Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hmong's Golden Eggroll Version 3.0

On May 16, 2015, Hmong's Golden Egg Roll on 901 State St, La Crosse had a grand re-opening. WCG knows the date because of this mostly in Hmong video:  When WCG first moved from the badlands of Southern California to La Crosse around 8 years ago, Hmong's was in the strip mall near the Kwik Trip on La Crosse Avenue, where there's now a military recruiting place. Then it moved to what was for a short time in WCG's experience a branch of Marine Credit Union. In 2014, construction began on The Hive, a sort of privately constructed college student dorm at the 901 State location.

As part of this construction, they demolished the former credit union building (the empty spot on the lower right of the photo) where Hmong's had been. There were indications that Hmong's was going to occupy the first floor with other commercial properties, including what became and what is still a gym.

It took a long time, but eventually, a new and revitalized Hmong's with an expanded space, new aesthetics, uniforms for servers, etc., opened.

Their food seems better than what it used to be. Their specialty remains pho, which WCG has not had, but which looks quite good. Another specialty, of course, is their egg rolls, which are indeed delicious (they are far superior to those of any Chinese restaurant in the region, with a lighter wrapping closer to what one would actually get in East or Southeast Asia). They still have red curry chicken and shrimp, but they added green curry, which is sweeter and WCG likes it better. There are also a few other new dishes, and they have both Thai and Lao papaya salad (both are quite good). 

Much of the Asian food in La Crosse is frankly not exactly authentic. Case in point: the sushi at Festival is not bad, but it is produced by a company that trains non-Japanese sushi chefs to prepare their nationally pervaded food products as "Japanese" sushi; there is in all this something of the mass-produced, as well as–frankly–the for profit cynical duplicity of non-Japanese passing what they do off as "real" Japanese to a public which is none the wiser. The Burmese guy who works for them making sushi at Festival told WCG as much. 

Restaurants Sushi Pirate and Bamboo House are similar, with Chinese staff and cooks providing inferior versions of  "Japanese" or other forms of "Asian" food to midwestern consumers who don't know any better (by the way Bamboo House's horrible "Thai" dishes, in particular are extremely distant from actual Thai food, oh and they are also horrible). WCG has also been no fan of recent stabs at Indian and Thai restaurants in La Crosse, which seem to have been much the same story, with substandard food that wouldn't make the grade in an urban area with competition in the same "ethnic" markets. 

But Hmong's is different. Hmong's smacks of authenticity. Many of the dishes they sell are not traditionally Hmong from time immemorial perhaps, but a product of their real history, stretching from Laos (and perhaps elsewhere even before Laos) to Thailand, and eventually the US, from the 1960s and 1970s to the present. It is, good honest food, authentic culture; it is real. It is also very, very delicious.

To cut to some chasing, above is a plate of takeout, with their absolutely fabulous papaya salad (can't remember if this was Thai or Lao, but both are good, with young papaya, tomatoes, peanuts, cucumber, and a spicy-sweet dressing that can have as many peppers as one wants–WCG gets 3 or 4, which is pretty damned spicy), some Hmong sausage (very good), and a pork egg roll. By the way, the sausage and papaya salad go very well together, with the salad acting as a kind of relish, and both go well with the relative flavor neutrality of rice. The pictured rice is Japanese brown from home, but Hmong's white rice, either regular flaky SE Asian or sticky is just fine. The dipping sauce on the right is a combination of Filipino flavored vinegar, Suka Pinakurat, and sweet soy-based Indonesian Kecap Manis (not from Hmong's but delicious with their egg rolls).

Note that WCG should provide Hmongs' menu, but it is not online. Next time WCG will get their takeout menu and take pics.


  1. Holy hot cakes, batman! You get the papaya salad with 3-4 chili peppers! I tried it with only one pepper and couldn't eat it. Too many nociceptors in this eater's mouth!

  2. Yeah, seems like I like my food spicier than certain Indian friends. What can I say? I grew up 5-10 minutes from the Mexican border.... But I have been served food that was too spicy for me before. And 4-pepper papaya salad at Hmong's sort of does push the envelope for me.

  3. Read thru your blog, and you are generally right about the the food in Lacrosse. The place on 4th that bills itself as Hunan (something) doesn't even have or use hot pepper sauce. Try the China Inn, in the 2nd shopping center as you go down Mormon Coulee (ask for hot pepper sauce, it's free). I recommend their hot/sour soup. I've lived in LA, Santa Cruz, Seattle, Houston, Austin, Dallas, to name just a few places where the eating is flavorful, and Lacrosse has a ways to go.

    There is a pretty damn good Chinese buffet across from the mall in Onalaska, under 10 bucks for dinner, less than that for lunch (no seafood). The one near the Festival on Jackson/State Rd is ok also


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