Pandemic Takeout 57: Peninsula (Minneapolis)


After several weeks (months?) of saying we would soon be going back to Peninsula in Minneapolis to pick up some Malaysian food we finally did it this past weekend. Peninsula remains the major Malaysian restaurant in the Twin Cities metro. Indeed, I’m not aware of any other contender—which is not to say one might not exist. There is, of course Satay 2 Go in Apple Valley but it’s much smaller, in terms of both size and scope; and in any case we’ve always enjoyed Peninsula more. As I’ve noted before of Peninsula, they have an expansive menu but not everything on it is entirely to our taste. Over the years we have come to focus our meals there on a small subset of their Malay specialties. And on this occasion as well we stuck largely to our favourites. Some of them survived the 50 minute drive from the restaurant to our house a little worse than others but we had an enjoyable dinner anyway. Continue reading

Asian Mart (Burnsville, MN)


A couple of weeks ago I posted a detailed pictorial report on Rong Market in Richfield, whose focus is on Chinese items (and secondarily on Japanese and Korean as well). Today I have for you a report on a much smaller market in Burnsville which focuses on Filipino groceries, belying its generic name: Asian Mart. It occupies the exact location of the Thai market it replaced, Rearn Thai (which I never got around to reporting on). I believe the changeover happened two years or so ago. It may not seem very different at first when you go in but it is an entirely different market now. Unlike Rearn Thai they do not carry any produce; they make up for this by carrying a much larger selection of frozen meats and fish of interest to more than just the Filipino kitchen. They also carry a number of refrigerated Filipino prepared snacks etc.; and on weekends their deli offers a broader selection of hot dishes (currently takeout-only). I hope to stop in next weekend to pick up some of this food but for now here is a look at the market itself. Continue reading

Chana Masala, Take 3


This is my third recipe for chana masala made with the smaller, darker desi chana. Here, in case you missed them, is the first, made with regular desi chana and here is the second, made with Rancho Gordo’s desi chana. I have quite a lot of the Rancho Gordo chana in the pantry and so have been experimenting with cooking times/methods and masala mixes for a while. I think I have now got things to where I like them best. Of course, I’m going to keep tinkering with the mix and proportion of spices because that’s the kind of asshole I am. But I’ve been coming back to this version often—which says something. The thing that I have settled on though is the mode of cooking the chana itself. I started out doing them entirely on the stove-top—as I do with my all other Rancho Gordo bean preps—but the desi chana just take too long. Now that I am in the middle of a teaching term I can’t constantly get up to check and stir and add water and so forth; and so I’ve been deploying my workhorse Prestige pressure cooker—one of those terrifying, shaking-whistling ones. And I’ve been pressure cooking this chana quite a bit longer than I would normally pressure cook beans: about 50 minutes total (see the first note below). I’m sorry I don’t have conversion instructions for whatever new-fangled pressure cooker you might have but the recipe will provide excellent results no matter how you get the beans ready for the show. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 56: Firebox Barbecue (St. Paul, MN)


I’ve been promising (threatening?) a pandemic takeout report from the St. Paul outpost of Firebox for a while now. This past weekend the stars finally aligned and I was able to go up to pick up a large order. I’m not sure what their hours were in the Before Times but at least during the pandemic they are only open in the evenings (see the posted hours in the slideshow below). Like most barbecue restaurants they have a compact menu—even more compact, in fact, than at either Ted Cook’s 19th Hole or Smoke in the Pit. We got almost everything on it. It was our first time eating their food and it seemed like it would be a mistake to not be comprehensive (also: we were being joined on our deck by two sets of vaccinated friends and so there were a lot of mouths to fee). Well, we had no regrets. Details follow. Continue reading

