Beastly sausage, soft noodles

Illustration By Mark Stivers

The Sacramento Hmong community celebrates New Year over Thanksgiving weekend with a four-day celebration at Cal Expo. And for a newcomer, it’s sensory overload: a mélange of Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian flavors—enough to make a Pilgrim cry. The three signature dishes are khoob poob, papaya salad and Hmong sausage. The khoob poob (also spelled ghob poob, kapoon or anything vaguely similar) shows Hmong cuisine’s Thai influence: a mild, comforting curry soup with soft noodles and tender shreds of chicken. Larb (sometimes called laap) is a ground-meat salad with strong fish sauce and fresh lime flavors. The papaya salad is made to specification in a large mortar and served brown with fish sauce. The Hmong sausage is a daunting, rustic beast, but one I happily wrestled with: delicious, and very similar to the Laotian sausage at West Sac’s Vientiane restaurant. So, how great was this festival? Next year, I plan to blow off the whole turkey-day nonsense so that I have enough appetite to visit multiple times.