Food Network Obsessed

Yia Vang on Hmong Culture & the Art of Preparing Rice

Episode Summary

Chef Yia Vang shares the remarkable and resilient story of his family, and his journey from being born in a refugee camp to becoming a James Beard award nominee. Yia talks passionately about the pillars of Hmong culture, why balance defines their cuisine, and the childhood initiation of learning to cook rice properly. He shares emotional stories of his desire to assimilate to American culture as a child and why he is so dedicated to celebrating and elevating his family’s culture and stories today. Yia talks about the vision behind his restaurants and how his latest establishment, Vinai, is a love letter to his parents and their strength. He shares the inspiration behind his Food Network digital series, Stoked, and why cooking over an open flame is close to his heart and crucial to the Hmong culture.

Episode Notes

Chef Yia Vang shares the remarkable and resilient story of his family, and his journey from being born in a refugee camp to becoming a James Beard award nominee. Yia talks passionately about the pillars of Hmong culture, why balance defines their cuisine, and the childhood initiation of learning to cook rice properly. He shares emotional stories of his desire to assimilate to American culture as a child and why he is so dedicated to celebrating and elevating his family’s culture and stories today. Yia talks about the vision behind his restaurants and how his latest establishment, Vinai, is a love letter to his parents and their strength. He shares the inspiration behind his Food Network digital series, Stoked, and why cooking over an open flame is close to his heart and crucial to the Hmong culture. 

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Episode Transcription

Jaymee Sire (00:03):

Hello. Hello and welcome to Food Network Obsessed. This is the podcast where we dish on all things, food with your favorite chefs, food influencers and food network stars. I'm your host, Jaymee Sire. And today we have a Minneapolis based chef on the podcast, to talk about his inspiring family history and why cooking with fire rains supreme. He is a 2022 James Beard foundation, best chef of the Midwest and best new restaurant semi-finalist. And he's the host of the new food network digital series. Stoked. It's Yia Vang. 

Yia welcome to the podcast. And I have to say, congratulations on your recent James Beard nominations, a semifinalist in both the best chef of Midwest and also best new restaurant categories. Were you able to travel to Chicago for the festivities?

Yia Vang (01:02):

You know, it was it was really fun. It was so weird. Like I've never done a red carpet thing before so it was like super weird, cuz there's like this whole group that like kind of like tells you where to go, where to stay in all these exes and these cameras. And I felt like I was a deer in the headlights cuz there's all these flashes. And so yeah,

Jaymee Sire (01:21):

No, it's fun. It's it's like, it's like the Oscars for, for the food world. So it's always fun to see all the chefs getting, you know, dressed up in obviously honored for the work that they've been doing in the restaurant industry. But I want to talk about your path to where you are now because landing in the Midwest, really part of a,a  larger story of displacement determination and also resilience that's really so woven into your family and your identity. So I would love to, to hear more about your family's story and the rich history of the Hmong People and, and how that shaped who you are. So how did your family, you know, first come to settle in the United States and specifically the upper Midwest?

Yia Vang (01:58):

Yeah. So it's kind of like this kind of this big, long history, but you know, to understand how the Hmong people is interwoven into American history, you have to go back like right. You know, right before the Vietnam war. So when the war happened and it started US couldn't, the US government couldn't technically have boots on the ground. So they had a, you know, paramilitary troops and, you know, CIA case officers and, you know government officials came in and they kind of made like this handshake deal with the Hmong peoples in the Hills of Laos because they knew that they needed boots on the ground. And so when they made that deal, it was, Hey, come fight for us as this, you know paramilitary troops you know, basically they were called the SGUs, a special grilling unit. And then my dad and his brothers at age 12, 13, they joined up.

Yia Vang (02:43):

Wow. And so they, they were trained, you know, as soldiers and the war happened and there was this kind of this conversation and this deal that was made saying no matter what happened win or lose you guys can have free citizenship in our country come to our country. And so a lot of, Hmong, men and boys joined the flight, you know, it was like dad went and then brothers went too. And so that's what happened. And then the war ended, the US pulled out. And then because of that, the, you know, enemy troops or the, you know, the, the communist party felt like, Hey, the, Hmong people helped the United States. They helped our enemies. So then they, they are our enemies. So there's a huge genocide of our people. So a lot of the Hmong people in the Hills of Laos at that point made that, you know, that, that awful horrendous, tough pilgrimage from the Hills of Laos to get to the border and try to cross the border and to refugee camps in Thailand.

Yia Vang (03:37):

And my parents did that. And then they met in this refugee camp called V nine in 79 and they were married and then they, I was born in 84 and our family left in 88. And then we landed in the twin cities because a lot of the immigration refugee resettlement groups were through Lutheran and Methodist churches. And so that's why the, you know, in the twin cities area, in the Midwest, a lot of Wisconsin towns, a lot of Ohio towns. And then there was a, you know, a big group Hmong people that ended up out in the Fresno and Sacramento area in California. And so, yeah, that's kind of resettlement and the, you know, the government decided, Hey, we want to kind of spread all these people out because it was just drove and drove of people that came here in the late eighties and early nineties.

Yia Vang (04:24):

And so, wow. 88, we ended up here, we ended up moving out east for a little bit Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, you know? Okay. Lived with, yeah. We lived with Amish in Mennonites and, you know, and it was like, so it was so funny. I always tell people, it's like, there's these white kids. And then there were the Amish, the midnights, and then us they're very small Mong people. And so we got along with the Amish and the Mennonite kids so much better because we're like, we're, I guess we're weird. So we could be weird together. And then, you know, they got picked on by the white kids, but we're like, I guess I have my friends here, who they do farming and they have, you know, their dads have beards and they have horses and buggies and it's cool. Like we can be friends and then, yeah. And then we ended up moving back to the Midwest. I was like eighth grade or something like that. And then it's wow. Spent all my time there. And, but yeah, I mean, it's back and forth, and this is just life for us, you know, as a group of people that, you know, just kind of, you know, got to America and then just hustled their way out.

Jaymee Sire (05:20):

Yeah. I mean, I think that that story, you know, it definitely resonates with a lot of immigrants and in that culture, in the United States for people that don't, aren't, maybe aren't as familiar, what are some of the cornerstones of the Hmong culture and its food too?

