“Steamed” Red Snapper with Ginger and Soy Sauce


Before lunch at Ichiddo Ramen last week we popped into Shuang Hur—the large East Asian market a couple of blocks away on University Avenue in St. Paul. We stop in there from time to time, mostly in search of whole fish that aren’t available in mainstream American markets—think anything with heads still attached—and, in particular, mackerel. On this occasion, however, it was some very fresh-looking whole red snappers that caught my eye. I picked the smallest one they had (still pretty large), had them pack it in a bag of ice and headed off to lunch (they also had some Indian mackerel, and I picked up a couple of pounds of those too). Two days later I cooked it for lunch, improvizing my way towards a dish we really enjoy at Grand Szechuan. The result was not identical but it was very good. And it’s very easy too.  Continue reading

Ichiddo Ramen (St. Paul)

Here is my second report on ramen in the Twin Cities. The first was of UniDeli, the quick service counter in the middle of the excellent United Noodles store in Minneapolis. Today I move across town to the St. Paul location of Ichiddo Ramen on University Avenue. They currently have thrree Twin Cities locations—the others are in Minneapolis—with more set to open in Roseville, Eden Prairie and Maple Grove. (Interestingly, they also have an outlet in Las Vegas.) I’m not sure which of the Twin Cities locations is the original but they all seem to have the same menu. They were recommended to me by a friend in response to my appeal, at the end of my UniDeli write-up, for more Twin Cities ramen recommendations. Accordingly, when I had to be in the vicinity last week for a spot of bidness we made plans to meet up there. Both our partners needed little arm-twisting to accompany us and between us we sampled enough for me to be able to say that I have a decent sense of their quality. That quality, I thought, is better than at UniDeli.  Continue reading

Tea House II (Minneapolis)


Our first visit to Tea House in Minneapolis was almost three years ago. In my review of that meal I noted that while it was fine on the whole, nothing about it made it worth driving 20 more minutes each way over going to Grand Szechuan. However, after our recent return to Szechuan in Roseville, I figured we should give Tea House another try too—especially as occasional commenter, Jim Grinsfelder always speaks highly of them. Well, we went back a few weekends ago with most of our regular eating-out crew. And I am very happy to say that we liked this meal more than our first. Read on to see what we ate.  Continue reading

UniDeli (Minneapolis)


United Noodles is a Twin Cities institution. For those of you not in the Twin Cities, it is a pan-Asian grocery store that stocks a large portion of what a home cook looking to make Japanese, Chinese or Korean food at home might need—and their South Asian selection will get you by as well. From vegetables not sold at regular groceries to skin-on pork belly and fish with their heads still on, from a variety of dried mushrooms to a variety of dried chiles, United Noodles is as close as you can get to a one-stop shop for stocking a pan-Asian pantry. Of course, there are stores dedicated to Korean (Dong Yang), Vietnamese and Hmong (Shuang Hur), and South Asian (a whole bunch off Central Ave. in Northeast Minneapolis, or TBS Mart in Richfield) food but United Noodles is where you can shop for most of what you need of most of those cuisines (plus Thai). And at UniDeli, the quick service counter at the center of the store, you can grab a pretty decent lunch as well, whether you are buying anything else or no.  Continue reading

Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, January-March 2018


I present this with apologies to Heavy Table for ripping off one of their features (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery etc.). I’ll only be doing this four times a year, not every week—so not very much ripping off. It’s a simple idea: the best five dishes I’ve eaten in the last quarter of the year in the Twin Cities. The emphasis is on dishes that are still/always available. If I’ve eaten something I liked a lot at a restaurant whose menu updates often, I will not include it here unless I ate it so recently that it would still be available for an appreciable amount of time to whichever poor schmuck might actually be influenced by one of my posts to go seek it out. This first installment accordingly does not include anything I ate at my birthday dinner at Spoon and Stable (the fusili with lamb ragu that I really liked is already gone). It does include a number of tasty things you can still find easily for much less than you’d pay at Spoon and Stable.  Continue reading

Szechuan II (Roseville, MN)


At the end of last week’s review of an excellent dinner at Demera I noted that this week’s review would be of a disappointing Sichuan meal. This is that meal, eaten at Szechuan (in Roseville). I should say right off the bat, however, that it was not by any means a bad meal; it was, however, disappointing on account of some changes in the menu and how it was presented on their website when we decided to go eat there. This menu presentation raised our expectations in a specific way and those were far from met. Anyone unencumbered by those expectations—which would be almost anyone else eating there—would have far less to complain about. What am I talking about? Read on to find out and then keep reading to see what we actually ate and what we thought of it.  Continue reading

Demera (St. Paul)


Here is only my second review of an Ethiopian restaurant in the Twin Cities. I reviewed Fasika last fall and had planned to get to more Ethiopian places before the year ended. Alas, as with most of my well-intentioned plans—okay, all of them—I didn’t stick to it. And so my review of Demera comes 3-4 months after I’d thought it would. It is also located on University Avenue in St. Paul, a mile or two away from Fasika. It doesn’t have the reputation or name-recognition of Fasika—and it’s not easy to spot or easy on the eyes from the outside—but based on our recent dinner, I might say the food is better here.  Continue reading

Lao Thai (St. Paul)


