The Hmong are a migrant ethnic minority group who have been living in the hills and mountains of Laos, Thailand, Southern China, and Vietnam for the last several hundred years. As a result, a lot of our food has flavors that have been pulled from these different regions. Many times, you will find that the Hmong dishes are similar to other Southeast Asian dishes you may be more familiar with such as pad thai or spring rolls. However, the Hmong have put their own spin to these dishes based on what has been available to them over the years.
ABOUT THE MEAL Pork is a large part of the Hmong diet. Many dishes are made with pork and pig parts. A few months ago, I made a pig feet stew that was quite delicious! However, don’t worry. The menu for The Porktacular Dinner is not quite as adventurous. We’ll start off with a steamed bun as an appetizer. The biggest difference between a Hmong steamed bun and a non-Hmong steamed bun is the filling. These steamed buns will be filled with seasoned ground pork and hard-boiled egg pieces. The upside of these pork buns is that they’re delicious! The downside (kind of) is that they can be very filling so make sure to save room for the rest of your meal.
In the Hmong community, it is customary to serve rice with each meal – generally, white rice. Although, I still eat white rice regularly, I have also incorporated brown rice into my regular diet. For this meal, seasoned brown rice with sweet red beans garnished with cilantro will be served as a side dish. In addition, because many (but, not all) Hmong are talented farmers, vegetables are plentiful. Vegetables that are traditionally served at meals are different varieties of leafy greens. In the US since we don’t know the English names for these vegetables, they are generally referred to as mustard greens since that is what they most closely resemble. The savoriness of the sauteed mustard greens will provide a nice balance to the sweetness in the rest of the meal.
For each Foodie Friends prix fixe menu, I try to come up with at least one dish that I know you won’t be able to find at a restaurant. So this month, I’m really excited to serve this Sweet Pork Stew as the main dish. The literal translation of the Hmong name for the dish is sweet meat – not to be confused with sweetbread. 🙂 This dish is made with any meaty piece of pork such as a pork shoulder or pork chops and sometimes the skin is left on. The pork is seared on all sides to give it that delicious crispy caramelization on the outside. Then, it is boiled into a sweet caramelized stew with herbs and fragrant spices that bring this dish to the height of that sweet and savory intersection that we all appreciate. Oh, and I should also mention that we put hard-boiled eggs into this dish as well. When you eat it together, the richness from the egg yolk mixes into the flavors of the stew and it adds depth to each bite. You’ll have to experience it to get it. Trust me on this one.
This is a very filling meal. But, I urge you to save room for dessert! If you’re familiar with the Vietnamese tri-colored dessert, that’s probably the best reference point for the dessert that will be served at The Porktacular Dinner. Think tapioca pearls meet colorful coconut gels immersed in coconut milk and sweetness. It is refreshingly divine. A few years ago, after I served this version to one of my friends in Minneapolis, she no longer wanted any other version served at restaurants because according to her, they didn’t have all of the different “stuff” in it like mine did. I hope you’ll like it as much as she did!
Remember, this dinner is BYOB. You are encouraged to bring your own alcoholic beverage. Filtered tap water and iced tea will be served.
To make your reservation, go to http://chopsticksorafork.brownpapertickets.com. Should you have questions about the meal, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to having you join me at my table for Asian Heritage Month! Happy dining!