Yia Vang (05:35):

yeah. Our culture is based on the idea of family, you know this idea that no matter where we go, as long as there's another Hmong person there you have family. I remember as a kid living in, you know, Pennsylvania, like no joke, like living in Langster county, Pennsylvania. And there was very few, maybe a few hundred Hmong people there. And I asked my dad one day, he, I think it was like tinker in the bag. And I asked my dad, I still remember this. And I said, I was probably like, I don't know, 10, 11. I was like, Hey dad, there's not a lot of Hmong people. Like how, like, what did we do? You know? And he's just like, you know, son, no matter where you go on this planet, if there's another Hmong person there, you will always have family. Cause when you really think about it when a group of people that have gone through trauma, suffering pain together, like, and all they have is each other, like, no matter where you go, like I could go to, you know, like Bozeman Montana

Yia Vang (06:30):

and I see another Hmong person there and we look at each other and we have that shared history. Yeah. You know, and, and I think that that's that commonality that brings a lot of us together and as, as a Hmong community, you know, and then, and then when you think about our food, our food is what we carried with us. Mom and dad didn't have trinkets and stuff like that, where they carried, like they, they had nothing, you know, and mom, I remember she was saying that all we had was these ideas of how to cook, cuz we needed food to feed our family and to feed our children. And we knew that there would be the next generation to keep, you know, our, you know, to keep our traditions going. And so when you have that, that's all you have, you know, you carry that, you hold it really strong.

Yia Vang (07:12):

So like, you know, even in, in like, Hmong, families, like we kind of like bicker over, like who has the, whose mom has the best recipes and as much as, as much as that's like a fun thing, you know, cuz like it's like an Italian family, right? Like who who's whose grandma has the, you know, the best red sauce, right. As much as that's like kind of funny and joking, we hold that too tight to us because it means that much, you know, I always tell people that the, the food that we do at our restaurant, they come from mom and dad's table. So, so my mom and dad, like when they pass away, they don't have a piece of land that they can give us. They don't have a will because they have nothing. All they had was these, you know, their heritage and their legacy was imprinted into these recipes and these food that they handed out to us.

Yia Vang (07:53):

You know? And so we're able to communicate that, you know, we're able to say, Hey here, here's mom's heritage. This is dad's legacy. You know? And so that's why our food means so much to us. And a lot of our food is always, I, I, I tell people there we're always, our food is in progress. Cause if you want to know our food, you gotta know our people. Cause our cultural DNA is intricately, woven into the foods that we eat. And our food actually literally tells the story of our people, where we've been, where we're going, you know, and where we are.

Jaymee Sire (08:22):

That's really, that's really, really beautiful. What, what is the first thing that you learned to cook? Do you remember?

Yia Vang (08:27):

Rice, rice, hands down. of course every Hmong, kid growing up has to learn how to make rice and, and it's almost like this sense of honor. Right? So like, you know, it, it's really funny because like I'm not like knocking on white people, but it's like, I remember in college when my white friends are showing me, oh yeah, you cook rice in, in, in like a, you know, like a, you know, two quart saucepan or whatever, you know, pot and I'm all like, what are you guys doing? We use rice cookers. Like, you know, like there's, there's this technology called rice cooker. And they're like, we put the rice in here and then we put the water and then I'm like, dude, like you use the rice cooker, you wash it. And then you, you know, look at the little line of where it is and then you make sure it hits the line of how many cups of water and you just close it and you press the button, you know?

Yia Vang (09:09):

And, and the brand of rice cookers we use, it's not like, you know, it's not like the cheap brand. Like we use, you know, Tiger, which is a really kind of high end, like rice cooker brand, you know, it's, I jokingly say it's like the Tesla of rice cookers and and it's like, it's not, you know, it's like, so growing up, that's what we do. Right. And so every night we would have all the kids, part of our chores was to make the rice the night before. So dad had rice in the morning to pack for work. And if you forgot to click that little cooking button, you know what I'm saying? Like, there's like the warm of the cook and you forgot to do that. Like dad had no rice the next day and, and, and, and mom would be like, Hey who did the rice?

Yia Vang (09:47):

And we're all, you know, one of us would like, whoa, why I did rice rice well, who didn't click the cook button. And I'm like, and we would like put our heads down. It's like, you know, kinda like Mulan style, like bringing dishonor to us all, you know? And it's just like that, you know that, oh, you dishonor the family by not pressing the button, you know? yeah, it was the first thing I did and mom literally took my hands, put it in the water with the rice, taught me, like, I still use the method where you, you know, bowl up your hands like this, and then you move it around. So you, you can make sure you wash all that starch out so that the kernels of the rice individually, you can taste and you wash it and wash it until the rice, you know, under the rice water is clear and then you, you know, have to level the water right. And you know, and all these little techniques where, you know, honestly, what's the recipe for rice, water, rice, boom done. Right. And so a lot of people would get, be like, oh, that's so simple. It's like, well it's yeah. But there's like a, a technique to it, you know? And so 

Jaymee Sire (10:42):

There’s an art to it. Yeah.

Yia Vang (10:43):

Absolutely. You know, and I watched some of my,  some of our cooks who aren't Hmong that make rice. So like, and I'm like, okay, hold on. I get, so you're talking about, hold on, get back here. Like we, this is something that we really need to get. Right. You know, it's like you know, like if you go to Italy and they make really good pizza, like dough is what water and flour

Jaymee Sire (11:05):

Flour, yup.

Yia Vang (11:05):

That’s basically what it is. It's two ingredients, you know, but like to get that dough right. To, to get that stretch right. To, to do all of that, like there's a technique to it, you know? And, you know, growing up, I would stand up over the sink with my mom and I would literally put my hands in there and she would show me how to wash everything. So yeah. Rice is the first thing you do.

Jaymee Sire (11:24):

I, I love hearing those stories and, and, and how passionate you are about them. At what point did you decide that you wanted to actually be a chef as a profession?

Yia Vang (11:34):

Yeah, I'm, you know, I, I talk to a lot of people about this and you know, the first thing I say is like, you know, the honest truth is, I don't think I found this profession. It found me. Like I was trying to run for it my whole life. Like, you know, I mean, I grew up, you know, it's like, yeah, like it's okay. Like you're a line cook, you make 10 bucks an hour at high school, you know, freshman, college kid, whatever, you know, my whole idea was like, I, I want, I didn't want to be in the restaurant. Cause you know, in restaurant working the, the honest truth is like, you always work when your friends play. Right. Like especially if you're a college kid, like you start your shift at one or two in the afternoon and you don't get done to like 10, 11 at night and all your friends are like, so Friday night they're like, dude, what are you doing?

Yia Vang (12:13):

I'm like, I'm working bro. You know? And so I hated it. I never wanna do it, but it's always like this kind of job where I just fell back on cause it's like, well, it's kind of the only thing I really know how to do. And I, I tell people that it's literally like that girl that you start dating in high school, but you break up every year and then you like go back to each other and then you break up and you go back and then you go to college. You're like, well I think we're, we're gonna move different directions cause we're different people now, you know? But then like college is over and you get back to town and you know, you're like, what are you doing? What's going on? You know? And, and, and for me it, it ended up being like 15, 16 years of it.

