Pandemic Takeout 72: El Triunfo To Start the Year (Northfield, MN)


Yes, I’ve posted quite a few restaurant meal reports already in 2022—but those are all of meals eaten in 2021 in Los Angeles. Today’s report is the first from 2022 proper. And I’m kicking the year in restaurant reviews off in hyper-local style with another look at some things eaten at our favourite restaurant in Northfield, Minnesota: El Triunfo.

Okay, so I’m cheating a bit here. This report encompasses food from three separate outings, two of which were in the summer of 2021—and one of which was eaten at the restaurant when the pandemic was briefly looking less concerning. But the largest report is of the most recent meal, which we picked up and ate just this past weekend. Continue reading

Chennai Dosa Corner (Los Angeles, December 2021)


Yesterday I reported on a brief stop at Surati Farsan Mart in Artesia to eat paani puri and chaat. After that tasty start I made my second stop: at Chennai Dosa Corner for, well, a dosa.

Chennai Dosa Corner has been open for about eight years (so the gent at the counter told me). It is now one of several South Indian specialists open on and off Pioneer Boulevard. Back in the day if you wanted a good dosa in L.A County you had to go to Udupi Palace further up Pioneer Blvd. (Well, Paru’s in Hollywood was also quite good but didn’t have quite the same ambience for the immigrant nostalgist; nor did Sunset Blvd. have a branch of the State Bank of India right at the freeway exit.) My local informants tell me that Udupi Palace is still the gold standard in Artesia, and as an immigrant nostalgist of the old school it would have been my first choice except for one problem: yes, no outdoor seating. Thus Chennai Dosa Corner just a little bit up the road. Here’s how it went. Continue reading

Surati Farsan Mart (Los Angeles, December 2021)


I noted in my review of dinner at Mo Ran Gak earlier this week that my mother-in-law’s move to Seal Beach a couple of years ago has meant the loss of Koreatown as our base of operations on our trips back to Los Angeles. But as an unfortunate bearded bloke once said, what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts. For us this has meant greater proximity to the Japanese restaurants of Gardena and Torrance. And it has also meant even greater proximity to Artesia whence is located Southern California’s premier Indian enclave. Back when I lived in Los Angeles in the 1990s and early 2000s, trips to Artesia to eat on the long drag of Pioneer Blvd. were always special—there not being very good Indian food in Los Angeles proper (a situation that is still probably true). But it was also a major pain in the ass to get there from the Westside. Now, it’s a short 15 minute drive from my mother-in-law’s door to Pioneer Blvd. And so on a day when the boys demanded burgers from In-N-Out I abandoned the family and sallied forth in search of chaat and dosas. My first port of call: Surati Farsan Mart. Continue reading

Baingan Masala with Pork Keema


I improvised this recipe late last summer as part of my desperate campaign to hold at bay the endless flood of eggplant from my vegetable garden. It came out rather well and I’ve been trying to share it on the blog ever since. But you bastards shot it down in the recipes poll in November and December. I was tempted to just declare that it would be posted in January but I kept faith in the democratic process and it finally limped into the top four this month. (Now if we can only get justice in February’s poll for the masala spare ribs which have been shot down in the poll for four months straight.) Anyway, if you like pork and if you like eggplant you will like this. I guarantee it or your money back. Indeed, I may have to go get some long eggplant from the desi store and make it again for us. If you don’t have access to long eggplant, don’t fret: it’ll be good with regular globe eggplant as well. The only real controversy here is whether this should be named Baingan Masala with  Pork Keema or Pork Keema Masala with Baingan. It’ll taste as good either way. Continue reading

Mo Ran Gak (Los Angeles, December 2021)


