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Traditional Hmong Cooking Reflects Rural Culture – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

By Karen J. Coates / Photo by Jerry Redfern
Feb. 23, 2010
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

©2010 Jerry RedfernIt’s a nippy night in Wausau with snow crunching beneath boots and cold air prickling skin. Not a hint of green, not this time of year. But I enter Ka Xiong’s home, and suddenly winter ends. Her furnace is attuned to the tropics, and four generations of family help kindle the warmth.

I’ve come to ask Xiong about Hmong elders and their food. She guides me to the basement, where last summer’s bounty is stashed amid tables and chairs, boxes and batteries, a cooking pot, a water heater and an empty aquarium.

There, in the corner, is a heap of pumpkins, cucumbers and three types of squash – tan, green and bumpy orange. Ginger grows high on the windowsill, and the room exudes green – herbs to boil with chicken, others to mend an ailing bladder, and a plant that resembles taro with big, fanning leaves.

“My parents passed it on to me and said it’s a good medicine to have in the house,” says 62-year-old Xiong, who left a refugee camp in Thailand in 1993, bound for Wisconsin. READ MORE