Yia Vang (12:48):

And I'm like, well, I might as well put a ring on her, you know, cause I know her so well. And I would say , I would say if, if, if, if kitchen, life is like the love of my life, which is, I would say it was my first love that you didn't realize that you were actually in love with, because we were just kids, you know? And we didn't know what we were doing. Yeah. Puppy love . Yeah. But I would say about nine years ago and almost 10 years ago, I had, I, I re fell in love with my first love. That's the way I would say it. You know, it's like, then when I found myself going, oh my gosh, like I know why I love this. I know why it makes me come alive. I know why when I go to bed and I can't stop thinking about this, like silly little, like idea in my head or concept, I'm like, oh my gosh.

Yia Vang (13:31):

And I keep thinking about it. I keep thinking about it, you know? And it's kind of goofy, but it's kind of, that's what love is right. Where you're just like, man, you're constantly thinking about it. It's like, but you get, you guys get into arguments. You know what I'm saying? Like, sometimes you're just like, I'm so done with you. You don't always get along. Yeah. You're like, I'm so done with you. Like I, I quit this. And, but then the next, you know, like two seconds later you're knocking the door. You're like, I'm sorry, take me back. You know? That's how it was. And eventually I had to figure out my why. You know, you know, I, I, I feel very blessed because with, you know, with, you know, things like, like Bravos Top Chef and the Food Network, like food became this thing where people weren't just going to restaurants anymore, they wanted to take a big dive into it.

Yia Vang (14:14):

So I think that I kind of grew up in the food area when the, sorry, I, I kind of grew up in the food scene where things like that were starting to grow. And so I, I wanted to know my why. And it was really tough because when I was younger, it started, I was like, oh yeah. Like, you know, you have all these big titles and you hear like, you know San Pellegrino's 50 best world or, you know, James Beard who got this and you're just like, whoa, whoa. And all of that stuff was fleeting. I tell people, it's like chasing the air, you know? Like once you get it, what happens? And it really came to this idea where one day I think it hit me where it's like, what rejuvenates my soul about food. And I literally came back to my mom and dad's table.

Yia Vang (14:57):

And when I realized, like I said before, when I realized that this is their legacy, this is their heritage. This is who they are. And, and it was deeper than food. And then it just became this life work for me where I'm like, okay, how do I tell their story? You, I always say, I am a Quill. You know, like, like a feather, a quill that's, you know, used as a Quill and the, the ink, it's their story. And I have the honor of writing their story or finishing their story the way that they want it to finish. But what is a Quill without ink? It's just a feather that gets tossed in the wind. It's nothing, you know? And so they are my ink. They are my purpose. And I, and this isn't like somebody once said to me like, oh, that's like, that's your shtick. That's what you do. Like the family thing. That's your shtick. And I got really offended. Like, that's not my shtick dude. Like,

Jaymee Sire (15:45):

That's just who you are.

Yia Vang (15:47):

Yeah. Well, when you realize that there's these two people that gave up their life, that, you know, the way that dad had a fight in the war and the way that my mom had to sacrifice herself, when you realize all that like, and how much they gave up their life so that you can have life. Like it changed every way I thought and changed the way I treated people changed the way I talk to people and for me and changed the way I cook. It's not a shtick for me. It's not, it's not my, oh yeah. That's like, that's like your brand. It's like, it's not. I got so angry when a PR group was like, oh yeah, that was your, that's your brand. And I was like, dude's not my brand, dude. I'll walk out on you guys right now. If you guys think this is my brand, like I'll shut this whole thing down. Like, this is who I am. Like, it comes back to them. I don't exist without them, you know?

Jaymee Sire (16:26):

Yeah. I mean, with this idea that, that every dish has, you know, this narrative mm-hmm how do you encourage people to kind of, you know, look beyond the bite, consider what informs and influences the food that they eat.

Yia Vang (16:38):

Yeah, absolutely. Like I think that everything has a story, right? My dad's an incredible storyteller as a kid growing up, he would make up all these stories when did to put us to bed and you know, and some of 'em were like his war stories, which I'm like, I don't think it was like children appropriate, but whatever, like we loved it. Right. but, but dad is a storyteller and he, and, and he, and for him, it was his way of communicating with us, you know? And it created our imagination. And I tell my cooks, I'm like, you know, I tell, I tell our chefs and cooks. I'm like, you guys are incredible technicians of the craft. You guys are incredible cooks. You're great operators. But at the end of the day, too, you're storytellers. So every one of you comes from a different background.

Yia Vang (17:16):

Like some of our cooks are Hmong people, some of our cooks are, you know, white, some are Chinese, some are Hispanics, some of 'em are black. Some of them are trans. Some of them are, you know, from the L B G T community. I'm like it, I, I want your story. I want you to bring your story in. And then, and then being able to use food, which is a universal language to write your story. And, and, and for me, that's what I'm trying to do. It's just like, I, my story is I exist and I'm blessed to be able to do what I do because of these two people, because of their unconditional sacrifice, you know? And so, so for example, when you go to a restaurant and, and you eat something that's like, super delicious, ask yourself, how did this get here?

Yia Vang (17:59):

Why is this here? Why does it taste the way it does before you, before you make any recommendation to, Hey, could you change it this way? Or could you like, not put so much of this? Or I like this, you know, it's that whole idea that the customer's always right. I'm like, well, what if the customer was just quiet and just ate the food that was served to them? and, and they, they then dig in their head going, Hey, I don't under, I don't know much about these people, but I know that I love this dish. So why is this dish the way it is? Because if you really, really think about it at the end of the day, food is food is substance it's, it's what we use to, you know, keep us alive. Well, we use what's around us. So like for example, you know a good buddy of mine who who's a chef up here, his name's Jamal he's he's Somalian, you know, and from the twin cities and Jamal, we would talk about some of the dishes. And as we talk about some of the dishes, he would tell me about some of these ingredients. And as he talks about some of these ingredients, I'm like, oh, this makes sense, because that's what you guys had back in Somalia mm-hmm . And those, those ingredients actually grow in a certain place and they had to harvest it and there, and there's a story behind that. And I, and after a while, you're not really talking about food, you're talking about someone's soul, you're talking about their humanity and we can connect that way.

Jaymee Sire (19:13):

Yeah. I mean, I think it's cool that you, you are able to tell these stories through your food, through your restaurants. You have a union Mong kitchen, and then your upcoming establishment Vinai which you describe as a love letter to your parents. And to that legacy that we've been talking about. Can you, you kind of alluded to this a little bit earlier, but can you share the significance of the name Vinai and the role it plays in your family history?

