Fairgoers on August 24, 2023, the first morning of the 2023 Minnesota State Fair. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

Sahan Journal reporters Hibah Ansari and Joey Peters and photographer Aaron Nesheim tried several new ethnic foods at the Minnesota State Fair, from pickles in a bag that divided the staff to a new take on a Minnesota staple—lutefisk.

There are 34 new foods at the fair this year, including three new ethnic food vendors, and new offerings from established vendors. In total, about 500 foods will be available at nearly 300 different concession locations throughout the fairgrounds. 

A full list of new foods and vendors is available on the fair website.

The fair runs through Labor Day, and is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. through September 3, and from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on September 4.

Click here for frequently asked questions about what you can bring to the fair and other topics, and here to learn how to get to the fair.

One new food for 2023 Minnesota State Fair is the Crispy Lutefisk Steam Buns from Shanghai Henri’s. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

Crispy Lutefisk Steam Buns at Shanghai Henri’s

This adventurous new item is available near the International Bazaar entrance, and it didn’t go over very well with Sahan Journal staff. 

Joey immediately noticed a spongy texture with the first bite. The lutefisk is covered with soy sauce, perhaps to mask the embalming fluid-like taste of lye that comes with this Norwegian standard. 

Hibah felt the steamed bun was cooked well and the slaw was solid. But when tasting the lutefisk for the first time, the texture and tang took her by surprise. She ate the rest of the bun without the fish. 

Galabao from Union Hmong Kitchen

The galabao at Chef Yia Vang’s popular Union Hmong Kitchen stand, now in its second year at the State Fair, comes from his mother’s recipe. It’s a traditional steamed bun filled with pork, a hard-boiled egg, and several spices. 

The doughy texture of the bun stood out the most to Joey, who felt that without the dipping sauce the overall taste was fairly bland. The bun comes with a green dipping sauce that packs a slight, citrus-flavored punch. Joey describes the bun as satisfying but not spectacular.

Sahan Journal photographer Aaron Nesheim agreed that the sauce gave the pork bun the most flavor, and felt the cilantro and other greens in the dipping sauce came through the most.

If the galabao isn’t for you, Union Hmong Kitchen has a vegetarian noodle dish, too—lemongrass tofu over chilled rice noodles, greens, and pickled vegetables. The lemony tofu mixed with the cold noodles and greens was especially refreshing for Hibah on this humid state fair opening day. 

Hibah and Aaron really enjoyed the dish and both give it a 4.5 out of 5. For Hibah, the only thing keeping it from a perfect score is she would have liked a bit more spice.

Basil Walnut Hummus from Holy Land is a new food item at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair. Credit: Hibah Ansari | Sahan Journal

Basil Walnut Hummus with Spicy Walnut Topping from Holy Land

Hibah says the hummus tastes like pesto with a kick, but she’s not crazy about it. She says stick with Holy Land’s classic hummus.

Joey says the basil taste is too strong.

Aaron likes the hummus a lot, and really tastes the strong basil flavor. But at the end of the day, it’s still hummus.

Miami Mango Pickles from Soul Bowl

Located in the food building at vendor Soul Bowl, which offers Southern-style cooking, these bag of pickles cost just $5. The pickles are infused with a mango, orange, and pineapple punch. 

“Oh my God, this is so good,” Hibah exclaimed after her first bite. She described the flavor as sour from the pickle, citrusy from the orange, and sweet from the mango. 

“If you tried your hardest to make a pickle taste like fruit, this is what you’d come up with,” said Joey.

The pickle certainly tastes like mango, but doesn’t refresh or quench your thirst on a hot day the same way a fresh mango would, according to Joey, who thinks you’ll be thirsty for water after trying this new fair food.

“It’s still a pickle,” said Aaron, who admittedly doesn’t like pickles whatsoever, after begrudgingly trying it out.

A sweet cream cheese churro from Churros & Aguas Frescas, a new food vendor at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

Sweet Cream Cheese Churro from Churros and Aguas Fresca

Joey highly recommends these sweet, cinnamon-flavored goodies that end with a satisfying crunch. Best eaten as a dessert at the end of the day. 

Hibah said the churros are warm and comforting. It isn’t too sweet, and the cream cheese is not too overpowering and blends in well with the rest of the ingredients. 

Aaron was not too impressed with the churros, which he described as “straight average.” Get a deep fried candy bar instead.

Chicken Sambusas from Afro Deli

The popular Somali-owned restaurant, Afro Deli, makes its State Fair debut this year with a booth in the Food Building. Sahan Journal staff, which often eats at Afro Deli for lunch on workdays, enjoyed two chicken sambusas for $12.

Sambusas are pastries filled with meat and spices. Afro Deli serves beef, chicken, and vegetarian sambusas at the fair, among other offerings.

Joey immediately noticed a crispy, flakey texture on first bite, with moist chicken in the filling. An explosion of spices complement the chicken along with cilantro, onions, and garlic.

Aaron enjoyed the peppery flavor, noting that this sambusa was heavy on spice and chile. That may be because of the green Basbaas dipping sauce, which is made with jalapenos, chili peppers, onions, and more.

Chicken momos (top) and pakora (bottom) by Midtown Global Market’s MomoDosa, a new food vendor at the 2023 Minnesota State Fair. Credit: Minnesota State Fair

Chicken Momos from MomoDosa

Located at the Midtown Global Market stand at the International Bazaar (and only open from August 24 through August 29), this Nepalese and Indian mainstay is an intriguing new vendor at the State Fair this year. Chicken momos, which is spiced chicken packed into dumplings and served with a red tomato chutney sauce, cost $13. 

MomoDosa also offers the vegetarian dishes moma dosa and pakora.

Joey was immediately struck by the complex flavor full of well-balanced spices. He highly recommends the dish, which comes with a dipping sauce. 

Aaron enjoyed the chicken momos as well, noting that the ginger that stood out the most in terms of flavor. But he refrained from giving it a perfect rating because every time he tries a new South Asian dish, he compares it to the dishes he had while traveling in India.

“That’s the gold standard for food like this,” he said. “So, this is not quite the best I’ve ever had.”

Hibah Ansari is a reporter for Sahan Journal covering immigration and politics. She was named the 2022 Young Journalist of the Year by the Minnesota Society of Professional Journalists. She’s a graduate...

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. He has been a journalist for 15 years. Before joining Sahan Journal, he worked for close to a decade in New Mexico, where his reporting prompted the resignation...