All things food
All things food
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?”
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.
Back in January, I wrote a post about what to cook and eat on a ski/snowboard trip—basically foods that were easy to prepare, provided ample sustenance, and could warm you from the outside in.
It’s May now, and summer is officially a few weeks away. In Houston, where temperatures have reached the lower nineties on occasion, summer’s already here. This means it’s camp time!
For now, this is the last in my Saigon series, covering my most recent trip to HCMC in January. (Read about my eats from early July 2014 and late July 2014.) This time, as usual, I ate more street food, but I also ventured to less traditional places and had lunch outings with my pops, who has since moved back to Vietnam after retirement.
Following my early July 2014 trip to Vietnam where I attended the KOTO fundraising gala, I returned to Saigon just a few weeks later to do another guest appearance on MasterChef Vietnam season 2 and work with the show’s sponsor, Knorr Vietnam. You know I can’t go to Vietnam without eating Saigon, so here’s what I had this time around.
Happy new year (again)! In continuing the closer look we’re taking at Vietnamese traditions, like those of lunar new year, today I’m actually taking you back to Vietnam.
I was born in California and didn’t visit the country of my heritage until I was 18. It would be another 16 years after that first pilgrimage before I’d returned to Vietnam again. Consequently, this second trip was after MasterChef, and I was going to Vietnam to appear in the inaugural season of “MasterChef” Vietnam as a celebrity guest judge. Since then, I’ve been back to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City an additional three times, and on each trip, I eat to my stomach’s content.
Food in Vietnam, especially the “street food,”* is delicious and inexpensive—it’s my absolute favorite stuff to eat over there.
And so in the spirit of street food’s no frills, no nonsense attitude, I’ll get right down to business and deliver the goods.
**Please excuse the many misspelled Vietnamese words in the following entry, as I don’t have the software to write proper Vietnamese, accents and all.
This Thursday marks the lunar new year, or Tê’t, as we call it in Vietnamese. Growing up, the red envelopes containing minted bills (or—like xì—were my most anticipated new year tradition. It meant I was that much closer to that Super Mario game or, when I was in high school, that Green Day CD.
Another fond memory of Tê’t was the banh chung my grandmother made not only for us but all the extended family members that visited over the week-long holiday. Bánh chung (or banh Tê’t as they’re known in the Vietnamese South) are glutinous rice cakes filled with pork and mung bean and wrapped in banana leaves prior to steaming. The leaves impart a hint of green and earthiness on to the rice, which is why it’s no surprise they are meant to symbolize the earth. My grandmother and aunt made dozens of them, and sometimes I would help tie the red decorative ribbons around the massive cakes before stacking them on to the dining table. There they rested like stacks of sandbags, waiting to be gifted to our relatives.
If you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you would know I spent last weekend in Breckenridge, Colorado, on a ski/snowboard trip with friends and family (more on this to come in a later post). Today, we’re going to focus on food.
It’s an unwelcome dilemma every time: what will be filling enough to satiate 8 to 12 hungry folks but easy enough to prepare when everyone’s exhausted from all the physical activity? And don’t forget that nearby markets may be limited in ingredient selection so no Sichuan, no sushi, and no soufflés.