Yia Vang (19:37):

Absolutely. Yeah. Vinai is the name of the refugee camp that my parents met in, in 79, from 75 to 92, Vinai hosted 90,000 refugees from the Vietnam war. And out of those 90,000, 90% of them were Hmong and out of those 90%, the majority of them ended up in the Midwest. So I, I could talk to a lot of kids that came out of Vinai and we would, you know, sorry, I would, I would talk to a lot of kids where, you know, refugees and immigrants, and we would talk, you know, I'm 38. So like right around that, you know, mid thirties, you know, we we'd talk and we'd be like, oh, where'd you come from? Or, you know, what camp were you guys in? Cause all my parents are in Vinai so yeah, our mine too, you know? And so there's that connect, that again, like our people have that connection. Vinai is, it's a very synonymous name to all of us, you know, Hmong kids

Yia Vang (20:24):

We grew up like that, that name was so part of our vernacular. So part of our language, and as we, one of the things I love is being able to teach others who are not from our community. And this says, well, you know, like, I, I don't know how to pronounce it. It said, Vene, what, what does it mean? And the moment I said, Hey, this is a, this is a refugee camp from the war. You know, a lot of people like they perk up and they're like, oh, well, explain more. Because when we think of refugee camps and we think of this, we think of these things that, oh, that was so long ago. Right. That was so, you know, so many years ago where it's like, oh yeah. It's like, you know, if you think about, you know, what's happening in Ukraine and how there's all these refugee camps around there for, we're like, well, that's on the other side of the world, but then the moment I talked to someone going, yeah, like I was born in that camp, you know, mm-hmm , we lived, I lived there, you know, I was born in 84.

Yia Vang (21:12):

We were there till 88. You know, my parents lived there for 10 years before we came to America. And a lot of them, like a lot of my friends who, when they realize that it clicks in their head or they're like, well, and not to be, you know, whatever, they're, they're just like, well, I just never thought that, like we grew up going to college together. We grew up going to high school together. Like, I didn't know that you were born in a refugee camp somewhere. I'm like, yeah, like that's our story, you know? And so, so we call it Vinai, because we wanted to offer a place of hope. You know, Vinai mom always said, Vinai is not where our story ended. It's where our story began. And I love that. I love that fact. And so I literally when we were kind of thinking about this, you know, brick and mortar concept, I said, Hey, let's I wanna call it Vinai.

Yia Vang (21:53):

And it's a love letter to my mom and dad. So I'm a literal person, cause I'm a cook, you know? So, so I'm like, well I'm gonna write a letter to them. And I wrote them a letter, never gave it to them because they can't read English. So, and it was weird to, to like give 'em that letter. So I put my heart and soul into writing this letter of what they mean to me and what Vinai is. And I, when I did that, we, we extracted these three themes that came out of there. And out of those themes, what we realized, what Vinai is really about is belonging. We want to create a spot that echoes the legacy and heritage of mom and dad and what what's their legacy. What's their, what's the echo of their heritage. It's about, it’s about creating a table where everyone belongs.

Yia Vang (22:34):

So we grew up in our home. Where, where they had a table and anybody came in, there's always food at the table for them. Well, not mall. That's what, that's what that's among phrase. It means come eat. And, and, and, and it, it is a greeting. Also the moment you walk into a Hmong house and, and there's food everywhere, doesn't matter. You don't have to make reservations. You know what I'm saying? Like, it's not like, oh, we're coming tomorrow with four people, blah, blah, blah. It's like, come in, come and eat. Yeah. Come and eat, come and eat. Anytime you come here and we have food here, this is your table. You belong here. So that is like, the ethos of Vinai is you belong here no matter who you are, you know, no matter what your checking account is, no matter what, you know, I don’t know, political party you voted for or where you stand, you belong here and everyone belongs here. And so that's that idea. Vinai is everyone belongs here. And you know why that's important because that's mom and dad's heritage. That is their legacy that they're leaving for us.

Jaymee Sire (23:34):

That's amazing. What's your vision for the restaurant in terms of the food and, and mm-hmm and giving this place to, to people that know and love that food, but also maybe, you know, opening some people's eyes that have never tried Hmong food before?

Yia Vang (23:48):

Yeah. You know, even within the Hmong community, the, the description or the understanding of what is Hmong food, right. Even in the Hmong community, we struggle with that because, you know, you know, when, when we were kids, we were asked, what is Hmong food, it would be like that awkward eighth grade dance where you don't know where to put your hands. So you kind of end up going, well, it's kind of like it's not Thai, but it's kind like Thai, it's not Vietnamese, but it's kind like Vietnamese, you know, it's, it's not LA ocean, but it's kind of like LA ocean and you end as kids, we ended up going like, well you know, like, so what is Hmong food? And so we coined this phrase saying Hmong food, isn't a type of food. It's a philosophy of food. You know, it, it is a way of thinking about food.

Yia Vang (24:33):

So, you know, the greatest thing about the Hmong people that I love is no matter where we go, we can always use the land to grow what we need to grow so that we can feed our people. So you can go to Utah with a group of Hmong people and they'll, they'll use that land and they'll grow the produce that they want to grow, and they're gonna be making food. And that food is Hmong food. It is, see, see the word Hmong literally means free or people of the free and not kind of, and like that idea where we're not held by boundaries, cause we're free to think outside of the lines. And I love that. And I love teaching that to our young Hmong people where, you know, where it's like we, our parents came to America so we can be free. So that's, that's think outside of the box.

Yia Vang (25:17):

So a lot of Hmong food actually is, you know, reflects the area or the region they're, you know, they're in. So the Hmong food out in Fresno, California is gonna be a little different than the Hmong food in BOGO Tone, Florida or the Hmong food in Little Rock, Arkansas is gonna be a little different than the Hmong food that's in, you know, Dayton, Ohio, the Hmong food in Dayton, Ohio is gonna be a little different than the Hmong food in the twin cities. Why? Because it's the land that we grow our produce and product in, you know, and that's what being Hmong is about because the Hmong food we have here in America now it's, it's progressed. It's moved forward and it's a little different than the Hmong food we have in Laos in Thailand. Because the honest truth, the Hmong food we have lost tries, which is your “traditional”.

Yia Vang (26:02):

We always call it traditional. There is it's, it's a lot of stews and a lot of boiling. It's a lot of, you know preserving through curing and making jerkies and you know, and a lot of grilling over fire, a lot of fire. And that's where I learned how to cook is over the fire. So my dad taught me that. So Vinai has a big reflection of fire, you know? So we're using charcoal, you know, wood fire to grill a lot of our proteins, you know, and, and, and you know, Hmong food, I always tell people, if you come to my house and mom's making you dinner, you're gonna find four elements on that table. You're gonna get a rice. You're gonna get a protein. You're gonna get a vegetable and you're gonna get a hot sauce. And all four of those elements create what we call Hmong food.

