Yia Vang did not set out to be a restaurateur, but after his Hmong food popup took off in Minneapolis, he realized this was his mission.
Vang emigrated to the U.S. from Southeast Asia with his family as a young child, seeking refuge among other Hmong people in Minnesota. His popup found a home in a trailer and eventually started operating as Union Hmong Kitchen in Minneapolis’ Graze Food Hall. He is now working with partners to open a full-service brick-and-mortar restaurant called Vinai in 2024. Vinai is named after the refugee camp in Thailand where his parents ended up after the Vietnam War and many of the restaurant’s ingredients will be sourced from his parents’ farm.
Vang is spreading the word about Hmong culture and cuisine through his cooking, his podcast called “Hmonglish” and TV appearances on the Food Network, Iron Chef and the Outdoors Channel. Listen as the James Beard-nominated chef describes the culinary influences that make Hmong cuisine so unique and how he’s honoring the legacy of the Hmong people through their food.
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