It all started with a gift. “I got an Oklahoma Joe’s smoker for my birthday, and I just became addicted to smoking meat,” says Ger Her, founder of Sactown Hmong BBQ. It wasn’t long before word of Her’s barbecuing talent got around and he became a go-to caterer for funerals and weddings. “For my first big event, I had to buy a second smoker because I needed room for 30 racks of ribs.”
These days, Her tends his meats on a Murillo Metalworks smoker so large that it travels on its own trailer. He honed his technique by reading cookbooks and watching videos of his culinary hero, famed Austin pit master Aaron Franklin. “I make a dry rub similar to his,” says Her. “It’s like a Texas-style rib rub, but with a little Asian twist.” (He isn’t giving up his secret ingredient.) Her focuses on just a few cuts of meat—brisket, pork ribs, pork belly and Hmong sausage—and serves them with sticky rice and a Hmong pepper sauce made from Thai chilies, cilantro, limes, fish sauce and another ingredient that he prefers to keep under wraps. “It’s got that spicy-salty-sour taste to it, similar to a chimichurri,” says Her.
Although pork is a mainstay in Hmong cooking, Her’s cooking background is rooted in pizza. He worked at Luigi’s Pizza Parlor for more than a dozen years under the helm of the legendary Celso Brida, who died in 2015. “We used to call him the Godfather. Everybody looked up to him. He was a great person to learn from, especially how to treat people,” says Her. He dreams of growing his barbecue business and is on the hunt for a brick-and-mortar location. Meanwhile, he often reflects on the lesson Brida taught him: “When you cook, do it with love. If you do it with love, people will come.” To find out what Her is cooking up, follow Sactown Hmong BBQ on Facebook or Instagram.