Located on the northeast corner of Belmont and Temperance Avenues in Sunnyside, Malee’s Kitchen is a restaurant that has quickly become a local gem. What started as a food truck in 2020 has now blossomed into a full-fledged restaurant, named after its owner, Malee Vang (pronounced Mah-Lee). Malee’s Kitchen specializes in serving show-stoppingly delicious Hmong Street Food, providing a unique and exciting culinary experience.
Living in Central California offers a multitude of gastronomic delights, and Malee’s Kitchen adds to the richness and diversity of our local food landscape. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of trying Hmong dishes, Malee’s Kitchen is the perfect place to begin your journey exploring this vibrant and boldly-flavored cuisine.
To truly appreciate the origins and flavors of Hmong dishes, it’s essential to delve into the history of the Hmong people. Fresno, CA, along with St. Paul, Minnesota, has one of the largest Hmong populations in the United States. These resilient individuals settled primarily in just five major cities—St. Paul, Fresno, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Wausau, Wisconsin—after their courageous involvement in the “Secret War.” Originally hailing from Southern China, the Hmong people migrated to Laos to escape communism and ultimately ended up an incredible ally and taking on great risks to aid US during the Vietnam War.
As a result of their migration, their cuisine incorporates influences from neighboring countries like Laos, Thailand, and other Asian cultures. You’ll find flavors and dishes that have become beloved staples in Hmong restaurants, such as the popular Vietnamese Pho.
Hmong cooking relies on a variety of distinctive ingredients, including chilies, cilantro, ginger, green onion, garlic, fish sauce, lemongrass, oyster sauce and tamarind. Rice accompanies every meal, and a hot chili sauce, made with Thai chilies, garlic, cilantro, and salt, adds an extra kick to each meal. (Note: a word to the wise – if you’re new to Hmong cuisine, and even if you typically love spicy foods – go easy on the sauce until you’re familiar with the spice level. When they say it’s hot chili sauce, they mean it.)
Now that you have a glimpse into the world of Hmong cuisine, let’s explore the menu at Malee’s Kitchen. One of their signature dishes is the Papaya Salad—a delightful blend of shredded papaya, sliced Thai eggplants, and diced tomatoes tossed in a sweet sauce infused with lemon and homemade tamarind-papaya sauce. This refreshing salad can be prepared with a spicy kick or without spice, catering to various preferences.
Malee’s Kitchen also offers other delectable options like the Cucumber Salad, Tum Pho (chilled pho noodles, boiled cabbage, meatballs, and shrimp in a sweet sauce with lemon and tamarind-papaya sauce), and Tum Khao Poon (made with vermicelli noodles instead). While these noodle dishes are traditionally spicy, they can be customized to suit your desired level of heat as well.
When it comes to appetizers, Malee’s Kitchen doesn’t disappoint. Indulge in their crispy pork egg rolls, served with house-made sweet chili or hot chili sauce, and the steam rolls, a steamed variation of the egg rolls, provide a unique twist. For a refreshing and lighter option, try their cold spring rolls with shrimp. And don’t forget about the meatballs—served on a stick and deep-fried, they’re unique and a true delight.
If you’re in the mood for heartier fare, Malee’s Kitchen has you covered with their rice and meat dishes. Choose from a selection of protein mains, such as Hmong-style sausage, pork belly, steamed fish, or fried chicken, served alongside fragrant rice. And for those seeking warmth and comfort during colder months, their hot soups are a perfect choice.
Malee’s Kitchen offers a casual dining experience with both indoor and patio seating, allowing you to enjoy your meal in a relaxed atmosphere. Additionally, if you’re planning a special event or gathering, Malee’s Kitchen provides catering services with advance notice. I recently had the pleasure of using their catering for an event, and not only did everyone rave about the delicious food, but the service was also exceptional.
So, whether you’re a local resident or a visitor passing through Central California, I encourage you to take a culinary journey into Hmong culture and cuisine by visiting Malee’s Kitchen. By trying their mouthwatering dishes, you not only support a local business but also gain a deeper appreciation for the flavors and traditions that make Hmong cuisine so unique. Step out of your culinary comfort zone and savor the vibrant spices, fresh ingredients, and rich heritage that Malee’s Kitchen has to offer. Happy eating!
Malee’s Kitchen is located at 7064 E. Belmont, Suite B in Fresno and is open from 9am to 9pm every day of the week. You can also order food for pick up or delivery via their website and/or delivery partners.
FIND MALEE’S KITCHEN
Address: 7064 E Belmont Ave B, Fresno, CA 93737
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