By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From deep fried, spiced Tilapia in Willo’s, to the sweet and spicy Somali Tea at Hamdi, the Twin Cities Somali mall, Karmel Mall, is surprise after surprise.

“This is the suqq, the mecca of Somali shopping,” said Twin Cities chef and consultant Jamal Hashi.

READ MORE: As Vikings Prepare To Welcome Back Fans, U.S. Bank Stadium Unveils New Foods

Hashi took WCCO on a tour of four stories of small businesses, a hidden non-descript gem just off Lake Street in Minneapolis. It also happens to be the country’s first Somali shopping center.

“I make detours to come to this place,” Hashi said.

Somali food is its own melting pot of different cultures. You’ll see curries inspired by India, pasta from Italy, and spices from all over the world.

“In ancient times it was known as the ‘cape of spices,’” Hashi explained.

You’ll see lots of green cardamom, cloves, East African cinnamon bark in Somali food — all featured in Abdifatah Adan’s food at Willo catering.

In this case you’ll find handheld street foods — some sweet, some savory, all fantastic. His specialties include whole fish and braised goat.

“It’s awesome,” said Sulakha Hassan, a San Diego resident visiting the Twin Cities on her fourth visit to Karmel Mall. She explained why Somalis traditionally eat with their hands.

“As Somalis and Muslims it’s both cultural and religious,” she said.

READ MORE: Delicious Dessert For One — Instant Pot Key Lime Pie

Chef Hashi’s family has run restaurants in Minnesota for decades, helping to introduce a new Somali-American dish called ke’ke (pronounced kay-kay).

“It’s made from Chapati bread, but it’s a noodle,” Hashi said.

The formula for most Somali dishes is the same: a starch, a protein, and always served with a banana.

“Bananas are sort of to reset your palate. It cools off your palate,” according to Hashi.

There are many different types of bread, but none more special than what is found in the tiny second floor workspace of Mama Chapati.

“Everyone comes here, first come first serve until she runs out,” Hashi explained.

Her bread lives somewhere between a tortilla and Indian naan bread. And like everything in this Somali cultural center, it’s far more than just the sum of its ingredients.

“Breaking bread, that’s what it’s all about,” said Hashi.

MORE NEWS: Harvesting Season Cut Short for Melrose Vineyard Following Storms

Karmel Mall, 2910 Pleasant Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55408
Open 7 days a week