Today MSPD and I met for lunch at the International Marketplace in St Paul. Known for its eclectic array of vendors offering everything from movies to clothing to fresh vegetables, this spot is one stop shopping for those in the Hmong community. I had never been to this location and had only heard of it in passing but following a really interesting post on The Heavy Table entitled A Day in the Kitchen of a Hmong Family, I was really excited to head over there today to try out some of what they had to offer.
We met up at 11:30 and found the place buzzing, even for a Friday afternoon. There were plenty of vendors setup amongst the warehouses including many hawking their colorful wares and dragging even more stuff out of nearby boxes and trailers. We walked through and eventually stopped to talk to an elderly woman (through an interpreter who will soon be taking over a tea shop in another building) selling various items including a multitude of roots which can be cut up and boiled to make tea. Both MSPD and I were unfamiliar with all of the items shown but one carried a powerful scent and many of the others were absolutely beautiful to look at.
After making our way through, we headed into the building which held the majority of food stands. They lined the back wall and both MSPD and I wandered along looking and making mental notes of what we wanted to try. Aside from some of the more simplistic Hmong foods I have sampled in the past, I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed at the variety of what was served. This wasn’t your typical mall food court, nope, this must have been what it is like to walk in my own personal heaven ;)
MSPD and I eventually went our separate ways to order. I picked up some Hmong sausage, stew with meat and eggs, and roasted peppers. MSPD picked up some sort of rotisserie beef, what seemed like 15 lbs of sticky rice and pork, and some egg rolls which I later nabbed for Kim as a snack. Everything we had was excellent. I especially enjoyed the stewed egg (I have had something similar at Satay2Go once but in a different sauce) as the meat and egg were sitting in this very syrupy BBQ-like sauce that was incredible. I ate quite a bit of food for only $8 and still had enough left to buy Kim three egg rolls as a treat.
Overall an amazing food adventure today and one that I look forward to trying again in the future. If you haven’t had Hmong food or are at least looking for something different to do some day this summer, I suggest getting over to the International Marketplace to check it out!
217 Como Ave
St Paul, MN
See all the pictures on Flickr here.