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Many of you know I love food. What you may not know is I lost my vision because of Neuromyelitis Optica, a rare autoimmune disease which currently has few effective treatments and no cure. I am doing my part to change this: the first annual Dining for NMO Day will take place on Monday, October 19th, and I am asking you to kindly support.
The temperature in Houston is reaching the 100s this week, and the only way many of us can bear the wet heat is to think of all the other great things Houston has to offer, like food,. food, and more food.
I won’t complain, though—I’d been to so many cold places in the last couple of winters (I.e. Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Toronto when it was -10°F!), that I promised Houston I wouldn’t complain about its summers this year. At the end of the day, I would rather be hot than frozen, and so I’ve found myself saying things this month like, “It’s hot today…but I’m not complaining, just observing,” much to the amusement of my perspiring friends.
So today, because I’m so focused on the climax of summer, we’re going to discuss lighter fare: places you can go after eating to cool down, with an iced latte, ice cream sundae, or a ice cold mint julep.
My earliest memories of popcorn are from the cinema. On the rare occasion my parents gave me money to go to the theater, I would beg for a little more so I could get a small bag of popcorn and a soda. To this day, whenever I smell popcorn, I think of two things: movie theaters and, yes, Target.
Then I discovered microwaveable popcorn, and soon, that became a household staple for movie nights and sleepovers. My favorite flavor to no one’s surprise was movie theater butter.
Just because I’m grown up now doesn’t mean I’ve outgrown my affinity for popcorn. There’s still something magical about the craggy texture; the crunch; the bold flavors; and, of course, the nostalgia. But as an adult, I have moved beyond microwaveable popcorn bags and on to popping my own kernels at home and adding mix-ins like this popcorn with kale chips I made on the “Crunchy” episode of season 2 of Four Senses.
I’m back after my two-week hiatus! I was on holiday in the UK and Ireland—it was the first international vacation I’d taken in three years and long overdue. As expected, I consumed voraciously, but that will all come in another entry.
Today, I’m continuing my suggestions for Houston eats. My first entry on this series logged where I took my pops when he was visiting, and the most recent entry focused on Vietnamese and Chinese food on Bellaire. In this third part of the Houston series, we’re eating more dishes Houston is known for: tacos, Southern, steaks, and Gulf seafood.
As promised, this week, I’m delving into foods my hometown of Houston is known for. Of course, being Asian-American and having grown up near an abundance of local Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants (also known as Bellaire Blvd.), I have to talk about the wide variety and quality of east Asian cuisine we’re lucky to call our own.
First, a short history of the Vietnamese diaspora: in the 1980s, the first Vietnamese to settle in this city made the area near Hobby airport in south Houston their home. That’s where you’ll still find the famous original Pho Binh Trailer (which, I’m happy to report, has just recently opened their latest outpost in my stomping grounds of the Heights–in fact, that’s there bowl of soup pictured above). The first Little Saigon sprouted in what we now call Midtown, and this is where my first memories of eating pho and banh mi thit with my parents were made. We did our ethnic grocery shopping in midtown, stocking up on 20-lb bags of jasmine rice, fresh Gulf shrimp, bottles of Squid brand fish sauce.
I write about my mama a lot, but this Sunday is Father’s Day, and I can’t forget about my pops, nor my hometown. Reflecting on my dad’s recent stateside visit a few weeks ago, I share here things we ate together.
Since retiring, my pops relocated back to Vietnam. I’ve flown to Saigon a handful of times and hung out with my pops, but it’s not often he comes back to the U.S. This means when he does, we try to pack as much American —particularly Texan—foods into his belly as we can.
This is also a good list for all you potential visitors and/or residents of Houston; hit up these spots or take your out-of-town guests to these places, and you’ll get a great cross-section of Houston cultural cuisine. These are some of the places I always suggest when asked, “Where should I eat in Houston?”
One of my favorite foods to eat in Vietnam, cua rang me—crabs sautéed in tamarind—is a humble yet glorious dish prized for its freshness and balance of flavor. It’s best eaten with the hands and a chilled lager (or three), followed by a hearty serving of French bread, which is broken off the community loaf and use to mop the vibrant, sweet sauce.
A fond memory of childhood summers is weekend trips to the Gulf Coast, where in addition to playing in the murky brown water, I’d help my parents catch blue crabs with nothing more than string, chicken necks, and a hand net. Okay, I thought I was helping, but I was not much more useful than the rock to which my parents tied the end of a fishing string since I was terrified of the crabs. (Ironic, isn’t it, considering I had to cook a live one on national television years later?)
I guess technically this entry should’ve been titled “Eating Napa,” but there’s going to be a little bit of SF in it, too–namely the airport. Did you know the San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is working towards becoming accessible for blind travelers by using localization technology? These days, technology has granted so many visually impaired people more independence. When I travel alone, I depend on guidance and assistance from airport employees, but indoo.rs will take travel to another level for those with vision loss.
Until then, let’s get back to talking about some of life’s pleasures that currently do exists: food, drink, and fellowship.
In recent posts, I wrote about my trip to the Bay area, during which we spent a couple of days in wine country. I co-hosted the Guide Dogs for the Blind dinner with the GDB chef, David Wilson, and Joan Boyd of Boyd Family Vineyards. Joan’s kitchen housed a massive woodburning oven, and her patio where we dined had a gorgeous view of Napa Valley’s sunset (as told to me by the hubs). Even though I couldn’t enjoy the visual beauty, I could absorb the peaceful natural surroundings as we sat around the table and sipped on some Boyd wines over spicy salads and masalas. This is the stuff life is made of.
I visited the Bay area last year to host a fun, interactive dinner on behalf of the Guide Dogs for the Blind. During my trip, I got to walk with a guide dog and play with the puppies—catch my GDB adventures in Blind Life episode 9.
As always, my not-so-secret agenda with all travels is to EAT. Because the GDB is located in San Raffael, a township to where I’ve never been, I was looking forward to trying something new. The hubs and I asked our favorite food friend from SF for recommendations, and his suggestion did not disappoint.