By Kevin Revolinski | Photography by Hillary Schave
Ramen, birria tacos, steamed dumplings, Hmong egg rolls, stir-fried noodles and bubble tea with a side of mochi donuts. This is not a fantasy menu, but a possible meal at Global Market & Food Hall on Madison’s east side.
In August 2020, restaurateur James Jiang and the owners of J&P Fresh Market paired up to open a large, diverse Asian-centric grocery store with an adjoined food court of local eateries. As CEO, Jiang guided many of the vendors, most of them immi- grant entrepreneurs, through the business details.
The food hall’s eateries offer diverse Asian cuisines, but also include Arod’s Tex Mex & American Grill and Captain Frank Seafood Boiler. (As a side note, Global Market has arguably the most extensive seafood selection in town.)
Jiang also sold Chen’s Dumpling House downtown that he owned and opened Dumpling House in the food hall, keeping manager Selina Gao on board. Besides dumplings, they serve noodles, dim sum and Cantonese barbecue pork buns.
“It’s getting better compared to when we first opened; getting busier,” says Gao, acknowledging it was a chal- lenge to open during the pandemic with mostly word-of-mouth promo- tion. She notes that customers like the concept — they come in friend or family groups and order from several places at once.
One of those is Hmong Kitchen. Having established a fan base with their egg rolls at Monona’s Farmers Market, cooks See Xiong and Byang Yang expanded to a full menu that includes green papaya salad, sticky rice, fried pork belly and Hmong pork sausage.
Two eateries operate in tandem: Taiwan Street serves Lu Rou Fan, the braised pork and rice comfort food of the island nation, while Kawasaki offers ramen, udon and omurice. Co-owner Ling Chen, who has many years of restaurant ownership experi- ence, is originally from Taipei, while her husband and head chef Shengjie Dong grew up right across the strait in Fujian, China. They serve bubble teas and their dessert shop features cakes, Swiss rolls (very popular in East Asia), egg tarts and more.
The newest vendor is Glazed, producing mochi donuts, made with glutinous rice flour and tapioca starch for a light crunch and a fluffy, chewy interior. Co-founder Kia Yang grew up in Madison, but was born in La Crosse three months after her family immigrated to the U.S. in 1995. From childhood, her parents were Hmong refugees in camps in Thailand, and her maternal grandfather, a Vietnam War veteran, had been able to sponsor them.
“I wouldn’t [have] been able to do [this] without my family, especially my mom,” says Yang. Two more siblings assist her and her mother helps make the donuts and fresh spring rolls. “My mom’s pretty good at everything,” she says. Mama’s Food is a short side menu of her creations. Donut flavors include churro, funnel cake, Oreos and Fruity Pebbles, plus daily specials.
If you think choosing a donut is hard, the Food Hall has nine-plus options (so far). Most of the vendors are open daily for lunch and dinner, and offer carryout and delivery.