Indian in Edinburgh: Mother India’s Cafe


Okay, I’m finally getting started on the food reports from our trip to Scotland in June and first up is a review of our first dinner in Edinburgh at a popular Indian restaurant named Mother India’s Cafe. This was one of two Indian restaurants we ate at in our four full days in Edinburgh. I don’t look to go to Indian restaurants in the US but I’m always game to try any in the UK, where baseline quality is much higher. Mother India’s Cafe, an offshoot of a Glasgow original, has very good reviews (as does the Glasgow mothership) and promises a mod’ish take on Indian food, serving their food “tapas style”. This might lead you to expect that they specialize in snack’ish “small plates” dishes a la the excellent Gunpowder in London, but the reality turns out to be small portions of more or less regulation curry house fare served in tiny dishes. Still, I’m glad to say that most of the food tasted pretty decent. Read on for details.  Continue reading

Thai Cafe, Again (St. Paul, MN)


We ate at Thai Cafe for the first time late in 2017, really liked the meal despite a major misstep (a number of dishes came out sans heat), and vowed to come back again soon. Predictably, it took us almost another year to make it back, but make it back we did. With us were most of the people who had joined us on the first occasion. We were a large group—eight adults and our two brats—and we got a large number of dishes that we hadn’t tried on that first visit (please read that review if you have not already done so). I am pleased to report that the second meal was not a letdown—in fact, it was better than the first.  Continue reading

Peninsula, Again (Minneapolis)


I recently re-reviewed Homi two years after my first report. Next week I’ll have a return visit to a Thai restaurant in St. Paul that I first reviewed last year. In between those here is a second review of a restaurant in Minneapolis that I first reviewed four years ago. Peninsula remains the pre-eminent Malaysian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro area—though it must be admitted that that is not saying very much. Of the two other Malaysian places we’ve been to here, one is just about passable (Satay 2 Go in Apple Valley) and our meal at the other was atrocious (Singapore in south Minneapolis, now closed). As far as I know, there are no others; please correct me below if this is incorrect. Anyway, Peninsula, I am glad to report, remains pretty consistently what they were four and even ten years ago and if you navigate their menu carefully it is very possible to eat a good meal.  Continue reading

Top 5 Twin Cities Dishes, July-September 2018

It’s October and therefore it is time for my list of top 5 dishes eaten in the Twin Cities metro in the third quarter of the year. The ground rules for this series of posts are a) that the dishes have to be ones that are either regularly available at the restaurants or still available at the time of the post; and b) that only dish will be listed per restaurant. Rule 1 prevents me from listing our favourite dishes from our dinner at Tenant in early September—their menu turns over every six weeks. And Rule 2 prevents me from listing three dishes from our recent lunch at Thai Cafe. The observant Twin Cities reader will notice that there are four restaurants in this list that are not just located in St. Paul but are located along one street in St. Paul. University Ave. in St. Paul is, in my opinion, the greatest food street in the area—I may have a separate post this month extolling its virtues. But to be fair, we just happened to not eat very much in Minneapolis in the last few months. Minneapolis may be better for high-end food but the food we crave most is more recent immigrant food, especially from Asia, and St. Paul is, on the whole, far superior to Minneapolis for those cuisines.  Continue reading

Homi, Again (St. Paul, MN)


A nice thing about reviewing restaurants on your own blog is that there’s no compulsion to only go to new(er) places—you can go back and revisit places and see if they’ve maintained their standards (and in some cases, to see if they’ve gotten better). I’ve done a fair bit of that this year with returns to Tilia, Hmongtown Marketplace, Bangkok Thai Deli, Szechuan, Tea House, House of Curry, Spoon and Stable, A&L Chinese, On’s Kitchen and Grand Szechuan. Here now is my second report on what is now probably our favourite Mexican restaurant, Homi, on University Avenue in St. Paul. I posted my first write-up just over two years ago. We’ve eaten there a few more times since and this seems like a good time for a re-visit on the blog. This report covers meals eaten over the last year and a half, though the pictures are all from two dinners, one last summer, and one two weekends ago. I am happy to report that Homi is still very good.  Continue reading

Black Beans with Cracked Spices


I posted a picture of this black bean dish on Twitter yesterday and said I’d rustle up a recipe if there was interest. Among those who said they were interested was Mollie Katzen. Well, even though I was not planning to post a recipe this week, and even though our town was hit by a tornado last evening, I cannot say no to Mollie Katzen. Here therefore is the recipe. I made it with Rancho Gordo’s Midnight black beans, which are my absolute favourite black bean. They cook up fast, have a wonderful creamy texture and yield a delicious pot liquor that matches up well with whatever you throw at it. In this case, I did not throw very much at it. I cooked the beans on their own with a stick of cinnamon and tez patta (dried cassia/Indian bay leaf) and when done added to the pot a “tadka” of onion, tomato and garlic with a simple spice hit from cumin seeds split in hot oil, cracked coriander seed and a few dry red chillies. Not much to it, very easy to make, and extremely delicious. I had a big bowl for lunch, garnished with a bit of cilantro and with a squeeze of lime on top. Simple is good.  Continue reading

Tenant (Minneapolis)


We have been trying to get to Tenant for a while now. They opened in the Spring of 2017, while we were in London for three months. When we got back we cut back on our eating out for a while on account of the reckless eating we’d engaged in for an extended period abroad. And because of their limited seating and their constrained reservation system we couldn’t find a date that worked later in 2017. We finally made reservations this April but just a few days before the weather took a turn for the worse, a blizzard was predicted and we had to cancel (the blizzard did come to pass).
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Sota Hot & Cold (St. Paul, MN)


