Local food lovers will recognize the name “Vinai” as the moniker of chef Yia Vang’s recently announced restaurant, slated to open at a to-be-determined-location by the end of the year.
But for Vang—and many in the Hmong community—the word “Vinai” means a lot more. From 1975 to 1992, Ban Vinai was a refugee camp in Thailand that housed up to 45,000 people, about 95 percent of them Hmong. It was where Vang was born, and where many Hmong found a sense of community and hope before emigrating to the United States.
“Vinai is more than a refuge. It’s a sense of home,” Vang explained to attendees on Tuesday at the launch party for the restaurant’s Kickstarter campaign. “With the restaurant, that’s what we want to do—make people feel at home.”