Healthy Vegetable Stir-fry

The weather’s getting nicer outside and that means that many people have started their gardening. In the Hmong-American culture, gardening is a large part of many older Hmong people’s daily summer routine. This article by Young Kim details Hmong-American farming from a unique perspective.

Gardening helps keep the older Hmong generation active, provides abundant vegetables, and brings back good memories of their traditional farming practices in Laos/Thailand. For many, they have continued to grow traditional crops such as mustard greens, bok choy, and corn. Additionally, they have adopted non-traditional crops as well. Some of these are zucchinis, yellow squash, and bell peppers which I will be using to make a veggie stir-fry for this blog post.

The beauty of this veggie stir-fry dish is that it is both healthy and easy to make. Total prepping and cooking time is between 15-20 minutes, which is great for individuals with a busy schedule like me. Let’s get started, shall we?

Meet the Main Ingredients

prepared vegetables

Ingredients List:

Preparation

  • (Optional) Skin zucchini and yellow squash to create a striped design as I did for this blog
  • Chop up vegetables

Cooking Instructions

cooking vegetables

  1. Lightly spray cooking pan with vegetable oil spray
  2. Put on high heat on stove top
  3. Add in the chopped up vegetables
  4. Cook until veggies start to soften
  5. Add 1 tbsp salt
  6. Add sauces and black pepper
  7. Cook for approximately 5-8 minutes total or until veggies are soft

cooked stir fry

Presentation: Healthy Vegetable Stir-fry

healthy vegetable stir fry

  • Scoop some stir-fry onto a plate
  • Add a side of rice
  • Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped green onion

Alternatives

  • If you don’t like the sauce flavor, try making it with just salt and pepper
  • Try other veggies such as mushrooms, broccoli, or even tomatoes
  • Add meat in for some protein and a little texture

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Hmong Rice Porridge (Congee) with a Modern Twist

Rice porridge is a common dish among numerous Asian countries. It varies in name, texture, and ingredients throughout all of Asia (see Congee). With rice being the main course of many meals, it is not surprising how popular this dish is in Asian countries. What amazes me is how the recipe differs from region to region within a country. I guess you can say that rice porridge in Asian countries is the equivalent of mac and cheese in America.
With regards to Hmong culture, rice porridge is often given to elders, babies, and individuals recovering from illnesses. Traditionally, Hmong people eat rice porridge plain consisting of just rice cooked in water, which doesn’t provide much nutritional value. However, it is light on the stomach, and effectively in recovering health.
Growing up, I’ve only always made traditional plain rice porridge when I was sick with occasional dashes of sugar for a sweet taste. But in today’s blog post, I will be attempting to make rice porridge with a little modern twist. Bear with me! I assure you it will be worth it 🙂

Meet the Main Ingredients

rice porridge ingredients

Ingredients List:

  • 1 diced chicken breast
  • 2 long stalks of celery (diced)
  • 3 small carrots (diced)
  • 1 cup – short grain rice
    • You can use any type of rice you want. I prefer short grain for rice porridge because it softens better when cooking.
  • 6 cups – water
    • You may want to use 8 cups of water. I used 6 cups and mine turned out a little too thick 😦

Preparation

  • Dice chicken and vegetables
  • Rinse rice until water is clear

Cooking Instructions

cooking instructions

  1. Cook diced chicken in 3 cups of water for 5-10 minutes or until fully cooked.
  2. Add salt.
  3. Strain chicken out of pot.
  4. Add rice to the pot of chicken broth.
  5. Cook until the texture starts to thickens (approx. 10-12 minutes).
  6. Add the chicken (which was strained out earlier) and raw vegetables into the pot.
  7. Add 3 cups of water to pot.
  8. Cook for another 15-20 minutes until texture thickens to your liking.

Presentation: Rice Porridge w/ a Modern Twist

modern day rice porridge

  • Scoop rice porridge into a bowl.
  • Optional: Add a drizzle of soy sauce, black pepper, and chopped green onion for a kick of flavor.

Happy Eating! 🙂

Thai-style Papaya Salad Alternative

Papaya salad (Som Tam) is a dish that originated in Southeast Asia. With its unique blend of sweet, spicy, sour, and salty tastes and crunchy texture, Som Tam has been voted as the #6 most delicious food in the world by CNN Travel.
Som Tam can be found in most Thai and Laotian markets and is famous among travelers, tourists, and ethnic food lovers around the world.
In context with Hmong history, Hmong people have been familiar with this dish since before their arrival in the United States. However, I believe that Hmong people are more accustomed to the Laotian version called Tam Maak Hoong which has a stronger flavor due to ingredients such as tamarind paste and fermented crab paste.
Som Tam is a very healthy and light dish that is sure to make your taste buds tingle. In this blog post, I will be showing you how to make a simplified Som Tam without the papaya! Let’s get started, shall we?

