I love to hear the personal stories of the vendors, as each has her own background and inspiration. Korad Abdi’s Somali accent at the Northeast Market grabbed my attention as she pointed to her bottles of hot sauce. “This sauce is extreme hot, but this one over here is only very hot,” she explained. “We call it ‘Minnesota hot.’”
Hey, I grew up in the south. When I was a toddler, my dad put Tobasco on my thumb to break me from sucking it. I licked it off and held my thumb out for seconds. So, yeah, I bought a bottle of her “extreme hot” sauce.
Korad’s recipe includes dates, which round out and sweeten the flavor of the peppers. That’s how they do it bad in her native Somalia, where she grew up in a small rural village. When the warring tribes reached her town, she walked to a refugee camp in Kenya, where she met her husband and gave birth to three children.
It took five tries to get accepted, but the unstoppable Korad finally was granted permission to immigrate to the U.S. Her husband couldn’t find work in California, where they stopped first. He heard there were jobs available in Minneapolis, so she baked Somali cookies and sold them in the neighborhood to raise enough cash to fly her husband to the Twin Cities.
Now here with him, and with her children, the indefatigable entrepreneur is growing her hot sauce business, not just in the Somali community, but to residents all over the Twin Cities. “We’re from Africa,” she said. “We work and work and work. But we’re Minnesotans now, so we deal with the Minnesotans.”
You know, you could buy hot sauce at the supermarket. You could. But doesn’t it taste better when you hear a woman like Korad explain how she moved halfway around the world to sell Somali hot sauce to Minnesotans?