Category: Spicy (Page 1 of 2)

Little Korean Egg Rolls: Turnip Greens & Beef Mandu

Four years ago, I shared how I made Korean mandu with turnip greens on Simple, Good, And Tasty. I’m bringing it back because it’s too good to get lost in the shuffle.

Kale seems to get all of the glory. But as far as leafy greens go, I much prefer the flavor and texture of collards, beet greens, dandelion greens, and turnip greens. Raw turnip greens can sometimes feel prickly. Once you cook them down they have a silky texture and savory, earthy flavor. They’re perfect added to these fried Korean dumplings.

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Mourning Pie & Hot Wings [Dark Horse Bar and Eatery]

I love my home state of Minnesota. I miss Minnesota. But gosh darn was it nice to step out of the car into 65 degrees and sunny St. Louis. We’ll be back soon, though, and this time there will be snow.

This past week, we made a short trip to the Twin Cities to attend our relative’s funeral. Burrell wasn’t our grandma but she’s been like our grandma for the past seven years. We celebrated her 100th birthday last spring. Even until her later years, Burrell kept her wits about her and remained sharp as a whip. Her hearing never declined either, and she’d often holler her reply from another room if someone was whispering about her. Burrell was a very loving person and, in turn, many people loved her.

She’s my inspiration to pursue balance in life. To strive for a better attitude, seek fresh air and move my body a lot. To keep on enjoying my morning coffee, pats of butter here and there, and a glass of wine in the evenings. At the funeral, her daughter shared a beautiful letter. The part that really stuck with me summarizes the lessons Burrell demonstrated to her loved ones: Be courageous. Be kind. Be hopeful. Be curious.

While we were home, we also celebrated birthdays with Jake’s family at Dark Horse, a new restaurant in the Lowertown area of St. Paul, Minnesota.

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The menu is really eclectic and draws from many flavor profiles, from Thai to Ethiopian cuisines. Our friendly server guided me to one of her favorite whiskeys before we shared several appetizers. While my dining party’s opinions about their dishes ranged, we shared a unanimous enthusiasm for the wings. The menu mentions they’re seasoned with berbere and their special Dark Horse Sauce.

One half of our group requested mild wings while the rest of us devoured the hot. They were really, truly hot; the hottest, most delicious food I’ve eaten since we visited this Thai restaurant on Lake of the Ozarks. My lips burned long after the last wing was gone. Besides the heat and flavor, the wings were large with crisp, rendered skin and tender meat. I haven’t met a better hot wing. They arrived with a light, creamy sauce that everyone wanted more of.

PicMonkey Collage

Top: Dark Horse Wing + sauce. Bottom: Posole with egg and pork + tostada. Pleasantly spicy, very tart.

Laughter over whiskey, mourning over pie. Reverse or juxtapose or repeat. Run it out, talk it out, and sweat it out over heart-achingly spicy food. That’s what I do, at least.

India Palace in Fargo: A Spicy Dish With A Curious Disclaimer

Our first visit to India Palace, Fargo’s newest Indian restaurant, brought tears of joy and tears of pain to my eyes. I wished it hadn’t taken us so long to get here. 

Since moving to Fargo, we’ve been quite loyal to Passage to India. We dined at Karma, once, and found it bland so we stuck with what we knew. In the Twin Cities, there are at least five India Palaces, several of which are part of a local chain. I was initially concerned Fargo’s India Palace also a part of a chain, but from what I can tell, it’s not related. In January 2013, Eric Daeuber wrote a review of India Palace that was published in the Forum. He spoke well of the food and service, but the following description stuck in my mind:

“When tradition demands something more like the Indian food your Midwestern mother used to make, the popular Chicken Tikka Masala brings a kind of comfort food familiarity, and a little smoke, to the table.” 

Despite the fact that Daeuber gave India Palace’s food a four star rating, I couldn’t move past the comical mental image of picturing my own Midwestern mother cooking Chicken Tikka Masala. She never ate Indian food and avoided anything spicy. It would have been dreadful. Recently, a friend and chili-head assured us the food was spicy and well-prepared, so visited on our next date night.

