In Metro Detroit, there is no shortage of Thai restaurants. But what many people don’t know is that some of the most popular restaurants such as the Sy Thai chain are owned by Hmong people. One of these restaurants is Bangkok 96 in Dearborn Heights, which Genevieve Vang and her husband, Guy, opened more than 20 years ago. A refugee from Laos who fled her home country after the Vietnam War, Vang has garnered accolades and recognition for her Thai cooking, but only recently that she learned to embrace her Hmong heritage.
At Bangkok 96 Street Food in the Detroit Shipping Company food hall in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood, Vang cooks dishes like candied beef, one of her most popular dishes, spicy Hmong salsas, and flavorful pizzas that pay homage to her heritage. While she is showcasing her cuisine at Bangkok 96 Street Food, at age 51, she wants the next generation of Hmong chefs to take it a step further and do what she never did: “We don’t have anything, but I think it’s good to create something that belongs to Hmong people. It is a perfect time. A perfect time to open a Hmong restaurant.” Fi2W fellow Dorothy Hernandez, in partnership with WDET, sheds a light on new flavors happening in familiar places.
Feet in 2 Worlds is a project of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School that brings the work of immigrant journalists and journalists of color to public radio and online media. Follow the podcast here.