The Culinary Campfire
A campfire with a cooking grate over the top of it

Inspired Food for the Great Outdoors

It’s easy to elevate your outdoor cooking with these inspired recipes from award-winning Minnesota chef Yia Vang. Get the recipes here, then get camping and cooking.

Yia Vang stands smiling, arms crossed, under a large outdoor tent with smoke from a cooking fire

Get your fire-roasted food fix with Minnesota chef Yia Vang as he cooks up flavorful dishes in campgrounds and parks around the state. While complex in flavor, the recipes are created with simple ingredients and a desire to be shared with friends and family.

Introducing Chef Vang

Yia Vang is considered a trailblazer in bringing Hmong cuisine to the national table. Born in a Thai refugee camp, his family immigrated to the Midwest where he grew up inspired by the joy of large family meals. Today he’s passionate about passing on Hmong stories and traditions through the meals he creates.

Yia is co-owner of the popular Union Hmong Kitchen pop-up and soon-to-open Vinai, his first brick-and-mortar restaurant in Minneapolis. In 2020, the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen said his recipes were some of the tastiest they’d tried all year.

Recipes in Action

Yia Vang adding fresh scallions on top of the duck eggs

Yia Vang adding fresh scallions on top of the duck eggs to complete his Smoked Pork Belly Hash in Akeley, Minnesota.

Smoked Pork Belly hash with grilled vegetables and duck eggs

"The essence of camping for me is that feeling of being outside but also getting to cook outside."

In this video Minnesota chef Yia Vang travels to Akeley Minnesota where he scores a lakeside campsite as the perfect setting to take us through his Smoked Pork Belly Hash. Is there any better way to rise and shine in the great outdoors?

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Yia Vang uses tongs to place par-cooked potato slices next to next to zucchini squash over a hot clay pot

Yia Vang grilling potato "cowboy chips" and zucchini squash to compliment his Coffee Rub Ribeye at McCarthy Beach State Park

Coffee Rub Ribeye with Cowboy Chips and Grilled vegetables

"You cook with all of your senses. This wind is hitting me and I can smell that coffee rub. I can hear it sizzling."

Minnesota chef Yia Vang heads to McCarthy Beach State Park (home to a beach that was voted one of the most beautiful beaches in America) to show us how coffee isn’t just for breakfast anymore. He also shares the most common mistake people make when grilling zucchini and squash. Can you guess what it is?

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Yia Vang adding salt to Hmong fried rice

Yia Vang adds salt, pepper, soy sauce and sesame oil to his Hmong Fried Rice, to pair with his Grilled Rainbow Trout and Herbed Salad

Grilled Rainbow Trout with Herbed Salad and Fried Rice

"For me there’s always this excitement when we can go camping and really just use what’s around us in nature and just throw it on the fire."

Minnesota chef Yia Vang is at True North Basecamp in Crosby Minnesota to show how easy it is to grill your daily catch, top it with a fragrant herbed salad of cilantro, dill, thai basil, mint and scallions and serve with a side of Hmong fried rice, which was one of the first things he learned how to cook at home.

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Chef Yia Vang stands at a table in a campground facing a clay pot grill with roasting jalapeños on its surface

Yia Vang roasts jalapeño peppers over a clay pot grill to prepare his Swordfish Tacos with Jalapeño Crema Slaw recipe

Swordfish Tacos with Jalapeño Crema Slaw

"When my dad set out to do a bonfire, it wasn't just a recreational thing. He was actually preparing dinner."

Cooking over an open fire is the core of what chef Yia Vang believes in, and how he learned to cook. Here he travels to beautiful Lebanon Hills Regional Campground, just south of the Twin Cities, to show us how to make these perfectly spiced swordfish tacos, a dish he describes as “very fun.” Let’s go.

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Chef Yia Vang pours homemade vinaigrette dressing on prepared kale salad as a side dish to his wood-fired Hilltribe Chicken dish

Kale salad with sweet sesame tamarind vinaigrette complements the smoky flavors of chef Yia Vang's wood-fired Hilltribe Chicken

Hilltribe Chicken with Kale Salad & Lemongrass Ginger Sauce

"We call this Hilltribe Chicken because...the Hmong people originally were from the hills of Laos and the hills of Thailand and the hills of Vietnam."

In an homage to Hmong people and culture, chef Yia Vang sets up camp kitchen in Chester Woods Park near Rochester to prepare this traditional chicken dish. From the fire-roasted spice blend for the chicken to the sweet vinaigrette for the salad, it’s full-on flavor while easy to prepare. Let’s take a look.

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Chef Yia Vang prepares Tiger Bite Sauce to be paired with Grilled Pork Coppa over an open flame at Boom Island Park

Chef Yia Vang prepares Tiger Bite Sauce to be paired with Grilled Pork Coppa over an open flame at Boom Island Park

Grilled Pork Coppa with Tiger Bite Sauce & Sticky Rice

"When it comes to Hmong food, there's always four different elements on our dinner table."

If you shared a meal at the home of chef Yia Vang’s mother, you’d enjoy a protein, rice, a vegetable and hot sauce. In this video Vang heads to Boom Island Park in Minneapolis to share, of several things, his family’s Tiger Bite hot sauce recipe with us. Every Hmong family has their own recipe and this one, says Vang, is THE ONE to beat. Let’s dive in.

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