At the Hmongtown Marketplace in St. Paul, Minnesota, a treasure trove of Hmong products abounds.
Pork bung, cow tails, chicken feet, pig brains, beef intestines, beef scalded trip and various other animal parts are available at extremely affordable prices, but Hmong have a special relationship with chicken. While they often combine it with fresh herbs for stews, soups and fillings, it has symbolic place in their sense of hospitality, too, as pastry chef Diane Yang of Minneapolis’ Spoon & Stable shared with me on a recent trip for Saveur magazine.
“It’s a tradition that when you have guests over to your house you give them a whole steamed chicken and a dish of rice when they leave, sort of like their lunch for the next day.”
The younger generation of Hmong in the United States don’t always have time for this extra bit of prep work now, she says, so they often stop into the market to buy chickens already steamed and bagged for $12, versus buying a free range Black Asian chicken for $8.50 and doing the work themselves. Yang admits to doing this now when her parents come over for dinner. But we bet her desserts more than make up for it.