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Sep 16, 2007 05:35 PM

[MSP] Booya--Twin Cities

According to today's Pioneer Press we've entered booya season in the Twin Cities East Metro. I tried the Silver Fox Booya today, at Highland Park in St. Paul. I don't know anything about this Silver Fox group except that they've been doing this for 72 years! It was quite the scene, with folks milling about, drinking beer, getting their take-home kettles filled, and so on. All the picnic tables were occupied and the new children's playground was getting a lot of use. I continue to marvel that the City of St. Paul maintains as one of its amenities a booya shed, with 5 booya kettles, each with a capacity of 70 gallons. (refer to photo #4 if you haven't seen a booya kettle before).

Anyway, the booya was $3 per a bowl (crackers included, natch). It was quite good--we identified celery, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, peas, cabbage, rutabagas, oxtail (neck, actually). And, though the spices are secret, we thought we tasted a hint of cinnamon, perhaps, in the rich and meaty broth. Novice that I am, I neglected to bring my own kettle for "take-home." ($3 per ladle.) Maybe next year.

One thing I prefer about Silver Fox's booya, compared to one I tried last year (I can't now remember which one), is that they serve the booya from the windows of the booya shed, ladling each bowl directly out of the booya kettles, which ensures that it stays sufficiently hot. At the booya I tried last year, they transferred the booya to plastic buckets and were serving them from the buckets--it just wasn't hot enough.

Upcoming booyas:
North St. Paul Fire Department
Sept 30
Casey Lake Park, 2100 E. County Road C, North St. Paul

Roseville Fire Department
Oct. 7
2701 Lexington Ave, Roseville

Church of Saint Agnes
Oct 21
548 Lafond Ave, St. Paul

World Championship Booya Contest
Noon, Oct. 6
Eighth Avenue and Southview Boulevard, South St. Paul

Any favorites out there?


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  1. For those of you who need some additional info re: booya....

    I still haven't been to one.......

    1. I've been consuming booya for at least 55 years and its my favorite foosd. I attended two booyas last weekend - Silver Fox and St. Jerome's in Maplewood. On a scale of 1 to 10, the Silver Fox scored a 4 and St. Jerome's a 9. St. Jerome's sold out of their "take home" booya before 9 am (300 gallons!). They have a strictly take-out booya scheduled for Oct 28th.

      Pricewise, $3 is the cheapest I've seen this year. St. John's in New Brighton was charging $5/bowl.

      The Roseville Fire Department booya is quite good - probably a 7 or 8.

      4 Replies
      1. re: u28sm10

        Hey, thank you for posting! I'm honored to hear from such an experienced booya 'hound. Since I'm new to booya, and you've got a lot of experience, can you tell me what qualities makes one booya a 4 and another a 9? What should I be looking for in a booya? I'm assuming you're talking about the stew itself, and not the whole shindig, right?

        Based on your recommendation, I will have to hightail it over to the Roseville Fire Dept booya--it's apparently twice as good as the Silver Fox! (And that, as I mentioned, was much better than the one I tried last year...which must have been only a 1 or 2 based on this scoring system.)

        EDIT--oh, I just noticed your comment about St. Jerome's "take-out" booya on Oct 28. I'll have to put that on my calendar, too!


        1. re: The Dairy Queen

          I hope I didn’t oversell my rating system because I must confess it has little scientific basis, has no scorecard and is subject to change without notice. Having said that, here are some of the things I am likely to consider:
          - Are the vegetables fresh or did they obviously come from a can?
          - If the vegetables are fresh were they carefully and skillfully cut or were they hacked up in random-size chunk by a disgruntled “volunteer”?
          - Is the kind of meat somewhat recognizable or is it mystery meat? I have even had turtle booya but it was advertised as such.
          - As with the vegetables, is the meat cut in decent sized digestible pieces?
          - Is the meat stringy?
          - Was the booya served hot or merely tepid?
          - The final test is a bit gross. I found that, if booya is properly seasoned, I will note a nasal sensation that requires the use of a handkerchief.

          Of course a certain amount of ambience is required to enhance the whole booya experience. I recognize that Styrofoam bowls are now de rigueur but it is always nice to find a plastic soup spoon with a bit more heft. I’ve noticed that booya eaters, in their haste to devour this autumnal feast, tend to be a bit messy, so it helps when a crew is assigned to keep the tables wiped clean. My wife considers the availability of soda crackers as important to the overall experience but I am a bit of a purist – no crackers for me unless the booya is really bad!

