Battle of Wisconsin Ethnic Foods…

7 May 2019

I arrived into Milwaukee late morning, no thanks to Southwest’s crazy-early flight and a long layover in Baltimore. The planes they used are so old I wonder how many old 737s they un-mothballed due to the 737-Max crisis. I read there are tons of maintenance-caused delays, but thank goodness our flights only had broken-down toilets (and very dirty planes) but no delays.

I headed out of Milwaukee and went north, making a few stops before I stopped in Sheboygan. Why? I was headed to Green Bay and wanted to have lunch. Like my previous trek through Wisconsin, I sought out Hmong food. I’m so glad the large Hmong community has become more active in promoting its cuisine. But no time to stop for a proper lunch, so I dropped into Union Market to get some take-away.

Union Market is a Hmong/Asian grocery store in Sheboygan that featured a hot food section that is extremely popular. I got my food and I headed north, and at the same time enjoyed some of the excellent egg rolls that are much featured in Hmong establishments in the US…

egg rolls

Delicious, but burning hot, which was probably not a great thing when one is driving. I eventually stop in a small town near Green Bay and relaxed, enjoying the other container…

roast pork & spicy sausages - 01

Oh my, this was good. The spicy sausage had a real kick, and a lovely smoke about it. And the roast pork belly? Just fantastic. Beautiful crackling, rich meat with wonderful flavour. I’d take this over a Chinese roast pork any day. I finished part of this bounty and headed on my way. After a stop in Green Bay, I headed south-west and eventually reached my final destination of Madison.

I’m happy to be back in Madison, a town I really enjoy visiting despite not being the easiest to get to. I’ve had flights cancelled, drove through a derecho to get here, and so forth. Frankly I’ve seen cheaper flights from Detroit to London than from Detroit to Madison, so the best way is always through Milwaukee. But I’m here, and I chilled out at my little hotel before I headed into town for a late dinner, the Hmong bounty is still keeping me going.

I thought about revisiting a few of my favourite places, but saved the best for tomorrow night. I’ve had some mixed experience with ethnic food here, such as Sujeo a few years back, but I read so many good things about Taiwan Little Eats I thought of trying it.

I got there after finding parking on a semi-busy Tuesday night — of graduation week. Oops, bad timing. It took ages for the order to be done, and I was nearly done with my winter melon tea by the time it came out…

braised pork over rice

Well, it sounded better than it tasted. The braised pork was leaner and far less flavourful than it should be, and frankly a small portion, completely against the ethos of how Taiwan eats really… Just by looking at the customer base there is little reason to “dumb down” Taiwanese cuisine for the custom; I heard plenty of Taiwan-accented Mandarin spoken by customers.

braised items

And this soy-stewed mixed plate was way too sweet. I know a lot of folks like sweet, but one of the things about Taiwanese flavours is that even when strong they don’t fight each other. The savoury clearly lost here. Well, at least it helped with the large amount of excess rice under the braised pork…

I headed out somewhat disappointed. I guess it’s a very quick eats kind of place for poor (likely homesick) students, but it really doesn’t do Taiwanese food justice. Frankly the winter melon tea was the best part of this entire meal. And before you @ me about whether I know what Taiwanese food is like, my father cooked it for most of my childhood and my grandfather was the mayor of Taipei, so…

I drove back to my hotel, glad I still had a little bit of Hmong food left over from earlier. Thanks to the hotel room microwave, I got to enjoy the last bit of the spicy sausage and pork belly, and was as good as earlier as I sat in my car in Kewaunee. In this battle of Wisconsin ethnic eats, Hmong 1, Taiwanese 0. Not even close.

Union Market
2022 South 17th Street
Sheboygan, Wisconsin

Taiwan Little Eats
320 State Street
Madison, Wisconsin

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