Reporter's Notebook: Hmong Cooking

In researching Hmong cooking, I found written recipes were hard to come by since information is traditionally passed orally (in fact, the Hmong didn't have a written language until the 1950s). The Minneapolis public library and the Hmong Cultural Center both had just two publications on Hmong cooking in their collections: "Let's Eat Rice," a 54-page, spiral-bound booklet produced by a class at Metropolitan State University, and "Hmong American Food Practices, Customs, and Holidays," which is basically a short report put out by the American Diatetic Association in response to the rise in diabetes in the Hmong-American population.

The University of Minnesota press is producing Cooking from the Heart: Hmong Cooking in America, but it won't be released next spring. And I did return the other two cookbooks to the library, but they probably won't be back in circulation for a few days. In the meantime, here are a few recipes from "Let's Eat Rice": Mustard Greens and Pork Soup 1 pound mustard greens 1/4 cup ginger root pork (neck bones are best) salt to taste 1 pinch MSG

Fill pot half full of water. Add pork, salt, MSG, and ginger root in water. Simmer until pork is done. Add mustard greens. Cook unitl mustard greens are soft. Serves two.

Meat Salad 2 pounds lean ground beef 1/4 cup green onions, chopped 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped 1 lettuce leaf 1 Tablespoon salt 3 Tablespoons roast rice powder (sold in Asian markets)

Wash cilantro, onions, and lettuce. Brown ground beef in skillet. Drain grease. Add onions and cilantro and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Take mixture out of skillet and put in a large bowl. Add roast rice powder and mix well together with meat. Serve over lettuce. Makes 6 to 8 servings.