When my mother-in-law first told us in 2019 that she considering moving to Seal Beach we thought this was going to be a rather dramatic shift for her. This because she was leaving Koreatown where she had been based for 30 odd years, in the embrace of what is probably the most hardcore Korean enclave outside the two Koreas. It turned out, however, that the retirement community she moved to has a large population of Korean seniors; and that just 10-15 minutes down the freeway there is another Korean enclave in Garden Grove. Now this is not news to anyone in the South Bay but back when we lived in Los Angeles—or when we visited Koreatown every year—places south of the Orange County border weren’t really on our radar. But Garden Grove has a significant Korean population too, along with major grocery stores and lots of restaurants. It’s not Koreatown but there’s enough there to not make us mourn the loss of our Irolo/James M. Wood base too much either on our trips back. For example: Mo Ran Gak. Continue reading

Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori (Los Angeles, December 2021)


We got back from Los Angeles about 10 days ago. Given how maniacally we ate out while there, we’ve been taking a break from eating out since we go back. We’ll probably get back on the horse next weekend. Until then I’ll be posting more meal reports from the Los Angeles trip. Unlike from trips past—where I have posted reports 6 months to a year after the meals were eaten—I’m hoping that this time I’ll be done with all of them before we get too far into February. Here now is the 4th report of the 10 meals we ate out. It is, as it happens, an account of our very first restaurant meal on the trip: at Shin-Sen-Gumi Yakitori in Gardena. Continue reading

Sweet Potato Curry with Tamarind and Peanuts


Almost all of my cooking is not only improvisatory in nature but also often a hodgepodge of ingredients and approaches from different parts of India. I do sometimes cook from cookbooks that features dishes/cuisines of regions of India other than my own and when I do I follow those recipes closely—at least the first time. But invariably aspects of those recipes—be they combinations of ingredients or broad flavour profiles—enter unpredictably into the improvised dishes I make far more often. Not every bit of hybridization works or has particularly striking results but when one does it feels very satisfying. This improvised sweet potato curry, which draws on ingredients and flavours in dishes from Marathi and various South Indian cuisines, is one of my recent hits. For all I know it ends up close to some community or the other’s traditional preparation of sweet potato. If so, please don’t give me a hard time for departing in some crucial way from a canonical preparation you’re familiar with; this is not trying to be whatever that might be. What I can tell you is that—sour and hot and sweet and thickened with ground peanuts—it makes for a hearty winter meal with rice. Give it a go and see what you think. Continue reading

Holbox, Again (Los Angeles, Dec 2021)


One of our favourite meals on my last visit to Los Angeles before the pandemic was at Holbox, the seafood-centered counter at Mercado La Paloma from the people who first brought us the excellent Chichen Itza. We have been plotting a return ever since, never expecting that it would take another three years. Of course, dining out on this trip was complicated. While proof of vaccination is required for dining in at restaurants in Los Angeles proper—the mandate is not really being followed elsewhere in LA County—our preference was also for dining outdoors whenever possible. Thankfully, both sets of caution were in evidence at this meal: proof of vaccination was checked stringently on entry to Mercado la Paloma to order our meal and there was excellent outdoor seating out front on a lovely, sunny day. And so, our meal. Continue reading

Paneer Mirch Masala


First things first: home-made paneer is the best and it is very easy to make. As I’ve said before if you have the skills to bring a liquid to a slow boil and then stir it then you have the skills to make paneer—see here for the method I learned from a friend, the late, great Sue Darlow. But if you don’t have the time to make paneer at home by all means go out and get some from your local desi store. For that matter, Costco has giant blocks of paneer too these days—I’ve not tried it; if you have and have an opinion please do share in the comments. In short, use whatever paneer you have but if nervousness is the only thing stopping you from trying to make your own then just know it’s not difficult. Anyway, when I make paneer my default uses for it are either palak-paneer or matar-paneer. This summer, however, I started making paneer-mirch masala in yet another attempt to use up the endless flood of Hungarian hot wax peppers from my vegetable garden. I played around with a number of variations with spices, the amount of tomato, the amount of gravy etc. and this is my current favourite version. Give it a go. Continue reading

Sushi Nozomi II (Los Angeles, December 2021)


