It's spring, and many Minnesotans are already looking for fresh, local vegetables. Many of the fruits and vegetables that will show up at farmers markets in Minneapolis and St. Paul later this month are grown by Hmong farmers.
But Hmong entrepreneurs are doing more than just growing food. Food writer Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl has some tips for sampling Hmong food and finding the ingredients to make your own Hmong dishes at home.
Head to Hmong Town Marketplace in St. Paul
Located northwest of the State Capitol on Marion and Como, the marketplace is 10 acres of all things Hmong. One part is a farmer's market that runs all year.
"You can get persimmons and longans and all kinds of interesting fruits, and then all the great greens," Grumdahl said.
The marketplace also has a food court where you can try various types of Hmong food.
Try Hmong barbecue
Grumdahl describes Hmong barbecue as one of the "great taste treats" of the Twin Cities.
In Hmong culture, pig roasts are traditional for special occasions.
At the Hmong Town Marketplace, pieces of pork are among the most popular selections. There are pork ribs, country style pork and even pork belly, which Grumdahl describes as "your own personal pound and a half of bacon."
"They cook them in these super hot boxes so they're really crisp on the outside. But it's not a smoky flavor, but just a crisp, rich pork," she said. "You take that, you have it with your rice, you dip it in your chili sauce and that's some really good barbecue."
Try cooking Hmong food on your own
After trying out some dishes at a Hmong restaurant, try cooking a dish at home. While many Hmong don't use recipes, there is a Hmong cookbook to consult.
"It's great food," Grumdahl said. "It's very different from I think the other Southeast Asian cuisines in that it's sort of farm-driven -- what's fresh, what's in season."
Grumdahl said Hmong chefs also care about the quality of the meat and look for meat that's raised well.
Dishes also often feature boiled vegetables like pumpkin or water spinach that can come with spicy condiments on the side.
"You can sort of make it as hot as you want," Grumdahl said.