Hai Hai is a new southeast Asian street food restaurant in northeast Minneapolis, operated by the owners of Hola Arepa. I heard they were quite vegan-friendly, so I stopped by for dinner with a couple friends. I’ll say right off the bat that we were impressed from start to finish. We let our server know that everything would be vegan, and even though they weren’t the one who brought out our food each time, the staff reiterated that it was vegan if it had been modified. Our server also double checked on the vegan dessert options before presenting them to us. Vegans know that we will be accidentally served something non-vegan at some point or another, so having this extra reassurance makes a huge difference.
We kicked off the meal with Salt and Pepper Tofu on top of lime leaf tofu sauce. The tofu was fried perfectly and piping hot on the inside. The Thai chilis add a pleasant warmth to each bite, and they would continue to pop up throughout the meal. So I’ll say for you Minnesotans who think ketchup is spicy, beware here. While my spice threshold isn’t terribly high, I didn’t have a problem with these, but everyone is different.
The Balinese Cauliflower at the top of the post and the Fried Potatoes are both complex dishes bursting with various flavors and textures. The cauliflower includes coconut cream, and the potatoes include lime leaf tofu sauce. What I love here is that the dishes aren’t drowning in the sauces but they definitely add to the dish. The same goes for the greens. They both got better with each bite.
The Hanoi Sticky Rice was calling to me, but while the dish was tasty and not even close to being bad, the other dishes stood out more to me. We added mock duck to make it vegan, and it was fun to mix it all up and have something a little different in each bite.
Even though I couldn’t master how to eat the Vietnamese Crepe to save my life, I would get this again. The crepe is made with turmeric and coconut milk rice flour – it’s not made with eggs. The inside is stuffed with shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, and onions. You cut yourself a slice then place it in a lettuce leaf to make a wrap, then dip it in the sauce. The crunch of the crepe and lettuce balanced nicely with the mushrooms, sprouts, and onion.
Two of the four desserts were labeled vegan, so naturally we had to try both of them. The Silken Tofu is house made and comes in a bowl of lemongrass-ginger syrup. When it comes to soft/jelly textures, I need something with a different texture to balance them out, so I have to say that this dish is not for me. The syrup is lovely, but the tofu might as well be slime. My dining partners were happy to finish it off.
Check out this gorgeous Vietnamese Che! They encourage you to mix it all up before you eat it. There are a couple jellos, basil seeds, pink tapioca, jackfruit, coconut cream, and crushed ice. Going back to textures, I could only take a few bites of this because overall it is too gelatinous for my liking. However, I found the flavor quite light and refreshing – perfect for topping off a flavor filled meal.
You would not have to twist my arm to go back to Hai Hai, and I look forward to trying more of their vegan-friendly options as there are a handful we didn’t get to… but I’ll probably grab dessert at Crepe and Spoon across the street. As we left around 6:30pm on a Sunday, there were several people waiting for a table, so I’d recommend a reservation more often than not. The weekend brunch menu also includes vegan options, and the drink list is full of creative cocktails. The atmosphere is open and airy with plants everywhere. Happy eating!
2121 University Avenue Northeast