By Martha Keeffe —
If you suddenly have an inexplicable craving for egg rolls, it’s probably because you’ve dined at Hmong’s Golden Egg Rolls restaurant.
“Most people around here know us for our egg rolls,” said owner and prep cook Tia Yang, who ventured into the restaurant business with her brother and sister in 2002 at the Coulee Region Business Center. “We originally made five different types of egg rolls that we sold to stores in the area. When we couldn’t keep up with the orders we decided to expand.”
In 2004, they opened their first restaurant near the Kwik Trip on West Avenue in La Crosse, choosing to include a variety of Southeast Asian dishes in their menu. “At that time there weren’t a lot of other Asian or ethnic restaurants in the area, so I like that we were able to play a part in diversifying the community,” said Yang, whose journey to La Crosse began when she left her home country of Laos. After spending time in a refugee camp in Thailand, Yang and her family landed in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, in the early 80s. “We came to La Crosse and introduced the city to foreign flavors.”
Keeping true to the traditional cooking of Southeast Asia, which is usually taught by and passed down by their mothers, Yang explained that their dishes are infused with a flavorful blend of Hmong, Thai and Vietnamese ingredients and tastes. To Yang’s delight, these menu options have been readily embraced by local customers. “Our cooking incorporates a lot of different spices, herbs and meats—like lemon grass, star anise, seafood and spicy Hmong sausage. Even though some of those flavors are foreign to a lot of people, we haven’t really had to alter our recipes to appeal to American tastes,” she said.
“Our number one seller is Pho soup, which is Vietnamese; second is the stir-fry, and you can get that spicy or mild. And then, of course, there are the egg rolls,” said Yang, who is happy that the restaurant has found a home at The Hive on State Street after faithfully serving unique cuisine to diners for the past 17 years.
What does Yang enjoy most about working at the restaurant? “I like preparing food that people can’t get anywhere else. And I like to treat our customers as our guests. I want to make them feel at home so that they want to come back again.”
Sweet Pork Belly
- ¼ cup white granulated sugar
- 2 lb. pork belly, sliced into 1” pieces
- 6 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and marinated
- ½ bulb garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1” piece galangal root, sliced thin
- 2” piece ginger root, sliced thin
- 3 kaffir lime leaves
- 2 stalks lemon grass, smashed
- 1/3 cup black soy sauce
(plus regular soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 2 tbsp. oyster sauce
- 1 tbsp. Chinese 5-spice seasoning
- 2 cups water
Prep all ingredients by slicing, smashing, boiling, peeling and/or marinating.
To smash garlic, pound in a mortar and pestle until nice and soft, almost like a paste. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a mallet. For the lemon grass, smash and peel apart slightly.
After hard-boiling the eggs, peel and marinate in soy sauce for at least two hours (or overnight).
1. Caramelize sugar (without burning) in a large pot on low heat.
2. After all the sugar has been caramelized, add pork belly and eggs.
3. Add all remaining ingredients.
4. Let simmer on low-medium heat for two hours.
• Substitute beef, duck, chicken or tofu for the pork belly.
• You can make your own homemade Chinese 5-spice seasoning by using equal parts star anise, cinnamon, cloves, fennel and Szechuan peppercorns. Pound mixture in a mortar and pestle, blend in a spice grinder, or layer between a cutting board and paper towel before smashing with a mallet.