Chettinad’ish Oxtail Curry


For someone who did not grow up eating oxtail—I think I had it once before I left India and very rarely in my first decade in the US—I do love it now in curries. It’s a perfect cut of beef for slow-cooked curries in particular. The meat becomes wonderfully tender as the bones and gelatin give depth of texture and flavour as they meld with the spices in the curry. If you can’t find oxtail near you—we get ours directly from a south Minnesota farm, but it’s also available in Middle Eastern and Korean groceries in the Twin Cities—you can use short rib or even brisket or cut up chuck. If using a boneless cut suitable for slow-cooking, you should reduce the meat to 2 lbs and add 1 lb of soup bones (ideally with marrow) for that extra oomph. The other essential ingredient here is kalpasi/dagad phool, a lichen that is essential in Chettinad cooking, and which thankfully is now available easily in desi stores in the US, and also online. Speaking of Chettinad cooking, I’m not following any specific Chettinad recipe here, which is why I call this a Chettinad’ish curry. Give it a go anyway! Continue reading

Uncle Fung, Borneo Eatery (Long Beach, CA)


Just about a month after our trip to southern California in late December began, here finally is my first meal report from that trip. It is not of our first meal (dim sum) or our second meal (sushi), but of our third meal: at Uncle Fung, Borneo Eatery in Long Beach, who specialize in dishes from Indonesia (Borneo specifically), Malaysia and Singapore. They are a relatively recently opened branch of Borneo Kalimantan Cuisine in Alhambra (in the San Gabriel Valley). Since the Long Beach location opened in 2018, they’ve also opened a branch in Buena Park. It was to the Long Beach branch we went, however, as it is located a mere 10 minutes drive from my mother-in-law’s place in Seal Beach. We’ve not found much food of interest in Seal Beach—indeed our worst meal on this trip was eaten towards the end in Seal Beach. And so, the prospect of good Southeast Asian food within easy reach was enticing. I am glad to report that that is exactly what we found. Herewith, a bit of detail. Continue reading

Shortbread with Cardamom and Ajwain


As I believe I have said on many occasions, I am not much of a baker—I don’t have the discipline for it. From time to time, however, I do try my hand at it. In this case, I was moved to make shortbread for the first time after helping our younger boy make some for a school project. The recipe he was given to work with was not very good and so I felt the need to redress it with some better shortbread for our own consumption. I looked around the interwebs for recipes, found them mostly interchangeable and finally settled on Melissa Clark’s Shortbread, 10 Ways in NY Times Cooking. For the base, that is. In her variations she suggests some spiced versions and I took that as encouragement to devise my own additions. I made it with powdered cardamom seed and ajwain [affiliate link] sprinkled in with the dry ingredients as they were mixed. You can therefore view this a variation on her “Spice Shortbread” variation. The resulting shortbread has a flavour, though not the texture, reminiscent of the Indian nankhatai and makes for a killer accompaniment with masala chai. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading

Pooja Grocers (Hilltop, MN)


No restaurant report this week. Instead, I have for you a look at one of the Twin Cities’ premier Indian grocery stores, Pooja Grocers in Hilltop. Pooja Grocers was already around when we arrived in Minnesota in 2007, though not in the same location. It was in Hilltop then as well but in the massive strip mall that also contains the venerable Korean grocery, Dong Yang. Pooja Grocers was a large business then too and I’m not sure what occasioned the move to the new location some years later. And I’m not sure when exactly the move took place either, as by then we were not doing our Indian and Korean food shopping at the north end of the metro. By the early mid-2010s, more and more Indian groceries had opened up around the south metro, and once we happened on Hana Market in Bloomington there really wasn’t any need for us to make the longer trek to Hilltop. Yes, both Dong Yang and Pooja Grocers are larger than their south metro counterparts but we can pretty much get what we need there. Continue reading