Yia Vang (26:45):

So people always ask me, what's your favorite dish? I'm like, I, I can't tell you one of my favorite dishes because all four of those elements play off of each other. So one of the philosophies Hmong food, which I really love is the idea that no one dish is better than the other. It's just, it's changed my worldview. The idea that together we can do more, you know, as we were, we were little kids, we would fight over oh, silly things. And I remember one day, my dad, I think it was literally, I think under the dinner table, there was like four of us kids. And there was like, like five pieces of chicken or something. And we're like, who's gonna get the last one. And I'm always, I was always the idiot kid who I'm like, well, it's not fair. You know, that's the first thing I said, and my dad stopped us.

Yia Vang (27:27):

And he goes, don't like, don't use that word. You know? And he goes, and he taught me a valuable lesson that day. He said, when you say this is mine, you have less. But when you say this is ours, you have more. Mm. So it's this idea that with Hmong food, it's never been about mine, mine, mine. So there's no individual dish because that's why, when we serve food at our home, it's all in the middle. You you'll never hear a Hmong family go, let me make you a plate. Because when you come to our home and my mom's making you food, she's gonna take all that food and she's gonna put it in the middle and she's gonna give you a plate and you get to put as much as you want in there. It's endless. There's never gonna be like, well, there's only two pieces left.

Yia Vang (28:10):

There's one of us. What do we do? You know, it's then like you take, you can take both of 'em because when you come from a group of people that have suffered together, that had hunger together that have died together, it's amazing just to be around the table together. And so Vinai the food we make is yeah, we get the food that we make is from mom and dad's table. But the truth in the matter is that I think the public and, you know, the majority culture, you know, there's just this idea. That's like, oh, if it's put in a fancier plate and has a little Juhi sauce and has some little edible flowers on it, you know, it has more value. So, you know, I came from that school of cooking so I can do, we can do that. We can do that. That's a little part of me, but the philosophy, the ethos, the flavor profile, that's from mom and dad's table.

Yia Vang (28:59):

So, you know, that's where we get to interject. Like we put little bougie, little flowers on there, you know, cause it makes it great. , it's good for the gram. You know, it's for the gram, you gotta do it for the grams. Sometimes it's for the gram. But at the end of the day, like the heart of it is Hmong. You know? And so we get a lot of messages from, Hmong people, the hardliners are like this isn’t hmong food, you bastardize our food just to get your own name and glory. And then, you know, on the other end we have a lot of people that say, thank you so much. Thank you so much for doing this. Thank you so much. Mm-Hmm for, you know, speaking for our people through our food. And again, like at the end of the day, I'm, I'm not speaking for our people at the end of the day. I'm not trying to represent our people at the end of day. I want to be truthful. I wanna be honest. And I wanna look at my mom and dad in the eyes and say, Hey, did, did, did I, do you justice? Did we do you, did I do you right? That's all I really wanna do. That's all I'm about, you know.

Jaymee Sire (29:47):

I mean, I think it's interesting because you know, you you've clearly come back to this place of being so passionate and proud about your culture and, and where you come from. But you've also talked about, you know, this deep longing, you know, growing up to kind of assimilate to American culture, you know, you talked about being, you know, the weird kid in, in, in Pennsylvania and that kind of thing. So what has your path been like in terms of, you know, going from this longing to, to be like everyone else, and then now this celebration and amplification of your culture and your family.

Yia Vang (30:19):

Yeah. You know, it's like that old Rascal Flat’s song, you know God Bless the Broken Road. I, I always joke about that. He's just like, you know, he started on this road and you didn't know where you were going and suddenly it just brought me back to you kind of deal. And it, that's how I felt. I think I was a kid growing up going, dude, I don't wanna be different. Right. It's so funny. Right. When you're a child you're kid growing up, you're just like, I don't wanna be here. I wanna be the same. I just wanna be like every white kid. Right. I want, I hated my name. Yeah. It, they, they struggled with it and they're like, you know, you got made fun of, and I remember a kid in high, in elementary school cause you know, you know, most Asians have like kind of like smaller noses and he would always come and put up his hand to my face and goes, Hey, flat face.

Yia Vang (30:58):

And for a whole year he called me flat face and I thought it was cool. Cause I got a cool nickname, you know? So I was like, oh awesome. I'll be that kid. You know? And I hated it and I hated it. And I remember growing up in high school, I was just like, if, if you know, I played sports and I did a lot of extracurricular activities and I'm like, if I can just be like them and if I can talk like them and I, I know all the pop culture references and I would listen to, you know, all the pop music just so that I could, you know, like, oh yeah, I totally know what he's saying or, or watch all the shows or, you know, that's actually how I got super into ESPN, you know, because like, like, like the dudes, you know, would always talk about, oh, Hey, did you see who's getting drafted and da, da, da.

Yia Vang (31:34):

And I would always constantly read the sports page. I watch ESPN sports center all the time. I was super, you know, I love football. I played football. The only thing I wanted to do out of  high school was go play college football. That's all I wanted to do. And I would sit there every day, just watching ESPN over and over enough sports centers repeat itself. I would constantly just do that. So I'm like, okay, so I know all the names, I know all the references. So then, you know, when the dudes are all talking about, you know, so, and so is getting drafted or you know, this, you know, $2 million bonus deals. I'm like, oh yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I totally know what you're talking about. Yeah. You know, and I wanted to be so much like that and in college is the same thing, but I, I, I realized that you run so far from who you are or who you meant to be, that you actually run in a circle and you come back to who you were always meant to be.

Yia Vang (32:17):

And that's, that's me. I, I told my mom, I never want to cook in an Asian restaurant. I'm like, Ugh. You know? And so a lot of the restaurants I cooked in were, you know, there's, I cooked in a TexMex. I cooked in an Italian restaurant, you know, a French restaurant, Americano restaurant. I said, that's all I did. And I was like, Ugh, I don't wanna ever have to like do eight quote on quote Asian food. And here I am, you know, and, and my aha moment really came when my dad had a really bad accident, like, I don't know, five years ago he had a really bad accident. He was in the ICU and it was a head injury. And I remember I'm sitting in there, I'm holding his hand. And, and I, I left the hospital cause it was three hours from where I was at that time.

