Hmong Cuisine, Six Buck Hank, and More

The menu at the new Red Pepper in Saint Paul combines
Vietnamese, Thai and Hmong dishes, but since the first two cuisines are pretty
widely available elsewhere, I decided to try one of the Hmong dishes. Number
27, sweet pork belly with eggs, turned out to be a savory stew with big chunks
of roast pork, (not nearly as fatty as I had feared), hard-boiled eggs, red
bell pepper, fresh pineapple green onions and ginger, in a rich brown slightly
sweet gravy accented with star anise (I think), served with steamed rice.
Delicious, and served in very generous portion.

There is a lot more on the menu that I would like to try,
including the squash curry, made with butternut squash, bamboo shoots, peppers,
onions and coconut red curry sauce, available with beef or chicken ($7.50),
shrimp ($8.50), or a combination of shrimp, squid and scallops for $10.50. The
whole fried tilapia with sweet pepper curry sauce ($10.50) also sounds
promising. A friend reports that when she ordered the kow poon, a Hmong/
Laotian dish made with shredded chicken, bamboo shoots, red curry and
lemongrass, the broth was delicious, but she couldn’t find any actual chicken
in the dish. Still might be worth a try, but I would ask about the chicken

Otherwise, the menu offers a variety of familiar southeast
Asian dishes – Vietnamese pho (beef noodle soup), plus variations with seafood
and crispy pork belly ($5.50-$7.95); pad Thai ($7.50-$10.50); green papaya
salad ($5.95 / $8.50 with beef jerky), and a variety of stir-fried noodle and
fried rice dishes.

Red Pepper Cafe, 864 University Ave., St. Paul, 651-292-8800. Closed Sundays.

Six Buck Hank?

Henry Chan at Giapponese Sushi in Woodbury is starting a new
promotion this Sunday: selected wines for $6 a bottle. Here’s the fine print:
the offer is open to everybody on Sundays, and to people in the hospitality
industry on Tuesdays. As soon as the outdoor patio is open – Chan says that’ll
be a couple of weeks – the offer will be good on the patio every day.

Don’t expect Chateauneuf-du-Pape at these prices – the
labels are trustworthy old cheapies like Oxford Landing Chardonnay and Shiraz,
Penascal Sauvignon Blanc, Stella Pinot Grigio; and Shiraz, Riesling, Chardonnay
and Cabernet Sauvignon from from Banrock Station, an Australian winery that
donates a share of its proceeds to environmental causes. Still, a great deal.

What Would Gandhi Do?

Coming Tuesday to 27th and E. Lake: Gandhi Mahal, a
new Indian restaurant, next door to Midori’s Floating World. The menu seems to
be pretty much the standard north Indian repertoire, but owner Rahman Arshad –
whose family also owns the Little Taj Mahal in Dinkytown, and several Indian
restaurants in New York City – is promising some unusual touches, including a
lassi bar, serving several flavors of the traditional yogurt beverage, plus a
tapas-like assortment of Indian finger foods. A lunch $9.99 lunch buffet will
be offered daily, and eventually, live music on weekends.

The restaurant
will be decorated with images of Mahatma Gandhi, who might not have approved of
the meat and seafood dishes on the menu – the Indian spiritual leader
was a strict vegetarian.