          If you do intend to "carry out" from St. Jeromes, remember that you can't get ther too early. If the sun is up, it is probably toolate!

          1. re: u28sm10

            These are excellent criteria! Thank you for your insight. Both booya I've tried had "stringy" meat. One was hot (Silver Fox) and the other was less than tepid. I thought the vegetables in the Silver Fox booya seemed fresh (with the exception of the corn) and they seemed somewhat neatly chopped.

            And, duly noted on the neccessity of being early for the St. Jeromes take-out. Do they reserve only a certain amount for take-out and leave the rest to serve during the day? Are there any "rules" about or limits on the take-out, other than bring your own container?


            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              The October 8 booya is take out only. For last Sunday's event, I believe they sold a maximum of 300 gallons for takeout and reserved the rest for dine in.

      2. Crazy, I have never, ever heard of this.

        1 Reply
        1. re: katebauer

          According to the Pioneer Press, it's more of an East Metro thing. Most of the little bars around St. Paul have flyers posted for these booyas--and there are lots of little posters around the neighborhoods, etc. If you don't spend a lot of time in the neighborhoods in St. Paul, you might not see them.

          I understand booya is big in Wisconsin, too.


        2. You know, I’ve lived here all my life and seen those Booya signs go up every fall and never tried it. I kind of feel like it’s some sort of secret club I don’t belong to... All I really know is that it’s some kind of stew and people really seem to get into it.

          And every year I say this year I’m going to try it and every year I kind of chicken out.

          But this year I’m going to try it.

          Unless of course I don’t.


          Uncle Ira

          1 Reply
          1. re: Uncle Ira

            How funny that you've never been to one! I thought for sure you'd be an expert.

            Seriously, it's just a gathering of people where they sell stew. And maybe beer and pop and hot dogs. I guess these are big, annual fundraisers for various churches and other organizations that they have been doing forever. And the recipes have been passed down through the years and are closely guarded.

            And, while I understand how it might seem kind of "clubby" (a lot of people milling about at the booya do seem to know each other), it is a pretty painless experience for a newcomer. There aren't many options to research in advance: your choices are booya, booya or booya. It's all the same and they sell it by the bowl. You just buy your bowl, find a spot at an open picnic table, and chow down. The funniest thing is to see people walking through the park with their 5 quart ice cream pail that they are going to have filled for take-away. (I do think there might be some rules about "take-away,"--when you're allowed to come and how much you're allowed to buy-- but I'm not sure what those are. I hope u28sm10 comes back and tells us more.) Anyway, it sounds like I need to try some of those other "better" booyas.


          2. I got dragged to about a bazillion booyas as a kid. My mom would bring a huge jug of it home and freeze some, and I remember eating it out of my lunchbox thermos at school and out of thermoses on fishing trips many, many times. So I have a lot of good and bad booya memories. The bad ones involve my mother yelling at me to hurry up and get ready, we gotta get there before they run out, or before all that's left is the 'scrapings', and lugging that huge crock full back to the car.

            It was, and still is, a very clubby neighborhood/community thing - I recall my mother knowing everyone at booya, and vice versa, and seeing the same kids at the same booyas year after year, all of us growing up.

            I haven't been to one since then, (and I'm 33 now). I think I developed an aversion to the stringy stewed meat and strange, fatty, cinnamon-y broth. I also distinctly remember one booya that always had whole black peppercorns in the broth, and biting into those was awful.

            If you have spent any substantial time in St. Paul I am surprised if you don't know what it is. Last year there was a big fuss about the sanitation of the kettles, and news coverage of the big booya championship. It's kind of an east metro equivalent of a new england crab boil or something similar.

            Try it if you're intrigued, just don't expect to be totally blown away. It's good soup, but I wouldn't say it's anything earth-shattering. Booya is really more about bringing community together for some home cooked hot eats, kinda like a church dinner. The spirit of hearty local tradition kinda takes priority over wowing anyone with a flashy or particularly inventive stew.

            10 Replies
            1. re: Mellu

              Oh, and Wikipedia spells it "booyah." Interesting article, it mentions Highland Park (STP)'s booya kettle shed, and apparently Willy Shatner is a fan as well.


              1. re: Mellu

                That would be the correct spelling. I think it's kind of cute that Minnesotans have booyah. If you want the real deal though, you have to drive over to the Brown/Door/Kewaunee county area of Wisconsin, where it originated. Made with chicken, not beef.

