Modern twist on traditional food at Hmong New Year festival

Vanessa Vasconcelos Image
Monday, January 2, 2023
Hmong New Year celebration at Fresno Fairgrounds
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Dreary skies were no match for the vibrant colors and patterns of traditional Hmong clothing that could be seen at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Dreary skies were no match for the vibrant colors and patterns of traditional Hmong clothing that could be seen at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

"Welcome to be here. It's beautiful. Even though it's a little rainy, it's beautiful weather," Long Beach resident May Vue says.

Thousands came from around the world to participate in the largest Hmong New Year festival in the country.

Four days of pageants, food, dancing, live music and the Hmong Story Legacy Vinai exhibit educated visitors about the experiences of the Hmong Community.

"To tell the story of the Hmong people who came from Laos to Thailand," Hmong Cultural New Year Celebration President Mitch Herr says. "To tell all people don't forget your past."

Organizers say the tradition spanning generations offers a great sense of cultural identity and unity.

"The best way to preserve our culture and to pass that down to our sons and daughters," Herr says. "This is the best way we can demonstrate and show them the power of who you are and your culture."

Among the sea of delicious dining options, you can find sisters Kara and Jamey Lee putting a modern twist on traditional food.

Everything on the Stick made its debut among the vendors at this year's festivities.

"We have our chicken wings, our pork belly Hmong sausage, American sausage, egg rolls, sticky rice, banana leaves," Everything on a Stick's Kara Lee says.

The best seller came as no surprise was the beef skewers.

The siblings grew up attending Hmong Cultural New Year with their family-- something that inspired the concept.

"So we want to evolve with the society and evolve with our culture," Jamey Lee says.

"I find it really hard to find a seat to eat, so I thought, 'Why don't you create food on a stick, and you walk and eat at the same time?'" Kara Lee says.

Now that they're on the business side of the celebration, they've developed a new appreciation for the organizers and vendors that made their childhood Hmong New Year experience one worth repeating.

"You come and you're here to enjoy and enjoy the food, whereas a vendor, you're here as a business," Jamey Lee says. "Your main focus is to make the customers happy and make sure they get the best product ever."

For now, 'Everything on the Stick' is available only for private events, but the hope is to open a food truck or storefront.

You can follow their journey on Facebook or Instagram.