Meet the Main Ingredients

som tam ingredients

Ingredients List:

Preparation

  1. Shred cabbage and cucumber
  2. Slice tomatoes
  3. Peel garlic
  4. Squeeze lemon/lime

Cooking Instructions

ingredients in mortar
ingredients in mortar

  1. Add garlic, peanuts, and chili peppers into mortar
  2. Use pestle to roughly smash ingredients
  3. Add lemon/lime juice and mix well with spoon
  4. Add rest of ingredients
  5. Use spoon to work ingredients together while smashing
  6. Continuing smashing ingredients in mortar until mixed well

Presentation: Thai-style Cabbage & Cucumber Salad

thai-style cabbage and cucumber salad

  • Scoop the salad from mortar into bowl/plate
  • Optional: Sprinkle with crushed peanuts for presentation
  • Best eaten with a side of sticky rice!

Alternatives

  • For a sweet summer flavor, try substituting cabbage and cucumbers with mangoes
  • Add long green beans for a crunchy texture and gorgeous color
  • Add vermicelli noodles for a soft texture

Happy Eating!

Steamed Cabbage Rolls: Healthy Alternative to Egg Rolls

Cabbage Rolls (aka Stuffed Cabbage) is a common dish among Eastern Europe and Asia, and has been adopted throughout the world. With the replacement of growing poppies with cash crops in Asia, Hmong farmers have been cultivating cabbage for 30+ years now. According to my mother, who experienced first-hand the cultivation of cabbage in Laos, Hmong people were familiar with and ate cabbage but they didn’t learn to make cabbage rolls until arrival in the U.S. I assume that they adopted this recipe from the Chinese seeing as it is a mixture of Chinese Stuffed Cabbage and Egg Rolls.

This delectable dish consists of wrapping various ingredients inside of a leaf of cabbage. It is a very healthy alternative to egg rolls. Cabbage rolls can be cooked in many different ways such as steamed, simmered, or baked. In this blog post, I will be showing you know to make steamed cabbage rolls with a simple stuffing, similar to that of egg rolls. Let’s get started, shall we?

Meet the Main Ingredients

cabbage leaves
ingredients for filling

Ingredients List:

Preparation

Cabbage Leaves:

cabbage preparation

  1. Boil a pot of water
  2. Cook cabbage leaves in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until soft
  3. Drain cabbage leaves and soak in cold water to cool down
Filling:

filling preparation

  1. Soak cellophane noodles in hot water for 10-15 minutes until soft
  2. Drain noodles and cut into 2 inches length
  3. Mix noodles with ground pork, minced onion, and salt
Wrapping:
    1. Take a cabbage leaf and lay it flat
    2. Scoop two spoonful of filling into cabbage leaf
    3. Roll cabbage leaf in the same way as you do an egg roll (see photos below)

wrapping cabbage roll

wrapping cabbage roll
wrapping cabbage roll
wrapping cabbage roll

Cooking Instructions

cooking cabbage rolls

  1. Place wrapped cabbage rolls into steamer and cover with lid
  2. Cook on stove for approximately 20 minutes or until filling is fully cooked

Presentation: Steamed Cabbage Rolls

finished cabbage rolls

  • Allow cabbage rolls to cool down
  • Serve with pepper sauce (or any sauce of your choice)
  • Enjoy! 🙂

Alternatives

  • Are you a vegan? Substitute ground pork with tofu or various veggies
  • Replace cellophane noodles with brown rice
  • Try baking the cabbage rolls instead of steaming
  • Try other veggies such as carrots or celery

Fish Dish: Boiled Tilapia w/ Herbs and Veggies

Hunting and gathering have always been basic functions of traditional Hmong culture. Fishing was always an available source of food and fish were abundant in supply. Many traditional Hmong dishes which incorporate fish are adopted from geological locations of residence such as Laos, Thailand, China, and Vietnam. Nowadays, in modern Hmong culture, fishing is less of a necessity as we can purchase fish from grocers. But the ingredients of this delicious dish remain (for the most part) the same as well as the flavor.

For as long as I can remember, my mom has always made boiled Tilapia at least once every few weeks for my dad. This dish is probably one of my dad’s favorites. It’s extremely nutritious and you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to make. The fresh herbs and vegetables assist in bringing out an amazingly rich taste and aroma. Let’s get started, shall we?

Meet the Main Ingredients

fresh ingredients   tilapia

Ingredients List:

Preparation

preparation

  1. Chop up the vegetables and herbs.
  2. Cut the Tilapia fish into four pieces as show in the photo above.

Let’s get cooking!

cooking

Cooking Instructions:
  1. Put 5 cups of water into cooking pot.
  2. Put the pot on the stove – high heat. 
  3. Add the cut up Tilapia fish to the pot.
  4. Add the Thai chili peppers and lemon grass.
  5. Bring the pot to a boil.
  6. Add salt.
  7. Add the rest of the vegetables and herbs.
  8. Cook for a total of 30 minutes or until fish is fully cooked.

