Being a book club member for eight years has given me exposure to books I likely would not discover on my own. Sure, there have been some less than stellar picks over the years (including a trilogy in the fantasy genre), but overall, the book selections have been successful.

Just a few months ago, we read The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, by local author, Kao Kalia Yang and published by the also local Coffee House Press. The book follows a Hmong family’s journey through Laos and Thailand before finding a piece of home in St. Paul and adjusting to life in America. I became quite interested in the Hmong culture and wanted to find a way to connect the book to reality.

Hmong Village, st paul, bite of minnesota

(credit: Cafe Cyan)

Inspired by the Heavy Table field trip to the new Hmong Village in St. Paul, I grabbed a friend (Erica, owner of Foxy Falafel) and set off for a foodie field trip of our own.

Arriving at 11 a.m., there were still plenty of parking spots, but many families were starting to arrive. Located in a warehouse, storage lockers serve as storefronts with vendors selling knickknacks, accounting services, massages, clothing and much more. A spacious center room is home to the produce market and a whole row is dedicated to food.

pad see ew, hmong village, bite of minnesota

(credit: Cafe Cyan)

After trying a sample of Nang Kwak’s Pad See Ew ($7) and learning that the noodles were made in house, we were sold on our first dish of the trip. The noodles were firm, yet so delicate, the Chinese broccoli was lightly steamed and the sauce was full of amazing umami.

Pasee Yang, Kay, Hmong Village, Bite of Minnesota

(credit: Cafe Cyan)

Owner Pasee Yang and his wife, Kay, moved here from Georgia to open in the Hmong Village after selling their Georgia restaurant. He is enjoying the positive response to his house-made noodles and customers state they no longer need to travel to Chicago for fresh noodles.

Hmong Village, fried rice, Nang Kwak

(credit: Cafe Cyan)

Another item at Nang Kwak’s is the fried rice ($6). It was made fresh on the spot with large chunks of white meat chicken, onions, peas and carrots and is one of the best fried rice dishes I’ve had.

Papaya salad, Hmong Village, Nang Kwak, Fue's Cafe, Thailand, Bite of Minnesota

(credit: Cafe Cyan)

After the great dishes at Nang Kwak’s, we were disappointed in our papaya salad ($5) from Fue’s Café. My friend spent some time in Thailand and loved papaya salad, so she was eager to bring back some flavor memories. Unfortunately, after watching in excitement as slices of papaya, cherry tomato and Thai eggplant were mashed up in a giant mortar and pestle, we did not enjoy the overall flavor. The salad was cold and perhaps was a bit over seasoned with tamarind-fish sauce. Luckily, there was more food to make up for it.

curry noodles, houa phanh, bite of minnesota, hmong village

(credit: Cafe Cyan)

The curry noodles ($5) from Houa Phanh were quite delicious. A generous amount of noodles swam in a slightly spicy broth seasoned with curry and chili oil and packed with bean sprouts and bamboo shoots. You’ll need some chopsticks and a spoon to finish this dish.

vegetarian pho, mai's kitchen, bite of minnesota

(credit: Cafe Cyan)

We tried to order a vegetarian pho ($5) from Mai’s Kitchen by simply omitting the meat, but ended up with broth, noodles, bean sprouts, greens, and two shrimp. Luckily, the broth was quite flavorful and made up for the lack of ingredients and since there was plenty to share, we had no problem slurping away.

blueberry, passion fruit, lychee, boba, tea, bite of minnesota

(credit: Cafe Cyan)

With just the two of us to split all these dishes, we packed up our leftovers and headed for dessert. I had to satisfy my bubble tea craving, so I rounded the corner to Blueberry and ordered a passion fruit and lychee boba tea ($3). It was absolutely delicious and I will be back to try more flavor combinations in the future.

The Hmong Village is open seven days a week, starting at 11 a.m. and is a great place to spend an afternoon wandering the stalls.

Hmong Village
1001 Johnson Pkwy
St. Paul, MN 55106

*The Burnhaven Library is hosting a book club to discuss The Late Homecomer on Tuesday, Nov. 23 starting at 7 p.m. It will be held at the Barnes & Noble in Burnsville. For more information, call Maggie Hein at 952-891-0314.

Comments (7)
  1. Patrick says:

    love it! One of my good friends is Hmong and boy does he make good food!

  2. Andrea says:

    The photos in this blog are amazing and make me hungry… I am so excited to check out the Hmong Village!
    And to all of you readers: if you can make it to the Burnhaven book club on 11/23 do. You will not be disappointed. Kalia is one of the most charming and real local celebrities we have in the Twin Cities.

  3. Dr. K says:

    What you experienced was Hmong style papaya salad as opposed to Thai style that your friend was used to.
    Hmong style utilizes much more fermented crab paste and is more sour, while Thai style is more sweet and instead utilizes fish sauce / tamarind for it’s taste.

  4. Crystal says:

    Dr. K – thanks for the information! We figured the flavor difference had to be due to regional preferences and I’m glad to hear this is true. Sounds like I’m due for another field trip to try more versions.

  5. Diane says:

    Sounds like a field trip I’d love to take 🙂

  6. David says:

    Why go when i can make this stuff in my own kitchen!

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