So it took me some time and some creative driving in my rented Ford Focus, but I was finally able to find a Hmong food joint in St. Paul, Minnesota, where the largest population of Hmong people live in an urbanized city (cause they’ve historically been a people without borders, duh!). The Hmong are pretty damn engrained in life here in Minnesota, they’re the largest Asian American population in the Twin Cities. And it was pretty (un)surprising that they didn’t have a legitimate restaurant. I mean, they didn’t have an actual country and the U.S. government pretty much left them in the cold (literally) in Minnesota. So to come up with the funds to get a Hmong restaurant open, try to attract Hmong eaters (who probably get better food at home) and lure White Minnesotans (who still can’t handle sushi) would spell disaster for would be restauranteurs.
The whole adventure required me to drive to St. Paul from Minneapolis to a crappy strip mall with a closed down Hmong restaurant attached to the Foodsmart Grocery store (their Hmong restaurant will open in May 2009) where I randomly asked Hmong Americans where (other than their homes) I could go to buy some prepared food. The answer? Double Dragon Foods (I have no idea why every Hmong grocery store pluralizes “food”).
So when I finally get to the Hmong deli attached to Double Dragon Foods, I feel completely out of place. I’ve never felt so out of place at an Asian spot before. Not even in Asia. I feel like I personally made these people lose their land and promise them immigration to America if they killed them some VCs, only to take it all away, send them to America for the promised dreams of a white picket fenced house and a pink Cadillac. Only to force them into Christian groups and sh!tty apartment buildings in snow-all-the-damn-time St. f’n Paul, minutes from the state capital (the house that Jessie “The Body” Ventura built). Plus, I stood out like a sore thumb, dressed appropriately for an American Planning Association National Conference, not for a Hmong deli in St. Paul. Twice I was asked if I was Chinese (completely out of context to the conversations I was having with people).
But you know what? It was worth it. Cause I got sticky rice, chicken & eggs, the best f’n papaya salad ever (made from scratch), 3 color dessert drank, breaded beef kebabs, and rice sausage all for the Second Great Depression price of $19. Wait, what is rice sausage you ask? Funny you should mention it, cause I didn’t know what it could be either. I had to axe somebody. Is it rice or is it sausage? Is it sweet like a dessert or plain like white rice? Its everything and anything. But the best part is it looks like this:
So please, if you’re in Minnesota for some reason, check out the above places, just don’t tell anyone about them. Cause they’re barely Yelp’d, and we all know a great Asian restaurant getting Yelp’d is equivalent to what Chris (the American GI) did to Kim (the Vietnamese hooker) in Miss Saigon.