Paul, just short of the northwestern snout of Maplewood (a very oddly shaped city; I cannot be the first to think that the top bit looks like the outline of a drawing of a dog’s head). I’ve been seeing very positive notices of it online for a while now but it’s been hard for us to go past the University Ave. stalwarts while on the hunt for Thai food. After a very satisfying exploration late last year of Krungthep Thai‘s menu, however, we were finally motivated to give Thai Street Market a go. In fact, it is also located on Rice St., just about a mile north of Krungthep Thai. We descended on them this weekend with four of our regular eating out crew. Here is what we found. Continue reading

Cafe Lota IV (Delhi, Jan 2020)


We first ate at Cafe Lota in January 2014, just a few months after it had opened at the Crafts Museum. Since then we/I have gone back there on every trip (the one exception being in 2017 when I visited Delhi very briefly on account of a family emergency). We were enthusiastic about our first meals there in 2014; the two visits since then, in 2016 and 2018, yielded somewhat more uneven results with the departure of the original chef a possible reason. I still maintained, however, that it was one of the better and more interesting restaurants in Delhi and so there was not much question that we would go back there again on this trip. Continue reading

Made in Punjab (Delhi, Jan 2020)


My reviews so far from our sojourn in Delhi in January (we have been back in Minnesota for a week now) may have given you the impression that we did not eat any North Indian food on this trip. Now, it’s true that we ate far less North Indian food on this trip than we usually do but we did eat some. In fact, our very first meal out was at a Punjabi restaurant, the aptly named Made in Punjab. We were at the NOIDA Mall of India for some wedding present shopping for later in the trip and of the many restaurant options the boys selected this one. I didn’t put up too much resistance either. I have very little interest in North Indian curry houses in the US but the genre is a very different proposition in Delhi. The boys were motivated by the promise of tandoori chicken and naans—it’s somewhat pathetic just how much better these basic dishes are at pretty much any halfway-decent North Indian restaurant in Delhi than anywhere in the US. I hoped there might be other kababs that might also be pleasing. I am happy to report we were all happy with our meal. Continue reading