Bonnie Vue Wants to Teach You About Hmong Culture
The Columbus resident and new mom brings to life her Southeast Asian culture and cooking with humor and honesty.
One of the first things I noticed when visiting Bonnie Vue’s Instagram page—besides pictures of delicious food and her adorable newborn son—was her bio. “How to be a NYAB $10k,” reads the last line. Vue laughs when I tell her I tried to figure out what it meant through a Google search and came up empty-handed. She’s happy to explain.
“[NYAB] means daughter-in-law. In [Hmong] society, we have a dowry when we get married, and we have a bride price,” says Vue, who lives in Columbus. “Usually, this price is $5,000. But $10,000 … she must be so great that she’s worth 10 grand. She better know how to cook and clean and know how to speak the language and all the culture.”
Vue says it started as a joke. She is quick to mention that she does not think she’s a NYAB $10k, but rather wants to show others how to achieve the coveted, if slightly tongue-in-cheek, title. Sometimes one of her sisters will phone her and says she’s calling the “$10,000 hotline” because she needs help impressing her mother-in-law. Of course, when it comes to impressing her own mother, Vue says it’s a bit trickier.
Keep scrolling for a recipe from Bonnie Vue below.
“The other day she came in to visit, and I made steamed pork buns. She asked me to make her some, so I did, and all she could tell me was how ugly they were, and they didn’t look like that at the store,” Vue says, laughing.
The anecdote nicely encapsulates Vue’s approach on social media, exploring her family and culture with honesty and humor, including a controversial concept like dowries. On her social media accounts, you might find Vue filming her husband’s reaction to one of her dishes, showing you what was in her own dowry, or recounting the time her mom helped her slaughter and prepare six chickens for a visit from Vue’s in-laws.
Vue grew up in Akron and began working in the kitchen from a young age, helping her mom and aunts prepare food for family gatherings, weddings and funerals. She compares it to working in a restaurant and starting at the bottom as a dishwasher. Except in Vue’s case, she hated washing dishes. So rather than gathering around the sink with the girls her age, she joined “the old ladies” and learned how to prepare traditional Hmong dishes.
The Hmong are an ethnic group in Southeast Asia. Vue says Hmong cuisine shares many similarities with Thai food. Curry paste, coconut milk, fish sauce, white rice, MSG, Thai chile peppers and green onions are all staples in Vue’s pantry.
Vue’s parents came to the United States separately as refugees from Laos after the Vietnam War. Vue says she wants to use social media to teach others about Hmong culture and to create a connection between first-generation Americans like herself and their parents. For Vue, it’s about so much more than the food she prepares.
“A lot of people my age don’t know how to speak [the] language, or they don’t understand why our parents do the things they do,” says Vue, who turned 30 this year. “I think that when you’re younger, you think your parents are crazy, and they expect the world out of you. But really, our parents were refugees, and they came to this country without speaking the language, and they were just really afraid, too.”
She goes on to add, “I want to continue to bridge the gap between our Hmong refugee parents and the Hmong Americans raised here. As a dying culture and language, I want to preserve it as much as possible.”
Simple Hmong Egg Rolls with Dipping Sauce
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes
Servings: 25 egg rolls
For egg rolls:
- 4 bunches dried mung bean vermicelli noodles
- 1 pound raw ground chicken
- 5 cups shredded green cabbage (one small cabbage)
- 1 cup green onions, chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 3 eggs
- 25 egg roll wrappers
- Oil of choice for frying
For dipping sauce:
- 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup peanuts, crushed
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1/2 a lime, juiced
- 1 cup water
- 2 Thai chile peppers, finely chopped (optional for spice)
In a small bowl, prepare the dipping sauce by combining all ingredients. Mix well and set aside.
Add hot tap water to the dried mung bean vermicelli noodles. Allow to sit for 10–15 minutes while preparing the other ingredients.
In a large mixing bowl, add the chicken, cabbage, green onions and salt.
Strain the noodles. Using kitchen shears, roughly cut the noodles in various lengths. (About 5 snips should do the trick—not too short.) Add noodles to the large mixing bowl.
Add 2 eggs to chicken and noodle mixture. For the third egg, separate the egg white and add it to the mixing bowl. Mix well. Lightly beat the egg yolk and reserve for later.
Lay 1 egg roll wrapper diagonally on a flat surface. Place 2–3 tablespoons of filling in the center of the wrapper.
Fold the bottom corner over the filling and tuck underneath. Roll tightly toward the center, then fold in the sides. Roll again, then brush the last flap lightly with beaten egg yolk and roll to seal. Repeat with remaining egg rolls.
In a wok or frying pan, add the oil and fry the egg rolls in batches on medium heat until golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate or wire rack to cool as you fry the rest. Serve immediately with dipping sauce.