Cooking from the Heart

Cooking from the Heart: The Hmong Kitchen in America

SAMI SCRIPTER
SHENG YANG
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 296
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv3kj
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  • Book Info
    Cooking from the Heart
    Book Description:

    Simple, earthy, fiery, and fresh, Hmong food is an exciting but still little-known South Asian cuisine. Cooking from the Heart is the first cookbook to clearly set out Sami Scripter and Sheng Yang have gathered more than 100 recipes, illustrated them with color photos, and provided descriptions of unusual ingredients and cooking techniques._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6801-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvii)
  5. Welcome to Our Dinner Gathering
    (pp. 1-14)

    PEOPLE UNFAMILIAR WITH HMONG COOKING AND CUSTOMS might be overwhelmed when they experience a modern Hmong dinner gathering for the first time. Welcome to a Hmong home! Step inside the front door. Slip off your shoes and add them to the pile of oxfords, flip-flops, tennis shoes, and pumps. Accept a warm, respectful greeting and shake hands with your host.

    A cloth-covered table stretches the length of the living room, its top barely visible under the profusion of serving dishes. Some bowls are heaped with steaming, jasmine-scented white rice. Others hold Ziploc packets of sweet, sticky purple rice. Platters spill...

  6. In a Hmong Kitchen
    (pp. 17-43)

    From a Hmong point of view, food should contribute to a healthy balance of body and spirit. Some foods make the body warm and some serve to cool the body. Eating all of an animal corresponds to maintaining the wholeness of body and spirit. The goal is to eat what helps a person maintain a balance with nature and spiritual powers. Lots of rice, a wide variety and generous quantity of fresh, organic herbs and vegetables, fish, and sparing amounts of meat and seasonings comprise a typical old-fashioned Hmong diet. When the Hmong lived in Laos, that kind of diet,...

  7. LET’S EAT

    • Rice
      (pp. 49-66)

      RICE IS SO IMPORTANT TO Hmong identity that they say, “To be Hmong is to eat rice.” A large bowl of steaming rice is the centerpiece of every Hmong meal. Many varieties of rice are available in Asian grocery stores, and Hmong cooks enjoy using several kinds. Each variety has a different flavor and different cooking characteristics.

      Jasmine rice is a fragrant, medium-to long-grain rice that cooks into tender, relatively dry, easily separated grains. Although it is grown in the United States, most of what is sold in Asian grocery stores is imported from Thailand. Jasmine rice is translucent prior...

    • Vegetables and Herbs
      (pp. 69-90)

      VEGETABLES ARE THE SOUL OF Hmong cuisine. Hmong cooks use a fabulous variety: leafy greens of all kinds, squashes, melons, pods, shoots, tendrils, tubers, mushrooms, roots, and seeds. Only fresh, good-looking vegetables appear in Hmong dishes. Menus are often decided upon by which vegetables are available and in their prime. In Laos, Hmong families raised all of their own vegetables. In America, many Hmong families make a living by growing, harvesting, and selling vegetables at farmers’ markets. So strong is the desire to be connected to the land and growing things that even Hmong professionals make space for a backyard...

    • Chicken
      (pp. 93-116)

      CHICKENS FIGURE PROMINENTLY IN the Hmong way of life. According to the anthropologist Dr. Dia Cha, they are considered one of the “eight most important spirits in the Hmong cultural tradition” (yim tus tswv dab nyob hauv Hmoob kev cai dab qhuas). Chickens play a role in many traditional Hmong practices. They help heal the sick, divine providence, and guarantee good fortune. A Hmong shaman may employ a chicken’s spirit to assist in dealings with the otherworld. Chickens have an important part in birth, soul-calling, naming, marriage, and death rituals. Ask any Hmong person, old or young, what their favorite...

    • Eggs
      (pp. 119-128)

      TO THE HMONG, a warm, smooth egg just plucked from a chicken’s nest is much more than a cooking ingredient. Eggs have a special place in Hmong cultural traditions. They figure in marriage negotiations and ceremonies, naming ceremonies, and funeral rituals. Eggs signify good fortune, and they are used to symbolically feed ancestral spirits. Eggs also serve as a diagnostic tool when a person is ill. Hmong people eat freshly laid eggs and ones that have a partly formed “baby chicken” inside. Chicken soup sometimes includes the not-yet-laid eggs from inside the chicken. They bob around in the broth, adding...

    • Pork
      (pp. 131-150)

      PORK IS THE FOOD that the Hmong most closely associate with prosperity. Numerous dishes featuring pork are eaten during New Year’s celebrations as a way to ensure success and wealth in the coming year. A whole roasted pig is served at marriage rites, to signify a rich life for the bridal couple. The menus for most traditional rituals and big celebrations include pork. Dishes featuring pork are favorites for many Hmong Americans.

      In the mountains of Laos, a pig would be processed, cooked, and eaten right after butchering, because there was no refrigeration to keep the meat fresh. Many of...

    • Beef and Water Buffalo
      (pp. 153-174)

      FEW HMONG PEOPLE TASTED Western-style beef before coming to the United States, because the only red meat readily available or affordable in Laos besides wild game was water buffalo. Therefore, few traditional recipes call for beef. Water buffalo or beef was reserved for funerals and special occasions, when the sacrifice of a cow was desired. At these big events the animal would be killed, butchered, cooked, and consumed all in one day, usually providing food for a large group of guests. Such a crowd required that preparation be kept to a minimum. Often the meat was simply boiled.

      In the...

    • Color plate section
      (pp. None)
    • Fish and Game
      (pp. 177-204)

      ELDER PHOUA HER, a shaman and medicine woman, from Suisun City, California, was born in a Laotian village located in the middle of a big jungle calledNaj Xaab. She remembers:

      When I was a young girl, I walked with my parents to our plantations. Our mountains were very beautiful. I saw all kinds of birds, pheasants, squirrels, and monkeys that were calling and playing along the side of the road. There were many edible wild berries and plants. The streams were very fresh and the water tasted delicious. There were lots of fishes. The fishes that lived in the...

    • Beverages and Desserts
      (pp. 207-231)

      GUESTS TO A HMONG AMERICAN HOME are always offered something to eat and drink. Nowadays the beverage is likely to be an American or Asian soft drink, a sweet coffee beverage, or a bottle of water. In Laotian villages, purchased beverages were not always an option. To quench thirst, everyone drank water carried from a nearby stream. At meals, people drank the liquids in which meat and vegetables were cooked. Teas brewed from a variety of healthgiving plant material were common beverages for adults. Men drank homemade beer and wine, and occasionally hard liquor. When the war in Southeast Asia...

    • Cooking for a Crowd
      (pp. 235-267)

      TO SOME DEGREE, EVERY HMONG American faces an identity crisis. The elderly worry that their children and grandchildren will not learn or employ the traditional practices necessary for the health of the collective “Hmong soul” (ntsuj plig Hmoob). Younger Hmong people struggle to understand who they are and how they fit in to both Hmong culture and American culture. While some Hmong people cling adamantly to the traditional ways, others embrace Christianity, Western health care, and new family structures and speak English almost exclusively. Some people still “cook Hmong” at home every day, while others opt for mainstream American dishes....

  8. Index
    (pp. 268-276)
  9. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-278)