When I moved to Texas to attend the University of Houston 13 long years ago, I never imagined it would become my permanent home, so much so that even my parents have moved here. The ideas I had in my head about Texas when I first arrived were your stereotypical cowboys and tumbleweeds. Boy was I in for a shock. Houston is a multicultural city that is lush with greenspace and has its fair share of modern skyscrapers. Whether you are looking to attend a performance at the opera or watch a cowboy rope at the rodeo, Houston has something for everyone.
What I have grown most to love about Houston, Texas is its rich culture of food. The food is so amazing here that the city offers Houston Culinary Tours led by some of the greatest Houston chefs in our city. The typical Texas cuisines of barbecue and Tex-Mex are well represented throughout our city, but you will also find amazing ethnic cuisines from around the country and the world. One of my favorite foods to eat this time of year is crawfish, traditionally from Texas’s neighbor to the east, Louisiana. Crawfish boils have crossed the border to Texas -- nice for me, as when I left Maryland I also left my beloved crab feasts. In recent years, more and more Vietnamese-style crawfish restaurants have popped up all around town. One of my favorite foods is Vietnamese and I am lucky to be in Houston, where there are many amazing Vietnamese restaurants, from fancy to casual.
Vietnamese crawfish definitely side on the casual side of dining. You have to be ready to get your hands dirty to enjoy them. My favorite spot is inside an Asian market, LA Crawfish. I go at least every other week during crawfish season, which typically runs from March to June. The crawfish are boiled and tossed with a spicy garlic butter sauce. This sauce has a very different flavor from a traditional Cajun boil -- it is less salty, much spicier. The crawfish (or mudbugs) are served in big plastic bags. I told you this was a casual place! They're served along with a roll of paper towels and a plastic sheet for your table. The Vietnamese crawfish restaurants in town usually get packed during crawfish season, so be prepared to share your space with equally eager crawfish eaters.
Once you have your bag of crawfish, there are several ways to eat them. I prefer them plain. The spicy garlic butter sauce that they are served in is flavorful enough for me. There are several condiments to choose from, such as butter, Sriracha and even mayonnaise. If I am dipping the tail meat in anything, it is fresh lime juice mixed with pepper. I grew up eating blue crab dipped in apple cider vinegar and Old bay, so the lime juice is a similar flavor. Crawfish are best washed down with an ice cold beer, which are available at the grocery store and LA Crawfish is BYOB. After you are stuffed full of crawfish, it is always fun to wander the aisles of the 99 Ranch Market. There are so many exotic foods to choose from and I have been able to find several harder to find Asian items there.
If you want to attempt to re-create Vietnamese-style crawfish at home, I recommend you invest in a turkey fryer. Crawfish are best cooked outdoors since they can get quite messy. Here is a copycat recipe for the crawfish and garlic butter sauce, if you have never tried crawfish this way, I highly recommend it. So when you visit Houston, Texas, be sure to sample some of our amazing restaurants and put Vietnamese-style crawfish at the top of your list.
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