Introduction to Main Ingredients in Southeast Asian Cuisine
What is Hmong?
Hmong is an ethic group in Southeast Asia. My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were born in Laos, sought refuge in Thailand, and has made the U.S. their home for over four decades. I am the product of the first Hmong-American generation born in the U.S and you’ll see my recipes are influenced from many Southeast Asian cuisines.
Hmong people were nomadic groups of people that travelled from place to place, and it made sense that these surrounding asian cuisines would influence the Hmong cuisine. I had to ask my mom what she remembered growing up eating when her family lived in Laos. To my surprise, the dishes that she ate were a lot more simpler than the dishes I grew up eating.
Cuisine in Laos
My mother’s family lived in the jungles of Laos, specifically in Long Tieng, and were primarily farmers tending to farm fields and raised poultry and cattle.
The dishes they ate consisted of rice (sometimes sticky rice), stir fries from the vegetables they grew and animals they raised, and soups and stews. When I had asked her what seasonings they used she responded that they only used salt.
My father’s side of the family were also farmers but sold vegetables and fruits on the side of the road and would occasionally have Laotian dishes, such as laab and papaya salad, when they would pass through big cities.
Cuisine in Thailand
The the dishes of Kao Poon (rice noodle curry soup), papaya salad, and egg rolls were introduced to many Hmong families who sought refuge in a refugee camp in Ban Vinai, Thailand. Pho, an original Vietnamese cuisine is a rice noodle beef broth soup, also eaten by Thai people and thus a popular dish in the Hmong cuisine.
Southeast Asian Cuisine
The Hmong cuisine is influenced by Laotian, Thai, and Vietnamese food – essentially the epitome of the Southeast Asian cuisine. In the Southeast Asian cuisine, you’ll find a pattern of main ingredients used in day to day dishes.