Good Deal Oriental Food: Hmong delicacies and more in North Minneapolis

Paul Yang

Sunday is the busy day at Good Deal Oriental Food, an Asian store with a little extra. Located in North Minneapolis’s tornado alley (they were slightly damaged in the big one two years ago) the grocery store, carries ingredients from all over Asia. But, unlike most Twin Cities Asian grocery stores, Hmong foods are the star here. Opened in 2000, Good Deal carries a number of items that are sometimes hard to find, and people come from all over to buy the special ingredients.

Sometimes, it was hard to figure out what I was supposed to do with a few of the more interesting items. Usually the Internet is a big help. This time, not as much.

Google the words "bitter tripe" and the first result is triple sec, hardly the same thing. Try typing in "rice sausage" and you get Louisiana dirty rice. Try "mountain chain" and you get, well…lists of mountain ranges. I was confused.

Mountain Chain

Luckily, grocery manager Jerry Her and deli manager and head cook Paul Yang are happy to help answer questions. Her came from Laos in 1992, first to Sheboygan and then here. Yang grew up in Brooklyn Center, living in the Twin Cities all his life except for a short stint as a cook in a Tampa, Florida restaurant. They’ve both knowledgeable about the products they carry and of the unique Hmong traditions that are connected to those foods.

Hmong chicken

The Hmong chicken, labeled Confucian style (that means the feathers are removed, but everything else remains—head, feet, and all the guts—says Yang), is used traditionally as the base ingredient for the only food a new Hmong mother eats during the month after giving birth. This soup includes special herbs, called tshuaj rau qaib, sold in $5.00 packages. (There is scant information in English about what these herbs are, but they seem to include a lot of various basils.) It’s part of women’s mysteries and a lot of Hmong mothers still follow the tradition, at least in part.

clipping chicken claws

Other chicken products are popular; chicken feet, their claws clipped in the kitchen, chicken wings and whole stewing hens, available fresh or frozen. Then there’s the silkie chicken. I thought this small, black, five-toed bird was soy-sauce-marinated, but it turns out, black is the natural color of the bird’s skin and flesh. Some say it’s got a richer taste than regular chicken. It’s used for stir-fry and for soup, and as part of the tradition of  Chinese medicine, is said to help to warm the body and strengthen the immune system.

silkie chicken

There are a lot of tripe variations available (I’m a big tripe fan) of which the mountain chain mentioned above is one. There’s fresh Hmong tofu (I never figured out if this was any different from other kinds of tofu) and kao piak—fresh tapioca noodles—made in Good Deal’s on-site kitchen.

And, there’s lots of pork. Hmong Smoked Pork is a kind of pork belly bacon, with layers of meat, fat and skin. The Cha Lua is a pork roll, described by Yang as a pork meatloaf. “It’s used in pho and sandwiches. Some people just slice it and put it on rice.” The cooks at Good Deal make their own fresh Hmong-style pork sausages as well. “It’s one of our best sellers,” says Yang. “We get a lot of people from out of state who come for this.”

Hmong pork sausage

The kitchen manages to churn out excellent ready to eat grab-and-go, like fried and grilled whole fish, pig’s ears, pork with rice, fried rice, baked eggs, and the aforementioned rice sausage (just like it sounds). Don’t forget dessert—there’s always room for Asian jello.

tripe soup

I managed to snag the last container of the deli’s traditional and homemade Hmong style tripe soup. It’s brimming with large pieces of bitter tripe and other unidentified beef viscera in a light broth that’s made with lovely gelatinous beef connective tissue (Don’t go ewww. Connective tissue is what makes pot roast taste good.) The herbs, ginger, spring onions and a touch of green chilies make a delightful soup, especially good to eat when you’re under the weather, said Her.

herbs

A little research on tripe soup from around the world showed that tripe soups like shkembe chorba from Bulgaria, khashi from the Republic of Georgia, menudo from Mexico, patsas from Greece, and many others are all proven hangover cures. Apparently, tripe is world beat medicine. I will have to remember this for next time.

Good Deal Oriental Market is located at 1800 Lowry Ave. N. in Minneapolis. You can park in the lot. Next door is Banana Blossom, a Hmong and Thai restaurant, owned by the same family and offering a lot of Hmong food choices as well.

Also read The Twin Cities' best Asian markets (Phyllis Louise Harris, 2006) and Banana Blossom restaurant on Lowry Avenue (Megan Goodmundson, 2010)


Reporting for this article supported in part by Bush Foundation.

Located in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Good Deal Oriental has been providing the community with the highest quality Asian groceries since 2000.

1800 Lowry Ave. N.
Minneapolis, MN 55411
612-521-5663
POINT(-93.302266 45.01349)
  • This is an amazing Hmong grocery store. They are always really helpful with questions and concerns. Also, the restaurant next door called Banana Blossom serves absolutely delicious Thai cuisine! In fact, Banana Blossom makes their own fresh flat noodles that go well in Pad See Yoo and Pho dishes. Try them out if you want a mouth-watering experience. - by Cis Vaj on Wed, 04/10/2013 - 11:16am

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Stephanie Fox's picture
Stephanie Fox

Stephanie Fox (stephaniefox2 at tcdailyplanet dot net) has a Master's Degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. She moved to Minneapolis of her own free will in 1984.

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Hmong love Hmong

very nice  very good  i well come down there buy  some  hmong sausage   i love hmong sausage.  I well see store at 4 july 2013