My last four Minnesota restaurant reviews have been re-reviews—of House of Curry, Spoon and Stable, On’s Kitchen and A&L Chinese. One of the nice things about being an independent blogger is that there’s no compulsion to only review new places or places you haven’t been to before. And I hope that to my few readers from the Twin Cities (and environs) there’s some value to seeing follow-up reports from places that the professionals haven’t covered in a few years or more. This week’s review, however, is of a place I’ve not only not reviewed before, I’d not eaten there before the meal covered in this review: Lao Thai, or as they also bill themselves, Family Lao Thai. It’s another institution on University Avenue in St. Paul: opposite Trieu Chau and not too far away from Thai Garden or Thai Cafe. As the name proclaims, their food is a mix of Thai and Lao; and I am happy to tell you that you should go and eat their food.  Continue reading

Malai Curry


Malai curry is a quintessential Bengali dish of prawns cooked in coconut milk (in this version, with potatoes). It involves very few spices and is very easy to make. Doubtless, there are many variations among Bengali families. This recipe is from one of my aunts, one of the most redoubtable cooks in the extended family (my mother’s version is far less canonical). In Bengal it is common to make this with larger, head-on prawns. Head-on prawns/shrimp are always better because a) the more shell the more intense the prawn flavour, b) the texture of the meat is always better and c) the roe and other goo in the head both improve the flavour immeasurably and give the gravy a richer, red colour. I do make malai curry with head-on shrimp from East Asian stores from time to time but I try to avoid that as far as possible: given all the dubious stuff surrounding the harvesting of seafood in the region—from environmental concerns to the maltreatment of workers—without more knowledge of provenance it’s an ethical grey area. If only stores that did supply the provenance would stock head-on shrimp! Anyway, when I do succumb to temptation it’s usually for malai curry.  Continue reading

House of Curry II (Rosemount, MN)


Let’s get this out of the way right off the top: House of Curry is the best South Asian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area; and it’s not even close. Now you may say that comparing a Sri Lankan restaurant to the Twin Cities’ Indian restaurants is misguided but you’d be wrong. Sri Lankan food is closer to South Indian food—especially of Kerala and southern Tamil Nadu—than either are to North Indian food of any kind. And Sri Lankan food is also closer to North Indian food than North Indian food is to the cuisines of the states of the North East. In South Asia political geography does not always map on to cultural connections. And though the food served at House of Curry is some distance from the Bengali flavours of my own home state, it still checks most of my boxes; when I eat it I feel at home. And this makes sense also because the food at House of Curry tastes like good home cooking. If you haven’t been, you should go. And if like us at the first of the two meals covered here, you haven’t been in a couple of years you should go soon. We are happy to drive 20 minutes to Rosemount to eat there and we’d happily drive further as well. So should you.  Continue reading

Spoon and Stable II


After a long run of reviews of more affordable places in the Twin Cities metro area, here is a review of a recent dinner at one of the top contenders to be the Twin Cities’ best fine dining restaurant: Spoon and Stable. We enjoyed our first dinner there in late 2015, less than a year after they opened, and had always meant to go back soon for another meal. However, more than three years past their opening they remain a difficult reservation and so it took almost 2.5 years for us to finally get back (I don’t mean to suggest that we were trying to get a table every month after that first meal). I guess it’s a positive development that we were able to get in on a Friday this time—but even booking a month ahead, the best we could do was 9.15. Anyway, this dinner was as good as the first in some ways, lesser and better in others.  Continue reading

White Bean Curry with Green Peppers


It’s been a while since I last posted a recipe. I don’t know how you’ve all coped: you’ve probably been on bread and water, praying. Your prayers have been answered. Especially if you are a vegetarian. In fact, not only is this recipe vegetarian, it’s also vegan and gluten free. Alas, it is probably not paleo (though I’m not entirely sure what a paleo diet forbids) and nor is it nightshade free (I’m not making this one up). Nor is it made in an Instant Pot; though I don’t doubt that the more enterprising among you will be able to figure out how to make it in an Instant Pot—I assume you will use the time you save in some activity that will better your mind and character.

I kid, I kid: I make fun of the Instant Pot in order to bug friends who are high up in its cult; the truth is most Indians do cook dried beans in pressure cookers (though we were doing so long before the Instant Pot came along). This recipe, however, uses my friend Steve Sando’s excellent Rancho Gordo beans and those cook implausibly fast on the stovetop. If you’re using beans from some other source, a pressure cooker may be the prudent choice. If you’re using canned beans then I will pray for you.  Continue reading

Beverly Soon Tofu (Los Angeles, December 2017)


Here is the last of my meal reports from our trip to Los Angeles in late-December. And I’m ending with our last meal out, at one of the great institutions of Koreatown: Beverly Soon Tofu. As it’s located on Olympic Blvd. and is owned by Monica Lee, you might wonder why it’s called Beverly Soon Tofu. Well, it started out on Beverly Blvd. in 1986 before moving to the present location—well, I’m not sure when that was. And adding to the semiotic confusion of the name is the fact that their external signage proclaims their name to be Beverly Tofu House. Best not to worry about all this too much and just sit down and order a bowl of their soon tofu/soon dubu (or soft tofu stew). It’s hard to order much else as their menu is limited and very focused on variations of soon tofu.  Continue reading

A&L Chinese: Dim Sum Again (Inver Grove Heights, MN)


Back in November I wrote up a very disappointing dim sum meal at Yangtze in St. Louis Park and ended by noting that I’d give A&L Chinese one more shot, and that if it turned out as bad as our meal at Yangtze I’d be done with dim sum in the Twin Cities metro. Accordingly, with a lot riding on it, I returned to A&L last weekend with most of the group of people who’ve been accompanying me to the Twin Cities meals I’ve recently reviewed. I’m glad to say that while the meal was nothing very special it was a lot better than the Yangtze debacle and that A&L Chinese remains the one passable option for dim sum in the area.  Continue reading