Presentation: Boiled Tilapia w/ herbs and veggies

cooked fish

  • Take the pieces of Tilapia fish out from the pot and assemble them on a plate.
  • Pour the fish broth over the fish.
  • Spoon the herbs and vegetables over the fish as pictured above.

*Best served with a side of sticky rice.

Alternative: Try adding tomatoes for a kick of flavor 🙂

Enjoy!

Welcome the Spring Season with Light & Healthy Fresh Spring Rolls

The history of spring rolls comes from cultures all over the world. But it’s not a native food of the Hmong people. It was adopted from eastern and southern Asian cultures. This light, delicious, and healthy cuisine is a favorite among many – probably because there are no set ingredients that you MUST use. For example, iowagirleats.com uses tofu and avocado. And there’s even a whole category of fried spring rolls as seen in norecipes.com. So I want to share with you how I like to make my fresh spring rolls.

Meet the Main Ingredients

ingredients

These ingredients will go inside the spring rolls.

vermicelli noodles packaging

This is the kind of vermicelli noodles that I will be using.

rice paper

And this is the kind of rice paper that I will be using. You can find this and the vermicelli noodles at your local Asian super market.

Step 1: Preparation

  • Vermicelli Noodles
    • Cook in boiling water – 15 minutes
    • Rinse with cold water
    • Allow noodles to drain
  • Shred vegetables (except cilantro)
  • Prepare shrimp – I’m using pre-cooked shrimp
  • Bowl of warm sink water (Used to soak rice paper)
  • Flat surface to roll spring rolls on
    • I used a cutting board wrapped in foil

Step 2: Let’s Get Rolling

soak rice paper
1. Soak rice paper in warm water for 5-10 seconds.

lay rice paper down
2. Lay rice paper on prepared surface.

ingredients on rice paper
3. Arrange ingredients in middle of rice paper.

fold rice paper sides in
4. Fold the two sides of the rice paper in.

fold rice paper bottom up
5. Fold bottom  side (closest to you) of rice paper up.

rolled up spring roll
6. Roll rice paper away from you until rolled up completely.

Step 3: Time to Get Saucy

  • Ingredients
    • 1 part chunky peanut butter
    • 2 part hoisin sauce
  • Instructions:
    • Microwave peanut butter for 10 seconds till soft and stir in with hoisin sauce.

Ta-Da! Completed Fresh Spring Rolls!

spring rolls

Ideas for Alternatives/Substitutions

  • Go vegan – substitute it with tofu or eliminate the shrimp completely
  • Don’t like shrimp? Try ground pork or grilled chicken
  • Want more variety of veggies? How about spinach, basil, green onion, celery, or mint?
  • Try using bean thread noodles or rice noodles as an alternative

I’d like to know what ingredients you would or have put in your spring rolls! Please comment them below.

Chicken Soup for the Soul

Boiled Chicken is a traditional hearty and healthy Hmong recipe. What makes it unique is the incorporation of a farm-fresh whole chicken and unique Hmong herbs. This dish has been a significant part of Hmong culture for many years. Additionally, it’s essential to Hmong women’s postpartum diet as MaiBao describes in her blog.

WHFoods states that boiled chicken is a great source of protein which helps prevent bone loss and B vitamins for energy metabolism. The homemade broth from the boiled chicken provides great nutritional value as described in Kitchen Stewardship.

I will be showing you two different nutritional dishes that can be derived from boiled chicken:

  1. Seasoned Boiled Chicken served with rice – 6-8 servings
  2. Pho Banh No (Fawm Npab Nauj) – Single serving

Meet the main ingredients:

chicken

I am using a store bought, whole chicken that is technically “farm-fresh” from a Hmong farm in Mosinee, WI (found at my parent’s local Hmong grocery store). You could probably find something similar at your local Asian supermarket.

rice noodles

This is a special kind of rice noodles used specifically for Pho Banh No (also from my parent’s Hmong grocery store). You can probably also find this at your local Asian supermarket. I will be using approximately 1 cup for one serving.

Now for a general overview of how to make Boiled Chicken and Pho Banh No…

Boiled Chicken:

chicken and herbs

  1. Clean and gut chicken
  2. Put chicken into pot
  3. Add water until chicken is completely submerged
  4. Put on stove and bring to a boil
  5. Add lemon grass and optional herbs
  6. Boil until chicken is cooked (approx. 20-30 mins)
  7. Take chicken out of pot and chop into pieces – (Save broth for the Pho Banh No)
  8. Add 1 tsp salt to chicken broth
  9. Season chicken pieces with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper
  10. Serve with rice

cooked chicken

Final - Boiled Chicken

Pho Banh No:

  1. Soak noodles in hot sink water for 15-20 minutes
  2. Drain noodles
  3. Put one cup of noodles into a bowl
  4. Pour hot broth over noodles
  5. Add black pepper and green onion for seasoning

Preparing noodles

noodles - green onion

And there you have it, two simple and healthy dishes made from one pot of boiled chicken. Bon appetit!

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