MEE Hmong Cuisine in Pagosa Springs offers a fresh take on Asian fusion

by Nick Gonzales

If you’re looking for fast-casual Asian fusion food in Pagosa Springs, you could do worse than MEE Hmong Cuisine. As Colorado’s restaurants began to reopen when coronavirus restrictions eased, it was one of the first we visited.

According to the restaurant’s website, the Hmong people are an ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. I must regretfully admit that I’m not worldly enough to confirm the authenticity of the Pagosa eatery’s food – but what I had tasted pretty great.

The first thing you notice when you go inside is the cool space the MEE occupies. In addition to some outside tables, the dining area features a decent amount of seating – even under social-distancing guidelines – and the work of a local artist adorns the walls. The restaurant has a counter-service set-up, where you order and pay for your food and then find a seat.

The highlight of my meal was actually the appetizer – Bangin’ Buns. When it comes to eating meat for the flavor of the meat itself, pork always has been (and likely always shall be) my favorite. And this pork, served gua bao-style in a steamed bun, was wonderful. Garlickly, salty, savory, and just a bit sweet, these disappeared off my plate extremely fast. I dipped them in the sauce they came with, which added both a smokiness and some spiciness. The slaw that they were served with was a little bit tangy, and shoveling it into the rolls shifted the texture and taste in that direction, though I mostly just ate it on the side.

For an entree, I got the Lah Mee Chicken, which was thinly-sliced cooled chicken served over a bed of hot, sweet rice, with salad on the side. Upon biting into a scoop of the chicken and rice, the first thing one is hit with is a blast of citrusy lime flavor from the dressing. It was refreshing and, seeing what the cook was going for, I intensified it by squeezing a lime wedge over it. The dish was also a little bit spicy, especially after I poured the sauce (which I’m pretty sure was the same kind as came with the buns) over it. The flavors surrounding the chicken contrasted nicely with the mild sweetness of the rice, and the salad – though not especially noteworthy in and of itself – contributed to the sense of freshness of the plate.

Finally, for my beverage, I ordered the Hmong Iced Tea. It was very similar to a Thai iced tea, which the menu cites as a source of inspiration, but perhaps a bit more herbal in flavor. I also appreciated that it was made with coconut milk rather than dairy, and as a result, felt a bit lighter than I think it would have otherwise.

Overall, the meal I had at MEE Hmong was a pleasant and refreshing experience, and I’ll be hard-pressed to visit Pagosa, or even pass through, without dropping by in the future. At the very least, having tasted its pork, I must try the Baobao Ribs and the Stir Fry Ginger.

Nick Gonzales

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