Chana Masala, Take 5


It’s been almost two years since my last chana masala recipe and that seems like a dangerous length of time. I still have a large stock of Rancho Gordo’s desi chana—which I don’t think they are carrying anymore or planning to bring back. When I cook them, I tend to cycle between the three recipes for those chickpeas that I’ve previously posted (here, here, and here). Of late, however, I’ve hit upon a variation that I like quite a bit more than those. Part of it is that the preparation involves a not unusual method of cooking the chickpeas with a bit of baking soda. This helps them soften up very nicely (and much quicker than without even in my old-school pressure cooker). The masala meanwhile is made very tangy with a fair bit of tamarind and cumin (along with other spices). It’s very tasty indeed and I recommend it highly. If you don’t have a large stock of desi chana and don’t have easy access to an Indian store, you can just use regular Rancho Gordo garbanzos (but you may not need to use the baking soda in that case). Whichever variety of chickpeas you do use, I think you’ll like it. Continue reading

Trieu Chau, The Return (St. Paul, MN)


My report on El Triunfo last week was supposed to have been my last/only Minnesota food report in January but, yet again, I fail to keep my word. Our older boy spent the second half of last week at a gathering of juvenile nerds in the Twin Cities called Youth in Government and we had the opportunity on Saturday to tour the capitol and see the kids in action. Our own boy, being an 8th grader, wasn’t actually at the Capitol but it was still cool and not a little ironic to see a bunch of high-school kids doing a better job of modeling American democracy than actual Republican members of the House of Representatives in Washington DC. And since the tour was at 1, we decided it would be easiest to have a quick lunch down the road in St. Paul beforehand. Which is how we found ourselves once again on the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street, at one of our favourite Vietnamese restaurants, Trieu Chau. Continue reading

White Bean Stew with Coconut Milk


This recipe came about largely because in mid-November of last year I purchased a large and extremely attractive bunch of cilantro from the green market at Hmong Village in St. Paul. Not only did the cilantro have the thickest parts of the stems attached, it also had the roots. I used half the roots to make a fusiony beef short-rib curry and came up with this recipe to use up the rest along with the rest of the thick stems. If you can’t find coriander root near you, just use more of the cilantro stems—the flavours are not the same but it’ll make for a tasty variation. Another important ingredient here is one of my favourite beans carried by Rancho Gordo: alubia blanca. These small, white beans cook up very fast, even without soaking, and have a delicate flavour that goes really well with the flavours of the coconut milk and the green puree. And the creamy texture of the beans likewise matches the texture of the stew. Now, you might ask yourself if this is an Indian dish. I’m not aware of any traditional, regional dish that resembles this (though, as always, it’s a large country and I’ve only eaten a very small fraction of its foods), but as far as I’m concerned the approach is very Indian. You can categorize it as you like. Continue reading

El Triunfo to Start Another Year (Northfield, MN)


My first restaurant report of 2022 was a brief round-up of a few meals eaten at El Triunfo in 2021. And my first restaurant report of 2023 is of a few meals eaten at El Triunfo in 2022. El Triunfo, as you may remember, is a small Mexican restaurant in our town of Northfield, Minnesota. When I first wrote them up on the blog, many years ago, I referred to them as our favourite restaurant in our town. This is still the case. The restaurant scene in Northfield has not remained static in the past decade but that’s not to say it’s improved radically—though there have been some welcome additions (Tin Tea and Coco’s Place among them). El Triunfo remains, however, and it remains reliably dependable for what it does: putting out an edited menu of basic Mexican fare; they push no boundaries and follow no trends, but the food is predictably tasty and always a good deal. And they remain an essential part of our town’s cultural geography. Continue reading

Goat Neck Curry with Potato


As you’re utterly sick of hearing from me, this past year we have been getting a whole goat from a local small farm and splitting it with friends. Processing happens at the excellent Dennison Meat Locker and our half is cut to my specifications by the butchers there. I actually send them links to Youtube videos of Pakistani butchers cutting goat and they follow their lead! Quite apart from the appeal of getting high quality mutton/goat cut in the proper desi style, a big advantage of getting a whole/half goat is getting all kinds of different cuts. Among these is the neck, which is very bone-heavy—which means curries cooked long and slow with those pieces have excellent flavour and rich texture. Such was the case with this curry with potatoes that I first made in early November, and which some people have been calling for the recipe of ever since I posted a Reel of the finished dish on Instagram. Here it is now. Continue reading

