These Shaman bells are used in Hmong spiritual rituals. I am not Shaman so I am not familiar with the rituals. I only know that they are used but I have no idea how and what for. Another term for the spirit calling is “jingle bells,” or in Hmong, Hu Plig (pronounced, who-plee).
I know it’s weird to eat herbs that I don’t even know the names of but trust because my parents have always eaten them. As a kid, I would eat the herbed chicken soup Mom made without ever wondering what the herbs were. I just remembered it tasted good.
I still don’t know what the herbs are called…except for maybe the herb farthest on the right. I think that one is called Angelica. To make this dish, use a sprig of each of the different herbs in the photo except for the Angelica. Just use about an inch tip of that one.
Boil the herbs with a about a pound of cubed chicken in water. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Mom used to make this with organic whole chicken freshly killed…most the time freshly killed but frozen. Since I don’t kill my own chicken, and will never, I just buy the breasts from the local grocery store.
There is a really calm effect from this soup. Once, when I was working and running around with so much going on, I sat down to this soup and instantly, like a light switch, I was calmed. Relaxed. That’s when I realized this soup was not just any soup to fill my tummy. It has some power to it. Not enough to do anything crazy but enough to calm my senses. This soup is especially good during cold winters and when I’m feeling a cold coming.
I haven’t eaten duck eggs for maybe almost 15 years now. Maybe longer. I was never afraid to eat them. Mom made them look so good and tasty and that’s how I’ve remembered them. It was a delicacy. Mom seemed to only buy them when she had extra money. Sometimes we had to share them.
A couple of months ago I saw duck eggs at the Asian market and decided to buy a couple for my daughters to try. Their reaction was funny. Funny to me. They were actually freaked out that I would even consider eating a duck egg. I boiled them anyway and cracked the shell. There inside was a baby duck. My girls screamed and refused to get a closer look. They were just grossed out, scared, and shocked.
“Mom! How could you!” My 11-year-old yelled. I don’t know. I guess times have changed.
If you’d like to see what it looks like cracked open, click here. I decided to make it a link just in case anyone gets grossed out. Warning: it is not a good sight. I happen to not think too much of it. It’s just a cooked duck egg and to me it tastes good.
Daughter in a few pieces of the Hmong traditional outfit for the Capture Your 365 daily challenge.
Enjoy these photos of our Thanksgiving brunch and dinner, and the Hmong New Year festival from last week and the weekend.
We celebrated Mom’s birthday.
I made a card (above) for her and used an old photo from her childhood and one from around 2005/07 with her wearing a moderned Hmong outfit. The inside was written with very simple words and then husband and I and the kids signed it.
Before everyone arrived, it was just Mom, Grandma, and me talking about life back in Laos and Thailand. She began by talking about the Secret War and the single file path that was crucial for survival, through the landmine they had no choice but to go through, if they wanted to get out alive. She has told me this story many times but each time, there’s a bit more detail. When she told this story again, the focus was on a family from a close by village. This family: a husband, wife, and a few kids, followed my parents and their relatives on the path, but for some reason, maybe they stepped outside the path, the bombs went off and took the husband’s arm and both his legs. Blood splattered everywhere. He was in a lot of pain and was no longer able to make the walk so was left behind to die. That was what they had to do because the communist soldiers were closing in. His wife was extremely torn.
They all came to a huge boulder and rested underneath where there was a small hiding place. While they were eating their meal for the night, the wife would call out to her husband to come join them by repeating, “Husband, come down from the top of that boulder and join us for dinner.” She was completely out of her mind. The strange thing was, when she called out, little rocks from the top of the boulder would fall down as if someone had crawled to the edge and in doing so rocks atop would slide down.
Mom then reminded me that, that was the family, when the the bombs went off, the blood splattered all over my legs. A young cousin was carrying me on her back and she and I were just a few feet in front of that family.
The conversation then turned to Mom’s memory of things I did when I was about 2 or 3 years old. Somehow we ended up talking about spirits and Grandma, who’s brought up Shaman, began talking about supernatural stuff that happened to her. All very interesting, but then everyone started showing up, and conversations about current things took over.
The photo I used to create Mom’s card was taken from this original photo:
The photo is of Mom with a few of her classmates/friends/relatives from the Catholic school she began attending at age 12. It is one of my favorite photos of her.
She is beautiful.
Here it is restored. I used Adobe Photoshop CS4 to clean it up. I am not an expert in photo restoration but I try.
Here it is with Mom colored before creating the card with it.
It was an utmost indescribable pleasure to restore it.
I ended up making that pepper sauce mentioned, here. Growing up we always had some type of pepper sauce to dip in with our food and as I got older it’s just become a norm. The pepper sauce in the photo is made of all fresh ingredients. I made quite a lot and it’s lasted me a whole week. I even gave some to my sister when she came over and she loved it!
Here is the recipe:
2 Large tomatoes
2 Garlic cloves, chopped
10 – 20 Thai peppers
1 Cup chopped scallions
1/2 Cup water
Juice from one lime
Boil the tomatoes and Thai peppers together for about 5 minutes. Drain and let cool.
Peel the skin off the tomatoes and remove any hard parts. Cut the tomatoes into small cubes. Remove the stems from the peppers and give it a rough chop.
Using a mortar and pestle, mash the peppers, garlic, and scallions together with a little
salt until well blended. Scoop into a bowl. Next, mash the tomatoes until you get the consistency you like. Then, pour it into the bowl with the peppers, garlic, and scallions. Stir to mix all the ingredients. Add the water, lime juice, a little bit of fish sauce, and a
pinch or two of sugar. Stir and you’re done.
You can use a blender in place of a mortar and pestle. Instead of 1 cup scallions, you can reduce it to about 1/4 and add 1/4 chopped cilantro and 1/4 mint (-/+ as you like). You can also make this sauce without tomatoes.
You can also download it in PDF format, here.
I received a question from a student who is doing research and wants to know about Hmong child-birthing experiences in America. Here is her question:
Hi! My name is Jasmine. I’m a student at Carleton College in Northfield, MN., studying to hopefully be a doctor one day. I’m doing a research project on multicultural medicine and writing about Hmong child-birthing experiences in America. I’m desperately in need of primary sources to back up my claim that America and Australia essentially have the same issues when it comes to accommodating for cultural needs during child-birth, but it seems that the only difference is that the problems are intensified in America for reasons that I’m still trying to gather. Would you be willing to answer to some questions about your birthing experience, if you gave birth in American hospitals?
I personally cannot answer this question because, although I am Hmong, I am not cultural when it comes to medicine. I opted for epidural for both my kids and they were both induced.
As for the famous herbed chicken diet, Mom made some because she’s semi-cultural but other than that, I pretty much ate regular food. I’m not sure how important breast feeding is (and I can’t seem to remember if it is important) but I didn’t breastfeed either of my babies due to medical reasons.
If anyone reading this blog post want to chime in on your experience, please do. I’d love to hear about it too.
Thanks for the interesting question, Jasmine. I hope that you will receive your answers.
BTW, that beautiful ethnic scarf my daughter is wearing above is from Target. It has the Hmong designs on it which I love. I found out about the scarf through one of the many forums I frequent. Here are a couple more shots of it: