Yia Vang is the chef and owner of Union Hmong Kitchen, a restaurant in the Graze Food Hall in Minneapolis’s North Loop, and he’s about to open Vinai in the center of the city.
Vang was born in Thailand as a Hmong refugee and grew up in the Twin Cities, which has the largest Hmong population outside of Southeast Asia.
The Hmong are traditionally mountain-dwelling people in mainland Southeast Asia, particularly Laos, and many of them supported the United States during the Vietnam War, which meant that as the U.S. withdrew, it left many Hmong in the lurch, so they migrated to the United States in the 1970s.
At Union Hmong Kitchen, Yang tells that story through the food.
He said his people adapted to their new communities, and so did the food, incorporating local ingredients as well as foodways.
That means Minneapolis Hmong food is different from the Hmong food of Sacramento, Calif., or Boca Raton, Fla.
“But at the end … what connects is is our history, our story. And it’s a story of pain, suffering that really connects us together,” he said.
Vang is also a TV personality, having appeared on morning shows and cooking competitions, and he also was the host of the Food Network’s “Stoked” as well as “Feral” on the Outdoors Channel, in which he captures and cooks invasive species.
On March 26 and 27, Vang will be headlining a live event, Art of Catering Food, in Orlando, hosted by a sister company of Restaurant Hospitality. He will deliver a keynote speech and also give guests an opporunity to sample his cooking at 9 a.m. on Monday, March 27. For more information, click here.
Vang recently discussed his experiences, his approach to incorporating broader Minnesota cooking traditions into his own food, what he calls “Hmong sofrito,” and much more.
Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]