If dim sum is one of things we most look forward to eating in Los Angeles, so is sushi. My views on Minnesota sushi being just about as beloved as my views on Minnesota dim sum, I will say no more about that. I will instead only reiterate that it is very easy to find good sushi all over Los Angeles county—you don’t need to go to the temples of sushi in order to eat very good fish served atop very good rice. And if you’re in Torrance one of the best choices for that combination is Sushi Nozomi. I’ve previously reported on a meal eaten there six and a half years ago, a bit on the run on the way to the Long Beach Aquarium. We stopped in again on this trip—Torrance being much closer to our new base of operations in Seal Beach than to our previous in Koreatown—and this meal was even better. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: Oct 1-Dec 31, 2021


December is not yet over but as I will be in Los Angeles till the end of the month dinner at Sooki & Mimi was my last meal in Minnesota for 2021. Which means I can give you the usual quarterly round-up of meals eaten in the Twin Cities metro in the last three months before those months are completely up.

When 2021 started I think we all hoped/expected that by the middle of the year we’d be back to something approaching normal life, which in the world of dining out would have meant going back to dining in person at restaurants as the norm. Of course, most restaurants in the Twin Cities went back to this even in the face of the rise of the delta variant in the late summer and many, many diners did too. We did not until early December, waiting till our younger boy had also received his shots. And so this list is also dominated by meals eaten as takeout and outdoors at restaurants. That doesn’t mean, of course, that we didn’t eat a lot of good stuff, because we did. Continue reading

Dim Sum at Capital Seafood (Los Angeles, December 2021)


This was not the first restaurant meal we ate on this trip to Los Angeles (now at the halfway point) or even the second, third, fourth or fifth. But today is Christmas and having posted a review of a Christmas-themed malt yesterday I feel I should keep the Christmas spirit flowing with a review of a meal at a Chinese restaurant. And so this brief account of a meal at the Arcadia location of Capital Seafood.

Dim sum is always one of the things we most look forward to eating when we visit Los Angeles. (I will spare you another installment of my very popular views about dim sum in Minnesota.) We usually hit up one of our San Gabriel Valley mainstays—Sea Harbour, Elite or Lunasia—but in these times the most important criterion for us is outdoor dining and from what I could find out it appears that Capital Seafood’s Arcadia location might be the only place in the SGV that has a patio and takes reservations for parties of eight and up. As we were going to be a party of eight I called a week ago and made the reservation for a patio table. Continue reading

Roasted Moog Dal with Rosemary


When I was a child—back in the Devonian—I did not really care for moog dal. Mushoor dal was my absolute favourite, with chholar dal and kali dal rounding out the triumvirate. There was something about the flavour of moog dal that I just did not care for. Perhaps it was on account of the fact that my mother usually cooked it with vegetables and vegetables were a separate and entire class of things I did not care. Well, unsurprisingly, I grew to love moog dal as an adult; more surprisingly, perhaps, my kids absolutely love it. They will tolerate mushoor dal but it is moog dal they actually get excited to eat—all the rest are currently rejected. And so I make moog dal often. To keep things interesting for them—and for us—I experiment ever so often with tadkas. This, by the way, has been a major development in their relationship with dal. It used to be that they only wanted moog dal made without tadka (which can be very good, by the way). But now they put up with and even enjoy the flavour of various tadkas. This one in particular was a favourite in the early winter this year as my rosemary plant was slowly dying after having been dug up and brought indoors. Yes, I add a few sprigs of rosemary to the tadka. It goes really well with the flavour and aroma of the dal, which in the Bengali manner is dry-roasted before it is cooked. Continue reading

Sooki & Mimi (Minneapolis)