Golden Beet Pickle


I usually post only one recipe a week but my backlog of recipes is getting a bit long and so I’ll be putting up the occasional bonus recipe post on the weekends for the next couple of months—not every weekend, mind, but 1-2 weekends a month. First up is this recipe for a simple achaar made with golden beets, the milder, sweeter cousin of the more familiar red, the one that is less likely to make you panic the morning after. It has its origins in a carrot-garlic pickle I posted the recipe for back in August. That recipe eventually morphed into one for a combination carrot-red beet achaar that I never got around to posting a recipe for. This is a simpler prep than both of those and may be even tastier. It comes together very quickly and goes well with almost anything. In addition to eating it with dal and rice since making it earlier in the week I’ve been drizzling the “syrup” over pan-seared fish as well. No matter how you eat it I think you’ll enjoy it. And, oh, this is not tested for ph etc. and I wouldn’t suggest that you keep it around forever. This recipe makes one jar that you should store in the fridge and finish within a month. Continue reading

Braised Lamb Belly, Curry Reduction


Back in December I started purchasing lamb and beef from a small farm in southern Minnesota. I’ve previously posted recipes for an oxtail curry made with one of the tails we got from them and also for two curries with lamb shanks (here and here). At my most recent pick-up from them—in a gas station parking lot off Highway 35—I also got a 2 lb pack of lamb bellies. I had not previously known that lamb bellies were a thing. Well, I knew lambs have bellies but I had not encountered this cut before. Still I couldn’t resist it when I knew they carried it. Looking it up when I finally got around to defrosting it to cook I learned that this is probably not a belly cut at all. What part of the lamb it is actually from I’m not sure. What I can tell you though is that it is very good in a braise, which is to say, it is very good given the curry treatment. The broad contours of the recipe are inspired by this one; the flavours etc. here are, of course, squarely North Indian in nature. It makes for a dramatic presentation—the kind of dish you might trot out for a dinner party—but we also enjoyed it for lunch on a weekday. It might seem like a complicated preparation but it actually comes together very easily (you can see most of the steps in the thread I posted on Twitter when I made it). Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 55: Basil Cafe (St. Paul, MN)


In my recent review of takeout from On’s Kitchen I noted that we would not go three months between Thai meals again and as it happens we didn’t even go three weeks. This past weekend we went back to University Ave. in St. Paul (the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street) to pick up another round of Thai takeout. Not to On’s again and not to Bangkok Thai Deli or even Thai Cafe either. In fact, we went to a place we’d never been before and which I’d not even really registered the existence of till someone recommended it to me in a discussion on the excellent East Metro Foodies Facebook page: Basil Cafe. Recommendations from strangers for Asian restaurants of any kind in the Twin Cities can be hit or miss—usually more miss than hit—and this is particularly true of Thai food, the preferences for which in the area seem to run towards the sweet and standard. And so I won’t deny that I was a bit skeptical going in. I am, however, very happy to say that we did in fact enjoy the food a lot. Here are the details. Continue reading

Rong Market (Richfield, MN)


If you thought some of my previous posts had an excessive number of photographs in them wait till you get a load of the slideshow in this one.

Back in December I’d posted a look at Saigon Market in Burnsville. On Facebook someone recommended that I also check out Rong Market in Richfield (in a strip mall on Nicollet, between 66th and 65th). I was chastened to discover that they’d apparently been located for a few years now in close proximity to the Costco we shop at in Burnsville, only having relocated to Richfield towards the end of last year. The employee I spoke to as I was paying for my purchases last Tuesday said that they moved because the Burnsville store was too small; he also noted that the new location puts them within easier driving radius of a larger segment of their core clientele. That core clientele is, of course, East Asian. Rong Market is primarily a Chinese store but those interested in Japanese, Korean and other East Asian ingredients will also find a lot there. And you will certainly find a lot more fish and seafood there than you will at any mainstream grocery. I do hope my excessive slideshow may encourage you to go take a look whether you are in their core clientele or not. Continue reading

