- A pop-up Hmong restaurant in Minnesota has introduced Hmong food to the State Fair for the first time in the event’s 160-plus year history.
- Union Hmong Kitchen, owned by chef Yia Vang, brings an assortment of Hmong cuisine, including skewered meat and purple sticky rice, to fairgoers.
- Vang’s parents and relatives have been working together to bring food to fair patrons.
- The chef’s upcoming restaurant Vinai will be opening in 2023.
Union Hmong Kitchen made its Minnesota State Fair debut, becoming the first Hmong food vendor at the event in its 160-plus year history.
The pop-up restaurant located in the Graze food hall of Minneapolis’ North Loop is owned by chef Yia Vang and serves a variety of Hmong cuisines.
“Hmong food itself as a standalone is made for the fair,” Vang told MPR News. “It’s made to be carried around and to stay warm. In our tradition and culture, it’s all about packing up food and sending it with people when they come over to eat.”
Vang’s parents and relatives have been helping run the booth, for which his mother and aunt have been making up to 1,200 pounds of purple sticky rice each day. In addition, Vang’s parents fermented 300 pounds of vegetables three weeks prior in preparation for the fair.
“They’re at our commissary kitchen pumping that out from 7-7 every day. They’re almost 70 years old,” Vang was quoted as saying.
To introduce fair patrons to Hmong cuisine, Vang wanted to “bring the basics of Hmong food” to the menu.
“So we have different proteins like chicken, we have our Hmong sausage, tofu that’s on the grill. It’s all on the grill. And then we have purple sticky rice, fermented mustard greens, pickled vegetables, and then we have all these little hot sauces that you can get. Different kinds of combinations,” Vang told Sahan Journal. “So we want to keep it real simple, real fun eating. And then you can eat, pack yourself up, and keep moving on [at] the fair.”
There are currently more than 66,000 Hmong residents in the state, while the Twin Cities metro is home to the largest Hmong population in the United States.
Vang’s upcoming restaurant will be opening in 2023 in northeast Minneapolis. The restaurant’s name, Vinai, comes from the refugee camp in Thailand where Vang was born as well as where his parents first met.
Fairgoers can find Union Hmong Kitchen’s booth at the fair’s International Bazaar located in Falcon Heights until the event’s last day on Sep. 5.
Featured Image via Kare 11