Appetites: Yia Vang, ambassador for Hmong food

Yia Vang prepares a meal at a Hmong American Farmers Association event.
Yia Vang prepares a meal at a Hmong American Farmers Association event.
Courtesy Mike Hazzard

Yia Vang, co-founder of Union Kitchen, is known to be an ambassador for Hmong food. He defines it as a "philosophy" more than a style or cuisine.

"If you want to know our people, you have to know our food. If you know our food, then you know the story of our people," Vang said. "When you talk about a group of people who do not have a flag of their own or a country of their own, they do have their food."

Historically, Hmong people as an indigenous group moved around Southeast Asia to find quality farmlands. Vang said that aspect of the culture and history of the Hmong people is why the food can't be tied to a specific product, technique or style.

"Wherever we went we'd pick up certain techniques, certain foods and little details. We'd take that and forge it into our own culture," Vang said.

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And as a chef and teacher, Vang has a passion for sharing it with everybody. His newest project is a residency at Sociable Cider Werks in northeast Minneapolis.

Sociable purchased a trailer and asked Vang to help design it as well as test pilot the residency project, which will allow Twin Cities chefs to show off their talents.

Listen to the discussion with the audio player above. And try out this recipe provided by Vang.

Recipe: Tiger bite sauce

Ingredients

• 2 cups of chopped cilantro
• 4-5 Thai chilies
• 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
• 2 tablespoons fish sauce
• 1/4 cup of lime juice
• 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
• 1 tablespoon salt

Put everything in a blender and blitz for 30 to 45 seconds.