As you probably know, Sooki & Mimi is the new restaurant from Ann Kim of Young Joni fame (she won a Beard award for her food there). You probably also know that it is one of the buzziest restaurants to have opened recently in the Twin Cities. The buzz really picked up two months or so ago when the New York Times included it in a list of the most exciting restaurants in the country or some such. You see, here in Minnesota we are so confident in our identity that we manage to both tell the New York Times they know nothing when they say things about us we don’t like and to fall all over ourselves in excitement when they offer the slightest bit of praise. Well, we are famously a very emotional people here in the upper midwest and it probably shouldn’t surprise anyone that we can be so volatile. Continue reading

Twin Cities South Asian Restaurant Rankings, 2021 Update


Just about a year ago I published my first-ever “Highly Subjective Ranking of Indian Restaurants in the Twin Cities Metro Area“. That list was occasioned by recognition of the fact that the Indian food scene in the Twin Cities at the end of 2020 was almost wholly transformed from what it had been like when we arrived in Minnesota in 2007. And also by the fact the mainstream food media and their readers continue to be largely unaware of these developments. Now I don’t pretend to have a very large reach on this blog but I was happy to see that post shared and re-shared by many people on various Twin Cities food groups on Facebook. And though it was posted with just a week left in 2020 it quickly rose into the top 5 most read posts of the year. And it’s been read consistently in 2021 as well (it’s currently in the top 3 most read posts of the year). Here now is an updated second edition. Continue reading

Sweet-Spicy-Sour Squash


I’ve mentioned a number of times since the summer that we had some difficulty keeping up with the large amounts of tomatoes, eggplants and peppers we got from my community garden plot this year. That is, however, a problem we have every fall with a completely different vegetable: squash. Our CSA gives us a lot of squash in the early fall and by the time the last pickup happens in the second half of October our countertops are groaning under the weight of several weeks’ worth of squash of various types. And then the last share pickup is always a double share, sending another 8 lbs or so of squash home. Thanksgiving helps use some of it up as I always make a roasted squash soup. But with our smaller than usual gathering this year I needed to use up more of it even before we got to the last week of November. I made it in some of our favourite ways (including this one) and I also improvised this particular recipe over the base of one of Suvir Saran’s recipes, which I first encountered on a food forum 18 years ago and which is also in his first cookbook. His recipe has far fewer spices and is very good indeed. I immodestly think this is too. Try it and see. Continue reading

A Guide to Ordering at Grand Szechuan (Bloomington, MN)


As I never tire of saying, Grand Szechuan is our family’s favourite restaurant in Minnesota. We eat there more often each year than anywhere else—probably more than the next five places put together. Over the years—from well before I ever started this blog—we’ve introduced a good number of friends and colleagues to this great restaurant; and via the blog I’ve introduced a number of strangers to it as well. The introductions for friends and colleagues come with detailed suggestions—tailored to their tastes—on what to order. On the blog I once presented a suggested order but for the most part I’ve let my reviews function as a guide to the menu. But the menu is large and for people who aren’t just first-timers to the restaurant but also new to Sichuan food it also can be overwhelming. And so—sparked most recently by interest on the excellent Twin Cities East Metro Foodies Facebook page—here is a fuller guide to the menu that will hopefully result in not just a good first order but a second and third and fourth and fifth as well. Continue reading

Christmas Lima Beans with Coriander and Roasted Cumin


Punjabi-style rajma remains my favourite Indian way of making beans but when you cook beans as often as I do it’s difficult to resist changing things up. The major form these departures take for me tend to do with the mix and proportion of spices. While I do very much enjoy the robust blend of spices that goes into proper rajma (really very well achieved by using a commercial rajma masala mix—affiliate link), bean recipes that emphasize particular spices work very well too. Such, for example, was the recipe I posted almost exactly a year ago for white beans with cumin and ginger. This recipe is, as you will see, built on the same template—except instead of the darker, richer flavour of cumin in the spice mix there is the floral scent of coriander seed. The cumin comes in at the end roasted and powdered and sprinkled over the finished dish. It all comes together very well for a perfect bow of winter beans. Give it a go: you won’t regret it. Continue reading