On this Saturday evening, we were warmly greeted and seated immediately. We ordered a couple Indian beers and our server expertly poured them into fancy beer glasses. For dinner, we chose a few orders of garlic naan ($2.99/order), raita yogurt sauce ($1.99), Paneer Masala ($10.99) and Dhamaka Balti with lamb ($14.99), a style of dish described as being cooked in a special pot with white wine, tomatoes, bell peppers and onions and seasoned with cumin, coriander, cassia bark and ginger. Most curiously, the following disclaimer accompanied this particular Balti dish:

*Very HOT! Prepare for an explosion in your mouth.  
Omg. An explosion in my mouth? We had to try this. 

Top left: Dhamaka Balti with lamb. Top Right: Paneer Masala
The Dhamaka Balti with lamb was wonderfully spicy. Despite the fact that I was weeping tears of pain and sweating profusely, I was really happy. Completely giddy on the rush of endorphins released by the hot peppers. The Paneer Masala was milder than the Dhamaka Balti, but it was still notably spicy and both dishes were laced with chunks of hot peppers. Those who aren’t fond of heat can certainly order dishes mild. Spiciness aside, the sauces had compelling flavors from which the heat did not detract. I also appreciated that the Balti dish contained a generous amount of tender lamb.
Both entrees came with a plate of fluffy basmati rice fragrant with a subtle, warm spicing. 

We sopped the curries up with the garlic naan that was blistered and soft in all of the right places and cooled them down with raita yogurt sauce. Both were respectable versions of themselves.

In conclusion, we were thrilled with our first visit to Fargo’s India Palace. Our meal wasn’t cheap, but it was flavorful and thoughtfully prepared, the curries were appropriately filled with their respective proteins, and the service was warm and hospitable. Most exciting of all, they actually make spicy food spicy. I was getting bored with turning to Buffalo Wild Wings to satisfy my spicy food cravings.

Kudos to India Palace for being bold and bringing us heat. 

Seattle & Spicy Chili

I spent the weekend before Christmas in Seattle.

This was my fourth visit to Seattle. I first traveled to Seattle my senior year of college when I co-led a college service trip. We spent the week volunteering for Multifaith Works, a nonprofit dedicated to serving those with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. The nonprofit has since become Rosehedge/Multifaith Works and expanded their mission to also supporting those who struggle with isolation and loneliness.

I think it’s safe to say our whole group of students fell in love with Seattle upon arrival. Such a stark contrast to Iowa. From the steep hills to smooth public transportation systems to the diversity of food.

We experienced many examples of hospitality during this week. One man gave up his weeknight to take us to the grocery store when we arrived, and a church allowed us to crash in their basement and use their kitchen. We painted a house one afternoon. Later that evening, the landlord treated our whole group to a seven course feast at a Chinese restaurant in the International District.

Each course was an adventure. Fish maw soup that we were instructed to spike with a red vinegar and white pepper. Peking duck. Knots of salt and pepper fried crab that I clumsily poked with my chopsticks. Sweet and sour pork chops, and shrimp with walnuts coated in that sweet, mayonnaise sauce. Afterwards, his daughter led us to her favorite bubble tea shop.

For the first time, I came away with the understanding of travel mercies. I was humbled.

The focus of this most recent visit was to celebrate celebrate my friend’s marriage. We celebrated over frantic wedding preparations. While in transit. Over spicy Thai food. And deep, dark coffee.
Dungeness Crab Egg Foo Young and four, housemade hot sauces for brunch at Revel. Espresso art and biscotti from Roy Street Coffee & Tea. Spicy Thai food and Thai tea from Thai Curry Simple
While some danced at the reception, we non-dancing folk enjoyed hot, buttered rum. It was truly a whirlwind weekend and a beautiful wedding. And it involved making lots of chili.
The family found out I was in culinary school and asked if I could make a mild version of chili for 50 people with whatever was in the groom’s kitchen within a matter of hours.
As I began the mild version, I was asked to make a spicy version for 50 more people. I exclaimed, “I’m gonna chop the hell out of all these vegetables!” or at least, that’s what I’ve been told. I just remember feeling like I was on Chopped. Then things got messy.

