Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sambusa King – Hopkins, MN

A-Wow and I needed to do some bizarre lunch somewhere and I talked him into going to Sambusa King. I didn’t remember the name and I didn’t have an address, but I told him it was behind Arby’s on Blake Road in Hopkins. I remembered the sign said it was Mediterranean and African, but not much more than that. I told him there were always cabs parked in the parking lot with the drivers taking their breaks inside, so it had to be good, right? He’s always up for an adventure, so we met up behind the Arby’s.

The inside has a handful of booths, a really loud television, and a glass deli case with sodas and some sambusas in it. There are two separate menus for viewing – one on the wall and one behind the counter where you order. They have some photos of the food items (I think most of which come with rice) on the wall menu, and then some beverage and dessert items on the menu behind the counter. The cuisine is more African than Mediterranean, being that the only Mediterranean thing on the menu is a gyro sandwich. I really enjoy Somali food, and we had been to another Somali restaurant a few months back, so I had high hopes!

I decided I wanted to try the Soor (a sort of corn meal grits dish with some beef stew. Sadly, they were out of it. I did have to smile since the last time I ate Somali food with A-Wow, he told us about the Italian influence in the country and that they eat a lot of spaghetti – there was plenty of spaghetti on this menu. So I went with the Beef Suqaar. I wasn’t sure what I was actually getting, but the picture looked appetizing, so it had to be good. I also got three sambusas – when in Rome! (or Somalia, as it were…)

We sat down and the server brought out a banana for both of us and a bottle of green sauce. The Somalis eat banana with their rice, either cut up or whole, but I found out you are allowed to save it for a snack later if you chose. It isn’t poor etiquette. Then, bowls of salad for us – iceberg lettuce, some tomatoes, and a lemon. Then, a serious platter of basmati rice with some raisins, green beans, carrots, and peas on top. And finally, they brought out the meat dishes and our sambusas.

The Beef Suqaar is small pieces of beef sautéed with some vegetables rather simply. Absolutely nothing scary about it – I’m not kidding. People are always nervous about what to order at these places and should NOT be. The food is quite recognizable and delicious – it just might be unpronounceable until you give it a few tries. The green mystery sauce at the table we both remembered being liquid fire at the previous restaurant, but this time it was very palatable and delicious. It flavored the beef cubes nicely and added some nice heat – even though it was really warm inside during this Minnesota heat wave we’re having. The meat had good seasoning and was mixed with some veggies (carrots, onions, green peppers, etc.), but the meat was a tad dry for my taste. Like I said, it tasted good, though. No complaints, really.

And the Chicken Suqaar:

The rice was delicious and I’m SURE you’re not expected to eat the entire dish of rice. It’s simply too much rice on one plate. Wow, seriously. The salad was pretty basic, so not much to say about it.

The sambusas were pretty simple. Ground beef and onions wrapped in a wonton skin and deep fried. They weren’t as crispy as they had looked, but the flavor was pretty good. I was surprised the filling wasn’t more seasoned – seems like a missed opportunity, but they were still fine. I didn’t realize they were so onion-heavy, so be ready for that.

I honestly love the “community” atmosphere I’ve seen at every Somali restaurant I’ve been to. You never actually know who works here and who just hangs out and drinks coffee and orders food and pays for it some other time. I saw at least 10 different people go back into the kitchen and help themselves to coffee during the time we were there. And it’s completely normal – I love it. The server came back to our table and made sure we were happy with our food, which we were. And, we were both sweating from the heat in the food and the heat in the restaurant. I’d go back here again. I’m anxious to get the Soor. Maybe it’s a weekend only dish. It must happen!

I did some reading on the eating culture of the Somali people and I found out that if a female comes to eat at the restaurant, it is encouraged that the female cover her chest and legs as much as possible so as not to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Just a courtesy to their culture. I'm sure they wouldn't ask you to leave, but why ruffle feathers if you don't have to?

Thanks, Sambusa King.

No top 5 today.

Sambusa King
126 Blake Road N.
Hopkins, MN 55343

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