Eat Through Southeast Asia in Minnesota || Eat Seeker


– We do have a good-sized
Vietnamese community here, so a lot of these flavors are familiar. But we’re just trying to add
some depth to the offerings. The food at HAI HAI is just highlighting some of the regional cuisine that doesn’t necessarily
make it on the menus. I just knew I needed to bring
back some of those flavors to Minnesota. Well, I’ve always loved cooking at home, but the first professional
cooking that I ever did was at our food truck, Rick and I, my husband and business partner. We had opened
brick-and-mortar restaurant. And then we had the itch
to open another restaurant. I was raised Vietnamese-French, so I ate a lot of Vietnamese
food growing up my whole life. And it’s something that’s just
near and dear to my heart. And I was like, “I really wanna
open a Southeast Asian spot,” and also kind of
highlight some of the food that we tried during our
travels in Southeast Asia. Rick and I traveled for
three to four months and just backpacked around, and got to try all the different foods and experience all of that culture. Immediately there was a lot
of inspiration for dishes. A lot of the flavors that jumped out at me were just the use of so many fresh herbs, of course lots of fish sauce, and fun, stinky fish and shrimp things when we were in places
like Northern Thailand. And there were just the
flavors of coconut, lime leaf, lemongrass, ginger, all
the things that I love. When we were in Bali, we had tried this amazing
suckling pig roast that was called babi guling, and that was one of my favorite dishes, so, for years, I was just kind
of trying to replicate it. Our Balinese chicken thighs,
inspired by the suckling pig. It was such a delicious dish, but, of course, it’s hard
to replicate that here, considering that we don’t
have a giant fire pit and a cute guy to just sit
there and swab it for hours (laughs) while it cooks. So, instead, we decided
to kind of translate it into a chicken thigh dish, where we just marinate the chicken in kind of those same aromatics, like a lot of turmeric,
ginger, lemongrass, and coconut oil, lime leaf. And then we just grill it. And then the suckling pig had
this amazing, crispy skin on it that was almost like candy, so to sort of replicate that,
we have a crispy chicken skin that we do, instead. And then we just serve
it with jasmine rice, which they would do, and
then they would also have a little vegetable mixture. So we have this kale
and bean sprout salad, that we put some shallot, and lime leaf, and lime, and coconut oil in, and just sort of macerate it. Water fern cakes always
remind me of the best part of Vietnamese Sunday School, which was eating tasty
snacks in the basement. I didn’t really care much about church, but those water fern cakes were delicious. There would just be some ladies that made them at the church. And then you’d just have these styrofoam room temperature packs
full of these banh beo, which is the water fern cake, and you just eat them with fish sauce. Yeah, they were delicious. The water fern cakes are
a comfort food to me, just because they embody all of the Vietnamese flavors and textures. You have these steamed rice cakes, which kind of have a little
bit of a gelatinous texture. But they’re steamed, and then
we add mung bean on them and some scallion oil, a little
pork, some fried shallots, and a little Thai chili, and then we eat them with nuoc cham, which is that fish sauce
and lime juice mixture. But, I really feel like
eating a bite of that reminds me of childhood. It reminds me of just growing up. ‘Cause, yeah, we’d have those
at family gatherings, too. So, a dish that Rick and I
had when we were in Hanoi that really stuck out,
was the turmeric dill fish, it’s called cha ca, and it’s a dish that they pretty
much only make in the north. We had it while we were
traveling over Christmas. And, you know, it’s tough when
you’re not with your family, and we were like, “What do we do? Let’s go try this
really fun, special dish.” Yeah, just the flavors
stuck out as different, because there’s use of dill, which is a really uncommon
ingredient in Vietnam. And there was just loads of it, like handfuls of dill and scallions. And they just pan-fry
the fish in front of you. For our version, we take some Alaskan cod. We coat it in some turmeric salts. We pan-fry it in some turmeric oils, so lots of turmeric. And then, of course, just
traditionally throw in an uncomfortable amount
of dill and scallions. And just let that barely cook. And then we serve that
over some rice noodles and serve it with two different sauces, the nuoc cham fish sauce, and then also a fun
pineapple shrimp sauce. So this has been one
of my favorite dishes. And then, later on, when my mom saw it on the opening menu for HAI HAI, she was like, “Oh, that used
to be one of your grandpa’s favorite dishes.” I never got to make it for my grandpa, but it’s just cool how
food can connect us, even to people who have passed away, and my favorite grandpa. The first time that I
visited Southeast Asia, I think I was 19 or 20. I went backpacking alone for
probably about three months. It was the first time that
I had been there before. And so, it was totally a
culture shock but also amazing to get to visit the place
that my parents grew up. It felt really strange but
also really familiar, in ways. It was crazy. There’s tons of Vietnamese
restaurants here, but I was noticing that
there’s a lot of dishes I tried over in Vietnam or in Thailand that didn’t necessarily
make it onto menus here. Maybe just because people
aren’t familiar with it, or because they’re more labor intensive. Pretty much the whole
menu is just cooking food that I wanna eat every day.

  1. ro pro

    Finally, a chef/owner who's not a narcissistic asshole! Christina's so down to earth and sweet. 😀 That food looks amazing too! Please come to Toronto!

  2. Colin Rynne

    Holy shit if your trying to be a professional don’t mimic the kardashians!! Why do people play act with their voices….you make yourself voluntarily sound like this it’s not a secret…..and it makes you look so dumb immature and unprofessional

  3. Tosh T

    Heard about this joint when the Super Bowl was in town Feb. 2018. Apparently, the building used to house a well established…strip club. 😂 Great episode. Dishes looked awesome. 👍

  4. Johnny Lim

    If this chick was a white dude, everyone would be screaming cultural appropriation.

    She’s Vietnamese, but she traveled to Thailand and is putting her own interpretation of Thai dishes. Double standard much?

  5. sugreev2001

    I’m surprised this channel hasn’t hit a million subscribers. Better produced content, compared to the likes of Zagat and Munchies. And none of the propagandist nonsense they do either.

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