Before leaving for the rehearsal dinner, we accidentally spilled at least half on the floor. The next day, we learned we left a large bag of it on the counter overnight. We quickly scrambled and fortified what was left. Hours before the wedding, I noticed a placard stating the chili was free from a multitude of allergens including soy. My eyes widened in panic because I remembered seasoning it with soy sauce I had found in the fridge.

We simply crossed out the word soy and all was well. 
I did not think I would want to make chili for a long time. Which is why I was so surprised when I started craving chili when I got home. I think I wanted to share some of my experience with Jake who was unable to join me due to work.

Jeni’s Spicy Chili

Olive oil
1 pound of ground beef
1/2-1 can of beans
1 onion, diced
1-2 carrots, diced
1 sweet bell pepper, roughly chopped
1-2 red or green jalapenos, roughly chopped (I use seeds and all but you can remove for less heat)
Tomato paste (I use at least a few tablespoons)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
Chili powder
Cinnamon (a couple pinches)
1-2 cans crushed tomatoes (if you don’t have enough, add water)
Black pepper
Brown sugar, enough to balance the acidity
Soy sauce or tamari
Sriracha, to taste
Butter, a small knob


  1. In a large pot, cook ground beef in a little olive oil until slightly pink. If there’s too much fat, pour some off, but keep enough for flavor.
  2. Add onions and carrots and cook until carrots are more tender.
  3. Add as many beans as you’d like. 
  4. Add the sweet and hot peppers. Stir occasionally until slightly softened.
  5. Add the garlic and briefly cook until fragrant.
  6. Add the spices. I use a lot of chili powder, plenty of cumin, and a little bit of oregano and cinnamon. You can always add more later. 
  7. Add tomato paste. Stir and cook until the tomato paste loses its rawness. 
  8. Stir in the crushed tomatoes. 
  9. Season with salt, black pepper, and enough brown sugar to balance the acidity from the tomatoes. Add more spices as desired.
  10. Optional seasonings: I like to add a little soy sauce for umami, sriracha for additional heat, and I melt in a small knob of butter for richness. 
  11. Simmer until the peppers and carrots are tender and the flavors meld. Continue to taste for seasoning.
  12. I like to serve with a scoop of rice and garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream, cilantro, and a lot of chopped, raw onion.

I-94 Is Delicious: Cafe 116 (Again) & White Horse

I continued exploring dining options off I-94, between Fargo and Minneapolis, on a solo road trip home this past weekend.

On the way to the Twin Cities, I returned to Cafe 116 in Fergus Falls, MN for lunch.  Even though I wanted to branch out in my roadfood stops, my first visit last Memorial Day was so lovely that I returned.  Cafe 116 strives to utilize local foods and suppliers.

Plus, it smells like butter.

With just two visits, Cafe 116 has already crept onto my short list of happy places.  These are places in which I find myself breathing easier and my shoulders relaxing.  Where the climate is controlled, chatter doesn’t echo, and the music’s not too loud or obnoxiously selected.  The light’s never to bright (or too dim), the tables are perfectly spaced, and the service is friendly.  Places where I feel comfortable pausing over warm beverages and better than average food.  You will rarely find me at coffee shops that serve terrible food.

I ordered a cortado, $2.75.  A couple shots of espresso cut with milk froth.

For lunch, I ordered the Hamden, a panini filled with ham, mozzarella, roasted red red pepper, thin slices of red onion, and pineapple, $7.50.  I upgraded chips to a generous pile of carrot sticks and pea pods and homemade Ranch for $1.

The panini was crunchy and I liked the salty and sweet interplay between the meat, cheese, and pineapple.  However, I liked the panini I ordered last time, better.  It was made from prosciutto, mozzarella, fresh apple slices, and red onion.

I ordered a chocolate chip cookie bar, $1.50, for the road.  It tasted surprisingly bland and dry and one bite was enough.  No worries.  I’m smitten with Fergus Falls and will return to my newest happy place for coffee and grilled paninis.

