Mee Yang and Alisa Yang are making a name for themselves at Anchorage’s Pena Park Market with their food vendor stall, Fresh Cooking. Every weekend, the father-daughter duo wakes up early to set up their stand and sell their delicious dishes to the community. Along with more than a dozen other vendors, they create a vibrant marketplace for fresh produce, art, and prepared foods.
The Pena Park Market, also known as the Hmong Market, was established in 2017 by the Hmong community in Anchorage. Descendants of an Indigenous group from East and Southeast Asia, Hmong Americans immigrated to the US in the 1970s as refugees. Today, there are more than 3,500 Hmong people living in Anchorage, and the community continues to grow.
For Mee Yang, the market provides a sense of community for Hmong people like herself. It allows them to come together, exchange their foods, and buy fresh vegetables and greens. The market not only benefits the Hmong community but also attracts tourists and locals who enjoy the diverse and flavorful cuisine on offer.
The market has grown significantly over the years and now reaches its maximum capacity. With about 15 vendors in total, including 10 food vendors, there is a wide range of dishes available. Pork belly with chili sauce, fresh papaya salads, and even birria tacos are among the crowd favorites. The number of food vendors has doubled since last year, with vendors from other farmers’ markets also joining in.
Fresh Cooking’s best-selling dish is the papaya salad, a labor-intensive but delicious dish. George Yang, Mee Yang’s father, learned to make it from a woman in Thailand in 1997. He makes the salads to order, presenting each ingredient to the customer before mixing them all together. On a busy day, he can make over 100 of these salads.
Despite its increasing popularity, the market is still somewhat of a hidden gem. Mee Yang mentions that there are still many people who don’t know about it. However, with updates and information available on the market’s Facebook page, more people are discovering this culinary treasure.
The Pena Park Market operates every weekend from May until the end of September, providing the community with an opportunity to engage in an annual summer tradition. It has become an essential gathering place for the Hmong community in Anchorage, offering a taste of home and a sense of belonging.