Grand Szechuan, 2022 (Bloomington, MN)


As I have said many times before, Grand Szechuan in Bloomington is probably our family’s favourite restaurant in Minnesota. It is the place we eat at the most, the place we’ve eaten at the most with the largest cross-section of our Minnesota friends, and the place we’ve probably taken more out-of-town guests to than any other. Through the first two years of the pandemic we got takeout from them at a steady tick, and this February they were the first Minnesota restaurant all four of us ate together at. I’ve previously chronicled that happy return on the blog. This report covers three other meals we ate in at Grand Szechuan over the rest of the year, mostly in the company of our usual Grand Szechuan crew. I can’t think of a more appropriate restaurant with which to close out my year in restaurant meal reports/reviews. Continue reading

Twin Cities South Asian Restaurant Rankings, 2022 Update


Here is the third edition of my Twin Cities Metro Indian/South Asian Restaurant Rankings. I posted the original in December 2020 and the follow-up in December 2021. At the end of that 2021 update I promised various things that I would do before the 2022 update. These included checking out the a la carte offerings from a couple of places I had only tried the lunch buffets at; trying the prominent Nepali restaurants in the metro; checking out Raag, Pizza Karma and the Muddy Tiger food truck; and checking out a location each of the Taste of India and India Palace chains. I am pleased to tell you that I only got around to doing one of these things: getting takeout from the India Palace in Burnsville. We had plans to eat at Everest on Grand and Himalayan that fell through at the last moment on a couple of occasions; and I only discovered at the end of the year that Muddy Tiger had been showing up regularly outside a bar in our town! I would promise that in 2023 I will keep the promises I made for 2022 but best not to over-extend myself. Continue reading

Tiranga Dal


It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe for dal (this Un-Makhni Dal, cooked with a smoked pork hock). Typically, my dal preps are with single dals. Today’s recipe, however, is for a mix of three dals of three different colours. Hence the name: tiranga or tri-colour. Mixed dal preps are quite common in North India—and I myself have previously posted a recipe that uses four different dals. This is similar, except it leaves out the toor dal and the tadka is not identical. Which is to say, it’s different. This is for me very much a cold weather, comfort food dal. (This is only a personal thing.) It’s a hearty dal with good texture to it and I like to use a lot of julienned ginger in the tadka. You should feel free to tone that down if you like. It goes very well with rice or chapatis and I’ve also enjoyed it very much directly out of a bowl. See how you like it. Continue reading

NY Gyro (Columbia Heights, MN)


I’ve been planning to eat at NY Gyro for a few years now. I heard about them about the same time that I heard of Original Mediterranean Grill in New Brighton: two restaurants whose names indicate Mediterranean menus but which in fact are also Pakistani restaurants. Original Mediterranean Grill’s Pakistani fare—especially their halwa-puri—did not disappoint in the second year of the pandemic; and I cannot explain why it took me another year to finally eat at NY Gyro. Well, actually, I can: with the opening of desi and Korean groceries south of the river (TBS Mart, Mantra Bazar, Hana Market), we have had very little motivation for a long time now to make the trek up to Columbia Heights as we once used to do regularly to shop at Pooja Grocers and Dong Yang. But now NY Gyro might become a reason in its own right. I first ate there by myself a couple of weeks ago. I liked what I got so much that I dragged the family and some friends there with me this past Sunday for a meal that became a very good celebration of Argentina’s World Cup win. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: October 1-December 31 2022