Yia Vang (32:56):

So I left the hospital, I was holding his hand. I left the hospital. And as I was leaving the hospital, I thought to myself, if dad dies, like took him like six weeks to recover. It's like, if dad dies in that hospital bed, like who he is, goes with him. And I don't know much about him because I've run so far away. And so it changed me that day. I'm like, we're changing the way we're doing food. Like I'm unapologetic. And it became this journey of going back and just really seeking out and saying, Hey mom, dad, I wanna know you guys. You know, we, we just got done filming this project and, and with this TV show that you know, that I so feel so blessed to host. What's so cool about it is we're we're going out there and, you know, we're, we're we're working with different, you know, guides and there's all these like crazy invasive creatures that we're, you know, kind of, you know catching and cooking.

Yia Vang (33:48):

And it's amazing. And I, I, I remember I brought those, you know, I'm like, Hey mom, like, this is what we're doing this week. Or we're out here in this, you know, this part of the state doing this, or we're out here in this part of the country doing this. And my mom is like, oh yeah, we grew up eating that. And my dad's like, oh yeah, yeah. I know how to eat that. And I'm like, wait, what? And I'm sitting there and they're talking about their childhood growing up, being able to, you know, to harvest some of these, you know, animals and I'm sitting here going, and I feel like I'm just digging in into their childhood. And it was, it was so awesome. Yeah. And so again, like I said, it's, I feel like it's like that you run so far from who you are or who you don't wanna be, but you just end up running back to it, you know?

Yia Vang (34:26):

And so that's where I am. And then that's where I get excited, you know everything we do, it's, I, I always tell people, it becomes a platform where I could talk a little bit more about them, cause you have to understand. I was that seven, eight year old kid who every night I go to bed and I pray to God that I would wake up the next morning I would be white and my name would be Will. Like, I, I, I thought that because I just wanted to be like every other kid. And one of my friends in elementary school, his name was William and I'm like, oh, that's such a cool name. I didn't want a name like Yia. Where every time teacher decided to say it, all the kids look at me and they're like, oh, it must be him. Cuz he's the only one that doesn't look like us and I wanted be Will.

Yia Vang (35:03):

And I wanted to, I wanted my parents to speak English. Because I was so embarrassed that they couldn't. So I couldn't tell my friends, they couldn't come over cause I was very embarrassed and, and I was like seven, eight years old. And you fast forward that 30 years later and now I'm going to bed and I'm hoping to God and I'm praying that I, I get a chance to wake up the next morning to tell other people about them, you know, to, to, to kind of in a way like redeem myself from all these horrible thoughts I had as a kid where I'm like, I didn't want them to be them. But but as I get older, I realize that I, I am them. I look at my dad and I'm like, I am you everything, that's good about who you are, your gentleness, your kindness, your humbleness.

Yia Vang (35:47):

Like I that's so much part of me. And so now I get to wake up every morning, going, please ask me about them. You know, we get to go on these shows, we get these great media platforms where I'm like this isn't a brand or this isn't a stick about who they are. It's everything. That's good about me. The way I know how to cook is from my mom, the way I know how to start a fire and grill meats. That's that's from my dad. You know? And, and I, I, I don't know, like I get to be in this moment now where I look at that kid and I'm like, dude, it's tough. I get it, bro. Like, I look at that seven year old kid and I'm like, it's tough right now and you're not gonna get it. But in 30 years, all of this stuff is gonna make sense.

Yia Vang (36:32):

And I tell people that I get the best job in the world. Dude. I, I get to wake up every morning, we get to start fire, grill meats, cook food, and then we get people to talk to us. And then I get to tell them about two of the most amazing people that I know that's changed my life. That's what I get to do every day and at the end, you know? And so that's why I love it. And that's why I love what we're doing and you know, and we're we, again, like I tell people, we feel, I feel so blessed to just have this platform. So.

Jaymee Sire (37:03):

Yia tells us about his new Food Network, digital series, Stoked. When we come back.I think that's really beautiful. And I know last year also you became a US citizen. Oh yeah. Which also makes it like very full circle for you. And, and you joked about, you know, wanting to, to change your name and you yeah. And you stuck with you. I think that's so cool. Because it actually means iron skillet, right?

Yia Vang (37:35):

Yeah. So if in, in, in our native tongue, if you look at it in our native language, the word Yia literally means iron skillet or like iron frying pan a walk. And as a kid growing up, the Hmong kids are kind of mean to like my, my, my cousins are kind of mean, they're like, Hey, where's the Y. And I walk in, I'm like, are you talking about, Hey, are you talking to me? And they're like, no, the other one Hmong but my my mom is so cause here's the deal. The truth of the matter is my youngest brother's name's Goong, which literally means blessing of God. So we all know who they love the most out of all the children. Like you, you, you have an iron skillet over here. You know, my sister's name is Mai, which means, you know, beautiful or graceful.

Yia Vang (38:14):

And like, she's, you know, it's like a girl it's like, it's a female name. And then my older brother's name is chew, which literally means rice steamer. You know, that Achu is a rice steamer in Hmong, a is a frying pan. And then my youngest brother's name is goong, which means blessing of God. And I'm like, well, we kind of know who the favorite one is. I tend to, my mom much goes, don't say that we love you all the same. I'm like, yeah. Okay. But blessing of God over there is you know so growing up and that was kind of the thing. And people always joked, they're like, oh, that's, it's your destiny to, you know, I'm like, man, why couldn't mom name me like NFT or cryptocurrency? You know, like that would've been cool. You know, that would've been awesome mom. Like, like you couldn't need me crypto, you know? And I was kidding.

Jaymee Sire (38:57):

No, I mean, well obviously it's very fitting for a number of reasons and you, you have a chance to, to demonstrate exactly why in, in, in addition to your passion, for the Hm, food through your new food network, digital series, it's called stoked. You cook over an open flame, so 

Yia Vang (39:14):

Stoked about it. Yes.

Jaymee Sire (39:15):

I mean, you've, you've kind of touched on this a little bit, but why is this ritual of, of cooking with fire so important to you?

Yia Vang (39:24):

Yeah. I think that I think of our people and especially our, you know, when I, we go back 50, 60 years, a hundred years is they're in the Hills of Laos in the Hills of Vietnam and Thailand. And all they had was fire that's it? And it wasn't like a, Hey, let's turn on a grass gas grail with fire. It's literally, you go collect wood and you start a fire. And that fire provided three things. If pride, warmth, it provided a source for, for cooking food and then provided light. And that's what they had. And I, I, I would hear my mom and dad talk about that. And it was, it was just something I was naturally drawn to as kid. Well, first of all, as a kid, you're like, oh, fire. Awesome, cool. You know, but eventually as an adult, you're like, wow, like there's so many elements to a fire.

