Chef Yia Vang stands in front of Union Hmong Kitchen on opening day of the 2022 Minnesota State Fair. Credit: Drew Arrieta | Sahan Journal

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A line of roughly three dozen fairgoers stretched several feet from the Union Hmong Kitchen food stand to the entrance of the International Bazaar about noon on the first day of the Minnesota State Fair.

Fairgoers seemed eager to try Hmong food for the first time in the State Fair’s 160-plus year history, but head chef Yia Vang joked that many probably thought they were waiting in a line to enter the bazaar itself.

Located in the southwest corner of the fairgrounds at Judson Avenue and Underwood Street, the International Bazaar contains an abundance of multicultural foods, clothing, and souvenirs for sale. Sahan Journal asked Vang about his debut at the fair.

What’s new on the menu?

“Our whole menu is new, but we really–it’s our first time having Hmong food at the fair here, in the International Bazaar, so what we really want to do is bring the basics of Hmong food.

“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. 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.”

What do you recommend for meat eaters?

“If you really love meat, I would say go with the Hmong sausage. It’s my dad’s old recipe that we took, we tweaked it a little bit. It’s really an honor just to be able to showcase here.”

Union Hmong Kitchen offers Mov + Nqaij (Rice + Meat) on its debut menu at the Minnesota State Fair. Credit: Drew Arrieta | Sahan Journal

What are your best vegetarian options?

“If you’re a vegetarian, we have this turmeric lemongrass tofu that we soak in this marinade, then we grill it over the fire. There’s a caramelization in the tofu, and it works really well with that sweet sticky rice.”

Where can fairgoers find you?

“If you’re coming here at the fair, we’re at the International Bazaar, so if you walk right in and you look straight, you can see our booth sticking out a little bit.”

Dej Qab Zib (Sweet Refreshment) is a coconut lychee colada offered on Union Hmong Kitchen’s State Fair menu. Credit: Drew Arrieta | Sahan Journal
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Joey Peters

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. His work has appeared in Reuters, Public Radio International, Columbia Journalism Review, KFAI Radio, the Pioneer Press, City Pages, MinnPost and more. He previously...

Samantha HoangLong is the audience growth manager at Sahan Journal. In her role, she leads innovative digital strategies to expand the nonprofit newsroom's reach to Minnesota's diverse communities. Her...