Pork and Squash with Roasted Cumin


Many years ago the top Sichuan restaurant in Los Angeles—which is to say in the San Gabriel Valley, which is to say in the US—was Chung King in Monterey Park. In the early 2000s we ate there almost as often as we now do at Grand Szechuan here in the Twin Cities metro. Indeed, when we left Los Angeles for Boulder in 2003 there was a period when if one of us had to go back to L.A for a few days they were tasked with picking up an order of our favourite dishes the evening before their return, freezing it and bringing it back in their suitcase. We’re not as insane anymore—and, of course, Chung King’s heyday faded long ago, as they moved, lost their chef and closed; and as newer and, let’s face it, even better Sichuan restaurants opened in the SGV (your Chengdu Tastes and your Szechuan Impressions). Why am I going on about Chung King? Well, because on one occasion we saw a special come out of the kitchen and head to another table: it looked like a kabocha squash stuffed with meat. We managed to order one too and it did indeed turn out to be kabocha stuffed with highly spiced ground pork and cooked together. The only other thing I remember clearly is that it was dynamite and that we never had any luck finding it again. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 54: Aroma Indian Cuisine (Bloomington, MN)


I’m going to keep a promise for a change. I said last week that this week’s pandemic report would be of either a return to Peninsula or a first outing at a new(er) Indian restaurant in Bloomington and I keep my word. This is a review of Aroma, a new(er) Indian restaurant in Bloomington. They opened in April 2020—talk about perfect timing—in the exact same location as the erstwhile Surabhi—a place whose lunch buffet I’d liked more than I’d expected to in 2019 even as I worried about their prospects given the desolate feel of the restaurant when I ate there. Of course, in 2021, many restaurants have no one in them. And even though Aroma is open for dining-in, when I arrived at 11.45 on a Saturday to pick up a large order there was nobody eating there. There were, however, clearly doing a brisk takeout business, which I was glad to see. Here’s what we thought of what we ate. Continue reading

Sour Fish Curry with Coconut Milk and Kokum


I’ve mentioned on a number of occasions that pompano is one of our very favourite fish in the US. Perhaps because it’s not a fish that lends itself to being sold in fillet form, it’s not available in mainstream grocery stores—not that I’ve seen anyway. But if you have Vietnamese or other stores catering to Southeast Asian customers in your area chances are good that you will find frozen or thawed pompano there. Frozen is, of course, better as that way you won’t need to cook it up right away—unless you live right by where pompano is brought to shore it’s coming to your store frozen so if you buy it thawed and bung it in your freezer when you get home you’ll be freezing and then thawing it a second time. So if it’s not frozen when you buy it I recommend cooking it up the same day or the next. And I highly recommend this recipe when you do. Don’t have pompano? Fillets of a mild white fish such as mahi mahi or even orange roughy will do. In a pinch, so will salmon. If you have access to pomfret that would work just as well in place of the pompano. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 53: Back to On’s Kitchen (St. Paul, MN)


Back in the winter we went 3 months between Thai meals, going after a very good lunch from On’s Kitchen in November on a long, unplanned and unfortunate fast that we only broke with takeout from Bangkok Thai Deli in February. We haven’t made a mistake like that since, having been back a month later in March to Thai Cafe. And, less than a month past that meal, we went back this past weekend to On’s Kitchen to pick up another large order to eat on our deck with friends. The weather this weekend was nowhere as warm as on the previous but as long as it isn’t snowy or icy or raining we’re eating outside with vaccinated and cautious friends every chance we get. This too was a good meal, if falling a bit short, on the whole, of November’s. Herewith the details. Continue reading

Kim’s Asian Market (St. Paul, MN)


We were back in St. Paul on Saturday for a pandemic takeout run—this time from On’s Kitchen (review coming on Tuesday)—and combined it with some quick Korean grocery shopping from Kim’s on Snelling. Despite the fact that we’ve been shopping here since pretty much our first month in Minnesota back in 2007 I’ve somehow never done one of my grocery store reports on them. And so here now is a quick look at what you can expect to find at one of the Twin Cities’ Korean mainstays, which sits across Snelling Avenue from both Pho Pasteur and Sole Cafe and only a few blocks away from the Twin Cities’ true Eat Street, University Avenue. Continue reading