Yia Vang (40:08):

There's so many elements to how a fire works, how to cook with Ember. You know, you're not cooking with flames, you're cooking with Ember. And what does that mean? Or, you know, and, and, and, you know, people are so afraid of fire. I think a lot of people, they cook with fire. They're so afraid. They're like, oh my gosh, it's burning. But I'm like, you know, I jokingly always still feel like you control the fire, don't let the fire control you. And you know, and I, I think that there's like these life lessons, I think about it too, where it's like, when things are on, you know, things are going hot and everything's like, you know, kind outta control. It's like, no, at the end of the day, you still have say over it. Mm-Hmm . And so I saw how my father taught me and, and I love it. I love anything that's cooked over fire. You know, I I buy grills the way that some women buy shoes, you know, like, do I need it? No, but it looks so good in the backyard. You know, it's like, you know, and my girlfriend always makes fun of me, but then she goes, ah, didn't you just get another one I'm like, look back off. Okay. But this one it's,

Jaymee Sire (41:02):

This one's

Yia Vang (41:02):

A lot. This, this is a different one, but it's so nice. It's different. Isn't it cute though? Like, you know, doesn't, it just looks cute in the backyard with my 18 other ones. And, and I really love cooking over fire. So I'm always looking for, you know, a reason to cook over fire. But the one thing is it's so elemental to our people, you know, you get a bunch of like, you get a bunch of among like dads and uncles out there. And they'll like, they'll create a fire and get a bunch of cinder blocks and throw some, you know, metal over top of it and they'll start grilling and they'll just be like, yep, that's the way we do it. You know? And it's as a kid growing up and you're, you're standing beside your dad and your uncles, you're like, you just felt like one of the boys.

Yia Vang (41:36):

Right. And you're just like, oh, I'm cool now. You know? And, and like again, like I said, growing up, like we didn't, dad didn't take us to tee-ball games or he didn't take us to like baseball games or all these things. But, but, but he, we grilled a lot in the house. So literally that was kind of my version of like, you know, as a little kid growing up, like as a quote unquote, all American kids. And it's like, you know, you, you fit, you know, you hit your first, like, you know your, your, your first home run or whatever, you know, like, you're really proud of your dad. And it's like, oh my gosh, you did his son. And for me, it was like, it was kind of weird, but it's like, yep. Like when you had your own, like where dad just gave you the to, and you went out and you grilled by yourself, that was like, kind of this, you know, initiation of like growing to the next step.

Yia Vang (42:17):

And that's, you know, we had that and, you know, and that was so amazing and so fun. And it's so much big part of me, but one of the great things is like, I remember as a kid, I would stand really close by the fire and let that smoke hit me so that my clothes would smell. Like, you know, it has that campfire smell, you know, if your clothes and like, it's like, cause that's what my dad had. Yeah. And that's what my that's what dad had. And I would walk inside the house. I'm like, mom, look at me. Like, I smell just like dad, you know? And it's like so much, you wanted to be like your dad. And you know, for me, that's that, that was me. And, and, and still today where, you know, I, I find myself like, you know, being done, like when we have a big event or we're cooking over fire and we're a big done event. And I just, you know, I come and I change my clothes in the house. And like that pile just smells like, you know, campfire. And I just think to myself, like, yeah, that's like, that's dad, you know, that's, that's the

Jaymee Sire (43:04):

Reflection brings fact those memories. Yeah, absolutely.

Yia Vang (43:06):

Yeah. So I love it

Jaymee Sire (43:09):

For, for those that like grew up, not, you know, cooking with fire and open flame all the time. I mean, how do you encourage them to try that out? Maybe master this method of cooking mm-hmm

Yia Vang (43:19):

yeah. My, the first thing I would say is like, get a grill and if you need one, just DM me. I got a bunch,

Jaymee Sire (43:26):

You got a couple extra ones lying around. It sounds

Yia Vang (43:28):

Like, yeah, you got a couple extra ones. I'll recommend some you get a good good grill that has charcoal. And I think that start with hardwood, charcoal. You can do the brick hats. Sure. Awesome. King fors got the corner on that, but get some good, like char hardwood charcoal. And so basically hardwood charcoal is charcoal. That's already been burned down, but it's, you know, from wood. So, you know, you see those pieces and a really good brand is called the good the good yeah, the good charcoal it's called the good charcoal is actually brand it's. It's a really great one because it lights faster. The heat is held better, you know, and, and again, just just get some really good charcoal and then start, start small. Like literally just start small. And the biggest, the number one thing is don't cook over flames, cuz people always want, they want that sexy. Like, you know, I'm saying that sexy Instagram chat where the flame is like bursting up, you know, who really ruined that for us is burger king, you know, like flame broil,

Jaymee Sire (44:26):

Those flame broiled. Yeah. Yeah.

Yia Vang (44:28):

And you're like, no, you don't want flame broil. Like, like then you get burnt and it just tastes Soddy, you know, but you're really cooking with Ember. So like being patient, letting it letting the embers go down toward it's all white, you know, and then, you know, learn learn how distance wise, you know, like how high do you want it away from the heat, you know, learning indirect, direct and indirect styles of, of cooking and yeah, just, you know, just play with that and you're gonna, you're gonna burn stuff. You just gotta be okay with it. Like I've burned many things, you know? And you gotta be okay with it. You know, it's not gonna be perfection every time, but there' nothing more satisfying when we were doing the, when we were doing stoked, there was nothing more satisfying when you hear the sizzle. When you put that, you know, when we did for us, we put that duck breast on there, you hear that sizzle and then that perfect crus that's happening on that skin side. And as you flip it, and then you hear all that sizzle and all that popping and that, that smell, you know, when you're, when you're grilling, there's so many senses that are going on, especially with wood fire, there's so many senses and you want all those senses popping off. So

Jaymee Sire (45:37):

Well, I cannot wait to, to see more of that and and see some of that cooking and, and some of these staples that you've been talking about. I've so enjoyed hearing your story and, and just your passion and your enthusiasm for your food and what you do. We're gonna finish things off with a little rapid fire around, and then we have one final question that we ask everybody here on food network, obsessed. So rapid fire first three words to describe Minneapolis.

Yia Vang (46:07):

It sounds really weird. Hardy. I can't wait. And when I Hardy Hardy, yeah. Like, you know, Hardy I would say Hardy, I would say innovative. Cause there are certain things that are going on. Cause I don't want things. It's a flyover state, blah, blah, blah. But you know, and then I would say diversity, there's a huge diversity community in there. Nobody realizes it. Cuz it's all like, oh it's Lea and oh, oh don't you know, Hey da, da, da. And I'm like, dude, like, come here, man. Like, I'll show you all these little towns we have in here or are these little neighborhoods that will just kill it with food.

Jaymee Sire (46:41):

I love that. Yeah.

Yia Vang (46:41):

What's up New York. I'm kidding. It's kidding. I'm just kidding.

