By Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl | MinnesotaMonthly.com
The big news in the world of Twin Cities food trucks lately has been Vellee Deli, a three-week-old food truck with an instant, almost cult-like following. Why? Good food, mainly. I stood in a line in front of the truck for an hour and twenty minutes on Tuesday trying to score one of their burritos. At the end of it I was compelled to get two—the Korean barbecued short rib burrito with kim chi, and the Thai chicken curry burrito. (Thumbnail reviews: The savory, salty, Korean beef substituted beautifully for a traditional burrito filling like carne asada; sliced romaine gave the whole liveliness, and the kim chi and salsa gave it oomph. The Chicken “currito” [curry + burrito, get it?] might have been even better: The coconut rice was thick and rich and creamy, and the shredded chicken and bits of potato that flavored it gave it great weight and dimension.)
On Wednesday I tried both their banh mi—wonderful. First, there was the Vietnamese banh mi, a fantastic creation full of mahogany-colored caramelized pork and a bounty of vegetables, all united by a creamy, spicy paté spread. Then there was the Mojo, something entirely new under the sun—a banh mi based on a traditional Hmong lemongrass pork sausage. Lemongrass sausage is a great thing: It’s a sweet, smoked sausage made with lots of fresh lemongrass, which gives the meat a tang, a fragrance, and a liveliness like no other sausage. For the Mojo it’s paired with pico de gallo and shredded papaya—a tip of the hat to classic southeast Asian papaya salad. This mighty Mojo came about because one of the Vellee Deli truck’s two owners, Will Xiong, is of Hmong descent. The other truck co-owner, chef Joyce Truong, moved to Minnesota from Vietnam when she was 9. Truong and Xiong have other Asian food cultures in the family too: Xiong’s uncle runs a popular Thai and Chinese restaurant in Texas.
But, for now, let’s circle back to that Mojo banh-mi sandwich, the Hmong-Vietnamese smash-up, because: Did you know this is the weekend of the annual Hmong sports festival? True. Tens of thousands of Hmong will be flying into Minnesota from all over the world, and driving in from all over the country, to meet at St. Paul’s Como Park and connect with relatives, shop at the Hmong markets, and cheer on the many soccer and volleyball matches. Some call it J4 (July 4, that is), some call it the sports festival, the sports tournament—whatever you call it, it’s a huge event, and it’s happening this weekend at Como Park in St. Paul.
The Vellee Deli truck will be there, selling their Mojo to Hmong visitors from all over the world.