                1. re: beerambassador

                  I've heard that booya(h) is indeed big in Wisconsin. In fact, I always suspected that that's why it's an East Twin Cities metro phenomenon, only. Booyah gradually migrated West from Wisconsin (losing the trailing "h" along the way), but never made it across the river into Minneapolis.

                  It's interesting that it's made with chicken in Wisconsin, though. I wonder if there are any Wisconsin style booyahs in, say, Hudson. Anyone know?

                  Wikipedia, by the way, lists booya as an alternative spelling...although, that would be certainly up to the whims of whoever is editing it on any given day.

                  Also, of the two booya's I've tried, neither was particularly greasy. As you can see from the photos in my OP, they've apparently done a good job of skimming the grease. And the booya I had last year was not cinnamon-y at all. This year's did, indeed, have a hint of it. The meat was definitely stringy, although, it sounds like that is not universal, based on some of the other posters' comments.


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    Ha. My mother, and old-skool booya queen, would say that if it wasn't greasy it wasn't booya! And I have to agree. There's got to be a little fat in it. If I saw some booya cookers skimming all the fat out I'd ask if they were crazy!

                    She also says that it makes a big difference if they use bone-in or de-boned meat, and red onions or sweet onions. She also said her favorite booya has a little beer in it too. Oh and she's pro-crackers, too, and ONLY SALTINES. When I told her it was running around $3 a bowl/ladle she was shocked and said we used to bring home a 3 gallon jug for that price, and that included a bowl to eat there PLUS crackers PLUS soda and sometimes PLUS a cookie or bar.

                    At any rate, this thread was a great inspiration to reminisce with my mom about BOOYA. If any of you booya virgins try it, post back here with a report. I would go to one again after all these years of steering clear if I read a good review.

                    1. re: Mellu

                      Mellu, and remember, $3 is the cheapest price for a booya, apparently, according to what some of the other booya 'hounds are reporting. How times have changed!


                      1. re: Mellu

                        Most Booyas are fundraisers and costs have gone up, so partaking prices have risen as well. :-)

                      2. re: The Dairy Queen

                        I'm from the Green Bay area originally and Booyah is proabably the best thing on earth.. and that's saying something from someone who is now a vegetarian!!

                        Real Booyah in Wisconsin is not made with just chicken!!!! You'll see it now-a-days being made with just chicken but that's to make it more cost effective.
                        If you ever go to a booyah party in the Green Bay area it's made the traditional way. With beef, ox-tale, chicken and a little pork.

                        In NE WI it's primarily a dish served in the summer at church picnics to raise money. All the churches do it now.. but growing up it was mainly a Belgian Lutheran thing- Northern Belgians -Walloon and Flemish speaking - NOT French Belgians.

                        It's also not at all true that most people in Wisconsin know what it is. Outside of the counties surrounding Green Bay I haven't met anyone that knew what it was.

                        If you go to Belgium and explain it to them they have no idea what your talking about. I'd traveled extensively throughout the country and have yet to find someone who knew of it.

                        I've lived out in the Twin Cites for a while now and have seen the booyah here.. I'm not convinced. Cinnamon!?!? Gross! And stop trying to thicken the broth! It's not a stew.. it's a soup!

                        1. re: w3022772

                          Thanks for bumping this up.

                          As a wunnbe booya eater, after having read all these posts, I think I will hold out yet another year. I don't like soup, I like stew. So thick my spoon can stand up in it.

                          Color me chicken yellow. And crazy as gnats and dust in my booya doesn't faze me but mystery meat sure does.

                          Also, I know no one. Going to such a cliquish gathering alone does not appeal to me. What fun is that? Please note I am not directing these obsevations at you, but posters in general.

                          Booya for me will remain a 'want to' I think. Maybe someday.

                          1. re: green56

                            I've never seen booya in the Twin Cities made of chicken. Oxtail, mostly. And it's less like a soup and more like a stew. Peas, carrots, potatoes, etc. I make no promises about the status of your spoon. If it's an outdoor booya (as opposed to one held in a church basement) it's likely to be a plastic spoon anyway. The reason why the spoon in the photo isn't standing up is that I deliberately was deliberately trying to use the spoon to "lift" the booya up a little, then brace it on the edge of the bowl so it would be easier to see what would be in a spoonful. Yeah, I'm not such a great photographer.


                            1. re: The Dairy Queen

                              LOL! I appreciate your concern for my spoon status! :) Cute.