The Hmong foodie book

illustration by Mark Stivers

I do a large amount of my shopping at the farmers’ market and spend most of my time at the Asian produce stalls. However, sometimes I’m not sure what I want to cook with the produce I find there. Luckily, local Hmong chef Sheng Yang developed a cookbook that chronicles the best recipes that Hmong culture has to offer, called Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America (see last year’s story, “Cooking from the heart” by Becky Grunewald; SN&R Arts&Culture; May 28, 2009). Even better, almost every ingredient is easily found here in Sacramento, which boasts the largest Hmong population in the United States.

However, many of these ingredients may be unfamiliar to you, such as Thai eggplant or winter melon. The cookbook guides you through them and all of the other staples of the Hmong pantry (you’ll be happy to see most of it is quite familiar, though, boasting the use of ingredients like cucumber, basil and lemongrass).

Almost all Asian markets and many farmers’ markets will have what you’re looking for, and the recipes are clear, simple, and result in new flavors and successful results. This cookbook is a staple for any serious Sacramento foodie.