Bite of the Week is a weekly feature showcasing an exceptional meal or dish, curated by The Growler.
It’s possible to get lunch at a fast food joint for $3, but you have to shop carefully, and you may have to redefine what, exactly, you mean by “lunch.”
Ha Tien Super Market’s Xoi Man (“savory sticky rice”) is $3 and it includes enough food to feed two slightly hungry people (or it could be lunch for just you, if you’re freakin’ ravenous.) The bulk of its mass is a chewy, almost al dente sticky rice, and the lion’s share of its soothing, umami-rich flavor comes from fried onions, quite possibly augmented by a couple bold dashes of onion powder.
Chewy nibbles of pork and fine slices of scallions provide hits of protein and concentrated flavor, and the whole thing is shockingly compelling for such a simple looking dish. It’s good all day but hit the deli early (around 10:30 or 11) to get sticky rice that still radiates warmth from within its shrink-wrapped packaging. Ha Tien’s deli itself is worth a visit on its own merits, too—it offers a variety of ready-to-go Chinese-style entrees, stellar freshly made sesame balls, and a variety of baked goods.
And if you’re not in the mood for rice and you find yourself at the Ha Tien, remember that the barbecue banh mi is one of the best in the state—compared to the old Ha Tien (now Little Saigon) on University Avenue, it offers more mayo, less pate, and more pickled veg.
The Dish: Xoi Man, $3
The Place: Ha Tien Supermarket, 1959 Suburban Avenue, St. Paul
The Reason: Incredible texture, lovely flavor and a tiny price tag make this one of the best lunch values in the state