Yia Vang’s new Mee-Ka pop-up embraces Hmong American food

Yia Vang’s new Mee-Ka pop-up embraces Hmong American food

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Chef Yia Vang is known for sharing the stories, food, and culture of Hmong people across the Twin Cities and the world. But as a kid growing up in Wisconsin, his family’s Hmong cuisine wasn’t always his favorite option.

“At times, we would look at the food that they make, and we’d be like, ‘Oh, gross, I don’t want to eat this stuff anymore. I want Mee-ka food. I want American food,’” Vang recalled, using the Hmong word for “American”—Mee-ka. “What we were saying to our mom was, ‘We just want to belong.’”

Oftentimes, Vang said, he found himself embracing American food like grilled cheese and Lunchables alongside classic Hmong dishes like Nqaij Tsaws, a braised pork dish paired with rice and mustard greens.

“That’s the beauty of America, right? Where you don’t have to pick which one, but all these little pieces create who we are,” Vang said. “As a kid growing up trying to figure out, ‘Should he be Hmong? Should he be American?’ I really found that there’s actually this really beautiful collision that creates this beautiful third culture where I sit comfortably.”