Because I am so up on hot food trends—in Minnesota and beyond—I had no idea that Thai rolled ice cream was a thing. But it is and has been in Minnesota for at least a year. Sota Hot & Cold opened in August 2017 in the front of the ex-Mai Village space on University Avenue in St. Paul. It now opens into Tapestry—which opened earlier this year—and the now connected sushi bar, Monkon Sushi. Apart from an entry they share a long connected kitchen and I saw some staff members in both spaces. I mention this because when I asked one of the staff at Sota if the businesses had shared ownership, she said no but it seems clear they do: Pheang Vang shows up as the person behind both ventures. Anyway, we ended up at Sota Hot & Cold last night when friends we’d just eaten dinner with at Homi suggested it. Perhaps because of the heat, lots of other people had the same idea and it was really quite busy. And the ice cream was good. Herewith a quick look at the place.  Continue reading

Lekali Pasal: A Nepali Store in the Hmongtown Marketplace (St. Paul. MN)


I happened upon Lekali Pasal in mid-May, the last time I was at Hmongtown Marketplace and have been meaning to write it up briefly ever since. Well, better late than never. I didn’t actually go looking for it. I had a friend in town from Bombay and took her to Hmongtown Marketplace. While wandering the outdoor market, vaguely South Asian signage caught our eyes and when we investigated it turned out to be a Nepali store. Now it’s true I hadn’t been to Hmongtown Marketplace for a few years but I think this place is relatively new. At least I’d like to believe that I’d otherwise have noticed it. Anyway, here’s what you can find there.  Continue reading

Kolap: Cambodian Cuisine in St. Paul


It took us 10 years of living within 50 minutes drive of it to finally get to Cheng Heng, the Twin Cities’ premier Cambodian restaurant. I reviewed it earlier this year and described it as probably the only Cambodian restaurant in the area. I was informed in the comments that there was in fact another not too far away: Kolap. You can certainly—accurately—see this as evidence of how unreliable a guide I am to the Twin Cities’ food scene. On the other hand, you might also be able to see it as evidence of how little attention these restaurants—and others not too far away from them on University Ave. that specialize in cuisines from other Southeast Asian countries—get from the local mainstream food media. That’s my alibi, at any rate. It is, of course, not the case that Kolap is totally obscure: in looking it up I discovered that the New York Times had included it two years ago in a piece on the diverse food scene of St. Paul. The New York Times may from time to time associate Minnesota with things like grape salad, but it also apparently does a better job than the local media sometimes of highlighting hidden jewels. In any event, it did not take us as long to get to Kolap after learning of its existence as it had to get to Cheng Heng. We ate there with friends a couple of weeks ago. Here is my report.  Continue reading

Ruam Mit Thai (St. Paul)


Ruam Mit Thai has been around in St. Paul for at least a couple of decades now. I’m not sure, however, if they’ve always been at the current location or if the ownership has remained the same—if anyone reading this knows any of this or a near-definitive date of opening, please write in below. They are currently located on St. Peter St., just by the Children’s Museum. We are given to haunting the Children’s Museum in the summer and this year we finally decided to give Ruam Mit Thai a try. This report draws on three meals eaten this month. One with just me and the brats and two with the missus along as well. Read on to see how we fared.  Continue reading

Covering the Coverage of South Asian Food: Introduction


I have waited a long time for a moment that has seemingly finally arrived: a critical mass of writers of South Asian descent writing in mainstream American publications on South Asian food. This development—if I am correct in so describing it—has been accompanied by a greater attention in general in mainstream American publications—whether focused on food or not—on South Asian food conceived of in ways different from those in earlier eras. Greater attention is paid now to regionality, to street food, to what we might call contemporary articulations of traditional food. Of course, these things are not happening in a vacuum: they mirror broadly the transformation of food and restaurant culture in the US in the same period. The rise of regionality, the greater attention to vernacular traditions, the re-articulation of foods from these sources into elite foodways (and the writing about them): this has all been happening in US food culture more generally in the post-Bourdain, now post-Chang era. But I’m Indian and so I tend to be more parochially focused on what’s happening with the Indian, or more broadly, South Asian food scene here. But before I get to the current scene, a little unreliable history. Continue reading

Simple Bean Curry


Every time I post a recipe for a curry I hear from friends who wish I would post recipes for Indian dishes that didn’t require too many ingredients they don’t have on hand. I don’t quite understand this complaint. Most Indian spices can be used in a wide range of dishes, it’s possible to get them in small quantities, and in the era of the internet it’s possible to get them easily even if you don’t have a good South Asian store within easy reach. And if you have more than you need just cook more Indian food. Problem solved. All that being said, here is a recipe for the whingers and moaners: it’s for a curry of dried beans cooked a la rajma, but made with very few spices indeed—and with ones that even those who don’t cook Indian food very often are likely to have on hand.  As with all my bean cooking, this was made with my friend Steve’s Rancho Gordo beans. This particular batch was made with the excellent but elusive Snowcap bean. I don’t think they have it available right now but the good news is that you’ll achieve excellent results with beans such as Domingo Rojo, Ayocote Morado, the almighty Royal Corona, and even the cassoulet bean. If you don’t have any of those on hand either, use whatever you have.  Continue reading

Scenes from India Fest, 2018 (St. Paul, MN)


Last year, at just about this time we spent a good part of the day at the Little Africa festival in St. Paul. We were planning to do the same again this year but in the weeks prior I learned that India Fest was scheduled on the same day. I’ve been vaguely aware of India Fest—organized by the India Association of Minnesota—for some time now but had never previously been moved to attend. But now that our boys are getting older we’re trying to expose them to as much of their parents’ Korean and Indian heritage as we can and so we decided to go. And a very interesting event it turned out to be.  Continue reading