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Finding Minnesota: Korean Chef Makes Norwegian Diners Happy

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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By Mike Binkley, WCCO-TV

MILAN, Minn. (WCCO) — Small town diners serve up some of the best comfort food — from a heaping helping of mashed potatoes to a big slice of pie.

But each Tuesday night from September to May, the More Café in Milan adds a special Scandinavian dish to the menu, known as potato klub. The locals swear by it.

“I was up to Minot, North Dakota for Høstfest,” said café regular Joel Lund. “I think it’s better than what I had there.”

It’s like a large dumpling, made from potatoes, flour and just a touch of ham.

“That is probably the best klub you can find in Milan — with the exception of my wife’s,” said Billy Thompson, who boasts of being 100 percent Norwegian.

The chef who’s getting all these compliments, though, has no Scandinavian heritage whatsoever.

Her name is Yong Sun. She’s Korean, and she married a Minnesota soldier who was stationed overseas.

“And then we come here and he didn’t have any job,” she said of her husband, Michael Schroeder. “I don’t have any job. I don’t know English. I cannot speak English, and then we buy this place.”

She said it hasn’t always been easy being Korean in an American town filled with Scandinavian immigrants.

“They are used to (the) wife cooking,” she said. “And around here, wives are really, really good cooks.”

The guys egged her on to learn the types of dishes they like to eat, such as potato klub.

“Long time ago, I didn’t know how to deal with it. But now, I kind of like them,” she said.

In fact, Yong Sun has gotten a lot of laughter out of the Ericksons, the Andersons and the Lursons.

“She abuses me, abuses Tim,” joked Duke Lurson, another one of the regulars.

The laughter and the teasing is part of what keeps customers coming back.

“They like to give her a hard time,” said her husband, Michael. “And she gives it right back.”

It also helps Yong Sun forget about the fears she had, when she first arrived.

Sun’s potato klub nights continue for three more weeks before she takes a break for the summer.

Then, the town celebrates the Norwegian festival of Syttende Mai, with a big parade in mid-May.

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