Galabao are a State Fair smash hit — now this chef’s mom is helping make 7,000 more

Success of Union Hmong Kitchen at the State Fair

Success of Union Hmong Kitchen at the State Fair

In the basement of the Union Hmong Kitchen on Lake Street, you’ll find a culinary creation that’s tempting the tastebuds of thousands.

“All of the dough comes out of here, and mom is the doughmaker,” says Chef Yia Vang, the restaurant’s owner-operator. “We grew up eating this. This is my mom’s recipe, we grew up. This is part of our DNA.”

Family and friends rolling, steaming, and seasoning to make the stuffed pastry called galabao that’s now attracting long lines at the Minnesota State Fair.

“Oh, that’s so good!” smiles Duncan Quinn from St. Paul. “The meat’s good, has a good doughy taste to it.”

“It’s fluffy light, but at the same time, it’s filling,” adds Peter Thor from Minneapolis.

With the traditional recipe, flattened dough is filled with a seasoned pork-noodle mixture, along with a hard-boiled egg.

The ingredients are steamed until cooked and then cooled in a giant fridge before being transported to the fairgrounds.

Since you don’t have a taste-o-meter in your computer or on your TV, we’ll let Vang explain the yummy details.

“It’s soft, it’s not dense, it’s, like, pillowy,” he notes. “And then you get that savory richness of the fat from the pork, and that hits you, the sweetness of the dough, the pork, that sweetness and savory.”

Union Hmong Kitchen started making 18,000 of the tasty treats back in June just so the restaurant could be ready in time for the start of the fair. It turns out the dish is so popular they’re expecting to run out by Friday.

The restaurant even received a “2023 Best Award” from the State Fair on Thursday.

“So, they are here from 8 in the morning to 6 at night,” Vang says. “And then they’re making about 1,200 of these a day.”

The goal? To make about 7,000 more.

And what does Vang’s mom, Pang, think about all this?

“She says they really like doing it, and she’s very happy,” Vang says, acting as her interpreter.

In fact, Vang adds, she’s not fazed by the cooking deadline at all — far from it.

“We didn’t know if anyone would like it, and now they’re really excited,” he laughs.

The new goal? 25,000 galabao.

As far as any future culinary inventions, Vang says he’s not sure right now.

He says he’s just trying to satisfy the taste buds of hungry fairgoers this year and that the restaurant’s booth will be back at the fair next year.

“This year and the State Fair, it’s still a mom taking care of her babies, her children, “ Vang says. “Now it’s not just not our family but it’s Minnesota, everybody coming to the State Fair.”