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Nonstop lines for State Fair's first Hmong food vendor

Hmong Union Kitchen is located within the International Bazaar.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Hmong people have been living in Minnesota for almost 50 years. At the Minnesota State Fair, you can find vibrant textiles for sale or attend Hmong Minnesota Day, an annual showcase of traditional dance and other art. The 7th annual Hmong Minnesota Day will be Monday, Sept 5 at Dan Patch Park.

Yet out of all of the food offered at the Great Minnesota Get-Together, Hmong cuisine has never been among the trucks or permanent stalls. That is, until now.

Yia Vang is the proud owner of Hmong Union Kitchen, which is located within Graze Provisions + Libations in Minneapolis' North Loop and now also the State Fair.

"It feels great being here at the State Fair with this long line," Vang said. "I mean it started at like 10 this morning."

Vang says the fair approached him in April, offering the former Island Noodles spot within the International Bazaar.

"I remember our conversation was, 'We'll see you in 2023' and they were like, 'Oh we meant this August,' and we were like, 'Let's do it,'" Vang said.

The menu includes Hmong sausage, grilled Hilltribe chicken, and tofu served with purple sticky rice and a choice of vegetable and hot sauce. They also offer coconut lychee coladas to wash it down. Vang says getting all of the food and drinks ready is a family affair.

"My mom and my two aunts right now are at a commissary kitchen, cooking off a total of about 18,000 pounds of rice for us," Vang said, "and even in here, we have my niece and nephew, cousins."

Vang says they plan to return to the fair next year.

"We want to get bigger," he said. "We want to get more creative and my hope is that this opens a doorway for other Hmong vendors to be able to come into the state fair, too."

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