Tshaib Plab? Kuv Thiab!
Food is an essential part of life and culture and by extension, of learning a language. Understanding how to talk about food is practical; it allows you to enjoy yourself, sampling new treats and finding soon-to-be old favorites. Food is also an important part of any community; for nearly every culture in the world, the act of eating and drinking together is an crucial part of ritual practice, a way to celebrate and mourn, make introductions and say goodbye. At the risk of being dramatic, food is also one of the easiest and most important ways to understand similarities and differences between your own culture and the culture you’ve chosen to study. In some ways, we all eat and drink in the same way, but in other ways, the food that we eat can tell us a truly incredible amount about what a culture values, where they come from, and where they’re going. This page will act as a primer to learn how to talk about food in Hmong: not just the names for the foods themselves, but also the ways you might prepare it and, ultimately, some information about the most important roles that food plays in Hmong culture. So, take a step back, get yourself a snack, and take a look! I promise the first bite of food you’ve successfully ordered in Hmong will make all the hours of study worth it.
First, let’s introduce you to some basics: fruits and vegetables. Study the flashcards below and, when you think you’ve got a handle on it, test your knowledge by dragging each term to the appropriate space. Once you’re satisfied, move on to the next activity!
For as much as we all love our fruits and veggies, they’re incomplete without an understanding of how to prepare them. In the two activities below, you’ll have a chance to learn some common verbs you might use in the kitchen. Once you think you have a good handle on them, go ahead and try out the test! As you work, see if you can think of which common Hmong dishes might use each of the verbs. We’ll get to those later! 🙂
Now that you’re an expert on how to prepare some basics, it’s time to turn our attention to the centerpiece of many Hmong dishes: meat. Use the game below to explore some of the most common meats featured in Hmong food. Match each picture to unlock the Hmong translation of the word. Remember, the Hmong word for meat is “nqaij”, so if you ever get stuck, referring to a meat as “nqaij ___”, with the blank being the name of the animal, is almost always correct!