On Friday evening, I met some friends at the Imperial Room for a rumored, free mashed potato bar.  I know I’ve become accustomed to Fargo traffic when I ran into Target Field Twins Traffic and broke into a cold sweat.  Walking to the Imperial Room, I realized I was lost somewhere around Dream Girls.

We learned the Imperial Room no longer offers their complimentary happy hour mashed potato bar on Friday evenings.  We ordered happy hour specials instead.  Half-priced beverages and appetizers, and $5 treats.  The fried goodies were cooked with a deft hand.  I enjoyed a small plate of non-greasy walleye fingers and a thoughtful salad of crisp romaine accompanied by a bracingly tart vinaigrette.

Then, I got lost again on the way back to my parking ramp.

The afternoon trek back to Fargo included a stop at White Horse, a bar along the main street in downtown St. Cloud. I chose the White Horse for two reasons:

1.  It’s in St. Cloud
I went through a country music phase in 1995.  The second song I ever loved was “On a Bus to St. Cloud” By Trisha Yearwood.  And hence, St. Cloud, MN has become legendary in my mind.  Kudos to Trisha Yearwood for hosting own cooking show.  I’d still take her show over Ree Drummond’s, any day.  She joked about her chain-smoking grandma while her sisters looked embarrassed.  For some reason, this made me laugh.  Ree Drummond’s never made me laugh.

2.  The Thai Burger
I prowl the Internet for potential roadfood stops.  Yelp may not be the most reputable source for reviews, but it’s often the only source when it comes to small towns outside the metropolitan area.  One reviewer complained the White Horse’s Thai burger was too spicy to be edible.  “Ding Ding Ding Ding!  The bells went off in my head when I read the words “literally inedible.”


I know St. Cloud is in outstate Minnesota, but I was determined to try that Thai burger and hoped for at least a tingle.

White Horse’s printed lunch menu offers mundane bar food, with the expectation of the Thai burger.  However, the dinner menu offers surprisingly diverse dishes of Thai, Indian, and Vietnamese influence. The daily chalkboard specials included a soup made with eggplant and chickpeas and even homemade pho with shrimp.  The pho scented the bar with star anise which was unexpected and lovely.

The Thai Burger was the menu’s most expensive burger option at $11.  I upgraded the burger’s side of french fries to a salad for $2.50 (upgrading to a cup of soup was only $1).

White Horse delivered an above-average salad for the upgrade.  It was goodly-sized and made with high quality ingredients.  Crispy romaine lettuce, generous slivers of red onion (the more, the better), seasoned homemade croutons and dressing, and plush, ripe tomato.

I publicly admit that I have a thing for Ranch dressing.

The burger was spicy and flavorful.  For my tastes, it was spicy enough to induce a jolly sweat, though it probably wasn’t spicy enough for the most seasoned of chili-heads.

The meat patty was crusty on the outside.  I detected garlic and lemongrass while nubs of of Thai chilies and chili seeds were packed into the meat.  The sriracha aoli contained a pleasant kick and wasn’t overly rich or creamy.  Again, I swooned over the ruby-red, ripe tomato slices.  They were really beautiful, especially considering the mealy, orange abominations normally served elsewhere.  Finally, the brioche burger bun was above average.  It was toasted, buttered, and of the ideal texture to support a burger.

When I cut into the burger, I cringed when I realized I didn’t specify the burger’s doneness.  The patty was cooked all of the way through.  Thankfully, it was juicy, despite its doneness.  Considering the modest size of the burger and the salad upgrade, $13.50 plus tax and tip made a pricier than average lunch.  Overall, I enjoyed my meal and felt comfortable as a single, female diner.  The vegetables were especially lovely. Had the Thai burger had been cooked a little less, it would have been my version of bliss.

Service was fine with a tinge of apathy.  The “thank you for coming” chocolate mint sticks helped.

I-94 is Delicious Chronicles, restaurants on deck:

  • Albany Restaurant, Albany, MN
  • Palmer House, Sauk Centre, MN
  • Ackie’s Pioneer Inn, Freeport, MN
  • Mable Murphy’s, Fergus Falls, MN
  • Eagle Cafe, Barnesville, MN
  • El Portal, Melrose, MN
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