It’s only the middle of December, but we’re off to Los Angeles in a few days and done with eating out in Minnesota in 2022 (with one caveat—see below), and so here is my list of favourite dishes eaten in Twin Cities metro restaurants in the last quarter of 2022. Unlike in the summer, I went nowhere in the fall and nor did we do go anywhere more than once, and so there are a lot of different places to report on. As always, the meals run the gamut from the casual to the high end, with most in the casual end of the spectrum. There are quite a few restaurants in the list that we visited for the first time as well as some of our very favourite restaurants. Not all our outings were great, but I am happy to say that only one was a true disappointment. This was more than made up for by the places we ate at for the first time that were very much not disappointments. As I have been doing throughout the pandemic, I am listing here at least one dish from every restaurant we ate at—even the one that was a disappointment. You can see my fuller reviews of each by clicking on the links in the list. Keep in mind that a couple of the places in the list are there for meals I haven’t reviewed formally yet—those reviews will be coming in the weeks ahead. Continue reading

Keema with Potatoes, Peas and Green Onions


We split a goat from a local small farm again with friends this fall. I like everything about the mutton we get from this farm but I particularly enjoy cooking with the keema/mince. The slightly gamy flavour and the texture of coarsely ground mutton/goat is, in my opinion, unparalleled for most Indian keema and kofta/meatball preps. Or maybe I think so because that’s the only kind of keema I ate growing up. In fact, the flavour of goat keema is also crucial to hamburgers in India. At any rate, I find goat keema the best pairing with robust spices. In this case I deploy a bit of kabab chini or cubeb/tailed pepper [affiliate link]. It’s sold in desi groceries and you can find it online as well. You have to be careful though as the term kabab chini is sometimes used for allspice as well—look for a brand that specifies cubeb pepper on the packaging. As with any good keema prep this also features potatoes and peas; and at the end I dump in rather a lot of chopped green onions. I fully admit that this is because I had purchased a rather massive bunch of vibrant green onions from Hmong Village in St. Paul the weekend before I made this and needed to use them up—but they brought very good flavour and texture. Continue reading

Spoon and Stable IV (Minneapolis)


We went two and a half years between our first and second meals at Spoon and Stable, and three and a half years between the second and third. We ate our fourth meal there, however, only a little over a year after the third. That third dinner was eaten on their sidewalk at the end of October last year. This was a December meal though and there was no outdoor seating and no question of our wanting to sit outside. We were scheduled to eat there with friends but they ended up having to punt. We considered cancelling and then seeing if we could cut the reservation down to a table for two. In the end, we decided to stick with the table of four and take our boys along with us for their first look at the true high-end in the Twin Cities. A good decision too as the meal was very good and we had a great time together. Continue reading

Tangy Squash with Malvani Masala


The end of the growing season is basically squash season at our CSA, the excellent Open Hands farm. And so October and November usually find me cooking squash in all kinds of ways—from soups to pork combos to grated preparations. One of my favourite squashes is Ambercup; both because it is very tasty and because it does not need to be peeled (I am a very lazy cook). Open Hands usually has a lot of Ambercup in their shares but this year was an exception. While waiting for it to come in I took a flyer on a variety I had never seen or cooked with before: Starry Night. This is a variant of Acorn squash and does not give off much moisture when cooked, making it particularly suitable for dry preparations. It’s a bit fussy to peel, on account of the ridges, but the dish I improvised with it came out rather well: a tangy and slightly spicy preparation that deploys one of my new favourite commercial spice mixes, Bedekar’s Malvani masala. This masala has been available at my favourite desi store in the Twin Cities metro throughout the year but if you don’t see it—or another brand of Malvani masala—in a store near you, you can find it online. Continue reading

Eating at Hmongtown Marketplace, November 2022 (St. Paul, MN)


In mid-November I posted looks at the greenmarket and the food court at Hmong Village in St. Paul. That outing was with a few friends, sans the family. Here now is an account of a visit with the family to the OG Hmong market and food court, Hmongtown Marketplace. I’ve reported on visits there before, in 2014 and 2018. I didn’t mean to go four years between reports—it just sort of happened. Well, we enjoyed our meal enough that it’s more than likely that we’ll be back in far less than four years. I’m pleased to report that while many things have changed at Hmongtown Marketplace, it has nonetheless remained more or less the same; and it remain an essential Twin Cities institution—one that anyone interested in broadening their sense of what it means to be Minnesotan, or just anyone interested in Hmong food, should be familiar with. Continue reading