Dum Alu with Sesame and Peanut


Is there a term in India now for home cooking that wanders over the map and isn’t strictly regional? Whatever that term might be, it would describe this recipe (and also most of my cooking these days). I’m calling this dum alu but it looks and tastes nothing like the Bengali alur dom or broadly North Indian dum alu I am most familiar with. It looks like it could be Kashmiri dum alu but really the flavours are borrowed from a range of South Indian preparations. Its most immediate relative or inspiration is probably the Hyderabadi baghare baingan. That’s where the sesame seeds and peanuts probably come from, but there’s no coconut here and also no onions or garlic. If there is indeed a regional version of dum alu or some other potato curry that is made like this, please let me know. It is almost impossible to come up with anything new in the Indian context, given the vastness of the country’s foodways. What I can tell you for sure is that this is a very tasty dish, one that works very well as a side or a main. Give it a go. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 52: Back to Homi (St. Paul, MN)


Those who read my pandemic takeout posts regularly know that we’ve been wanting and planning to get back to Homi for a while now. Something or the other has been getting in the way. We could have hit them up a week ago but the weather that weekend was not going to be conducive to outdoor dining and so we decided to do a Vietnamese meal (from Trieu Chau) by ourselves. This past weekend, however, was a different story. It was warm and sunny which meant we could return to pandemic deck lunching with friends—which in turn meant we could get a very large order from Homi, with most of our favourite dishes on it. And so we did. And it was good. Continue reading

Favourite Dishes Eaten in the Twin Cities Metro: Jan 1-March 31, 2021


In the Before Times I used to post a quarterly round-up of the top 5 dishes we’d eaten in the Twin Cities metro in the previous three months. I don’t think I posted any of those last year—it’s hard to remember through the pandemic fog. But here is a new edition that covers the first quarter of 2021. Through the pandemic I have damped down my normal critical impulses and have focused on the positives of all the meals we’ve eaten. This hasn’t actually required any fudging of the facts—all the meals we’ve eaten over the last year and change have been very tasty and very much appreciated. And so to continue to show our appreciation for these meals, this edition of the list is not simply restricted to the top 5 dishes but includes my two favourite dishes from each of our pandemic takeout runs so far this year. Continue reading

Pandemic Takeout 51: Trieu Chau (St. Paul, MN)

We’ve eaten a fair bit of Vietnamese food in this past pandemic year but somehow we hadn’t gotten back to the restaurant that has over the last several years been perhaps our favourite slinger of pho: Trieu Chau on University Ave. in St. Paul. Well, we fixed that this past weekend. I’m not sure what incarnations their service model has gone through in the last year but they are currently open for dine-in and takeout. We are, however, not yet open for dining in and so it was takeout only for us. I called in our order just after 10 am (which is when they seem to open even though their menu etc. says 11 am) and picked it up just before 11. Continue reading

Spice-Crusted Pork Roast


Here is a recipe for a spiced pork roast which raises the question of what exactly the difference—if any—is between Indian cooking and cooking with Indian ingredients. I mean to say that this is not any sort of traditional Indian pork roast recipe. (Though, for all I know, it ends up approximating one made by a pork eating community somewhere in the country.) The ingredients aren’t all Indian either: there’s Sichuan peppercorn in the masala and the vinegars I recommend for making the paste that’s rubbed on the roast are either balsamic of Chinkiang black vinegar (affiliate link). Nonetheless, this falls squarely within an Indian flavour profile for me and we eat it happily alongside dal and other Indian vegetable sides—and also pulled apart and placed atop chapatis a la tacos. I’m not sure what to call it generically but it’s good. I make it in the slow cooker which adds the extra virtue of making it even easier. Continue reading