Jaymee Sire (46:45):

I'm from Montana originally, so. Oh, okay. It's a similar area. Yeah. Mm-hmm late night. Snack of choice.

Yia Vang (46:52):

Oh man. Dude. I'm told to get so judged. Okay. So, so this, this, this, this is what I do. I I frozen pizza. You throw frozen pizza in the, in and there's a brand in Minneapolis. It's called lots of mat. Okay. It's literally just lots of Mo like mozzarella cheese on it and lots of ma, but you cook it partway. Like half the time you pull it out, then you doctor it up a little bit. So you find whatever vegetable you have around whatever meats you chop it up, you throw it on top and you throw more cheese on top. So it's, it's basically having melty cheese over all these leftovers. And then there happens to be like this little crust on the bottom, which is like a glorified edible napkin that you just have all the stuff on and then you eat. Yeah. And then you just get like, yeah. And then the next morning, you're just like, Ugh. Regret, regret, regret.

Jaymee Sire (47:43):

it's like a kitchen sink pizza basically. Yeah. I love it. Show you're currently watching?

Yia Vang (47:50):

Show I'm currently watching right now. I'm thinking, what show am I currently watching show I'm currently watching. I just finish up the boys season three.

Jaymee Sire (47:58):

Yeah. oh, wow. It's so weird. Have you watched it? Oh yeah. 

Yia Vang (48:06):

Yeah. It's it's a, can we just say, can we just say that there are things that you cannot unseen or there are things that you're like

Jaymee Sire (48:12):

Burned into your brain? Well, well

Yia Vang (48:14):

Then it's like how the FCC is okay with that. Like ,

Jaymee Sire (48:19):

I'm like streaming. I don't know.

Yia Vang (48:21):

I don't in my mind I'm like those writers are can deal.

Jaymee Sire (48:23):

I know. Like how does someone actually like think of that now? It's it's wild. It's wild.

Yia Vang (48:29):

I don't know why I keep watching it though. I'm just like it's like picking a scab. Like I know what's in there. It's just, blood's gonna crush out.

Jaymee Sire (48:35):

Just gotta see it. Gotta see it for myself. Yeah. That's hilarious. Pantry staple you cannot live without?

Yia Vang (48:42):

Oyster sauce, fish sauce, salt, pepper, and granulated. Garlic. And COER

Jaymee Sire (48:49):

Okay. First thought when you found out you were a James Beard award nominee?

Yia Vang (48:55):

To be completely honest, I didn't know what was going on. I had my, I, I, you know, I was just out to lunch with my girlfriend. We, I had my phone off and then I turned my phone on and there were 52 missed messages and I was like, crap, what's happening at the restaurant that people are freaking out, you know? And then also too, I have a text chain with all my old college buddies that we, they always send like stupid memes to each other and dumb, dumb stuff like that. And so I'm like, oh my gosh, like somebody's sending meme and everyone's going off riffing on it. And then I suddenly, I just like, what's going on? Like, why are they saying congratulations? Like what's happening? And then I was like, oh crap. And then I remember I had to stop the car in the middle of the road, pulled it aside. And then yeah, I was like, what's going on? I'm freaking out. so yeah, I, I really didn't have a thought. I was like, what's what's going on? Why is there so much?

Jaymee Sire (49:41):

It's like what your confusion, I guess is the thought

Yia Vang (49:43):

There was a lot of confusion.

Jaymee Sire (49:44):

Yeah. all right. What would be the title of your memoir?

Yia Vang (49:48):

Don't hate me until you loved me.

Jaymee Sire (49:50):

that sounds pretty perfect. All right. So our final, our final question that we ask everybody here on food network, obsessed is what would be on the menu for your perfect food day? So breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert. There are no rules, like calories don't count. You can travel time, travel, whatever you want.

Yia Vang (50:11):

Absolutely. Okay. So I would start breakfast out with a really good like New York city bodega sandwich, you know, egg sandwich, you know? Yep. But then like, I'm, I'm that dude who like will throw in like 20 slices of thick cut bacon type thing on there too. so like that and just good, good fake crafts cheese. You know that sauce.

Jaymee Sire (50:30):

You gotta have the American cheese for sure.

Yia Vang (50:32):

Yeah. Oh, come on. There's nothing better. I think some restaurant was trying to create their own. I'm like, stop, just stop. You're embarrassing yourself. Okay. Yeah, you do that. And then lunch. I would probably, I I'm a, I'm a, I'm a sucker for chill noodles, you know? So some kind of chill noodles I'm a huge fan of this ramen style it's called a Sue came in where it's like, you get the noodles, the noodles are chilled, but then the broth itself is like a reduced concentrate sauce. So then you take the noodles and you dip it into the broth and you just like, that's just like, you don't, they don't make that much around here in the states. So wherever I can get a que in style ramen, I'm just like, oh my gosh, that's the gym. And then I would say dinner would be like seafood. You know, just kind of being landlocked here a little bit. It's kind of hard, but I'm talking about like, like raw chilled seafood, like the, the big, like, like four layer stacked up where, you know, you just got your lobster, you got your stone

Jaymee Sire (51:31):

Prep, you the tower

Yia Vang (51:32):

yeah. Like, yeah, yeah. The behemoth tower that's, you know, something along that line where it's just like, and then we're getting like deep into like different kinds of shrimp, different kinds of oysters. And like, I'm just a sucker for that stuff. And just sit there with, because it's like, when you eat that stuff, you never feel like you're full, right. Mm. It's not like a Hardy steak or something. You eat that and you can just have it with like a light Pilsner or a light LAGER beer and you just sit there and you pick with your friends and you just pick it, pick it everything. Yeah. I totally do that. And then, you know, and I don't know, I, when I was younger, I used to be a big dessert person, but now I'm not really yet, but I would just say what is it? a cheesecake factory cheesecake, good old like the whole menu. Strawberry cheesecake factory. Yeah. Like the whole like old schools, cheesecake factory cheesecake, like the strawberry, you know, mm-hmm, just pump on there. Yeah. Good to go.

Jaymee Sire (52:27):

All right. Well that sounds like a, a pretty perfect day. And again, it was such a joy speaking with you and, and hearing your story and your love for your family and your culture, and best of luck in all of your adventures to come.

Yia Vang (52:43):

Thank you, Jimmy. Thank you for having me on the show greatly. Appreciate it.

Jaymee Sire (52:51):

So grateful to ya for sharing his amazing story with us, and you can catch him on his new series. Stoked out later this summer on food Thanks so much for listening and make sure to follow us wherever you listen to podcasts. So you don't miss a thing. And if you enjoy today's episode, please rate and review. We love it. When you do that, that's all for now. We'll catch you foodies next Friday.