Chef says people who ask for vegan version of his dishes have 'food privilege'

Chef says people who ask for vegan version of his dishes have 'food privilege'
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A chef has explained his fascinating reason for not creating vegan versions of his dishes - and says the Western world has privilege when it comes to food.

Speaking to HuffPost, chef Yia Vang opened up about a being Hmong American and explained that his dishes have huge cultural significance.

Hmong is a nomadic ethnic minority that primarily lived in the mountains of Laos before the Vietnam war broke out. Now, there is a large community across parts of the United States.

Because of the cultural heritage of each dish, chef Vang penned a Facebook post that was later published as an opinion piece in the Star Tribune paper in Minneapolis.

In the piece, Vang wrote: “Earlier this month I was asked if we could make our Hmong sausage into a vegan sausage.

“This question was innocent enough and I believe there was no ill will or malicious intent with this question.

“But it did get me thinking … a lot of times we (as Hmong people) are asked by mostly white diners … ‘can you make it less spicy’ or ‘can you take this or that out of this dish.’

“We've been also bombarded with comments on reviews saying ‘this place doesn't have enough vegan or vegetarian options … we won't come back.’”

He continued, writing: “As a customer of a dining establishment (especially establishments that are run by BIPOC [Black, Indigenous and people of colour] owners) ask yourself why these dishes are made in the way that it is made before you ask them to change it.”

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Vang criticised the way in which some people claim to champion cultural food but then ask for changes to be made to appease their palates because they are “uncomfortable meeting you where you are when it comes to your food”.

Having been able to reflect since the essay was published last year, Vang says stands by his comments and said diners in the United States are often unaware of their privilege when it comes to food.

He explained: “I won’t change the way I make Hmong sausage because it’s not the way my dad makes it, and it wouldn’t taste the same.

“I understand that people want what they want, and that they’re often unaware of the incredible privilege we have around food in this country.

“I’ve had enough of the narrative that runs like, ‘We support you and your brown skin, but now can I get a vegan version of that, hold the hot sauce?’”

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