Robb Walsh's 100 Favorite Houston Dishes: #65 Banh Cuon at Tay Ho 18 in Hong Kong City Mall
Over the course of the next few months, I'm counting down 100 of my favorite Houston dishes. I chose some because they are such quintessential Houston creations, others for their cultural or historical significance, and others because they are just so damn tasty. Share your own nominations in the comments.
#65 Banh Cuon at Tay Ho 18 in Hong Kong City Mall
The barbecued pork banh cuon (banh cuon thit nuong) at Tay Ho 18 in Hong Kong City Mall is very tasty. Tay Ho 18 is also the best place in town to understand what banh cuon really is. I never understood the process until I watched through the glass wall in the back of the restaurant while the woman there made the ultra-thin rice flour crepes. They are made by ladling batter onto a piece of fabric stretched over a pot of steaming water. Then the thin crepe is lifted off with what looks like an artist's palate knife.
Tay Ho 18 is the 18th franchise location of an Orange County, California restaurant chain. The tables are set out in the open part of the mall surrounded by partitions just outside the door of Ocean Palace. I walk by the place every time I go to Ocean Palace for dim sum and it always seems to be crowded. It wasn't until I started looking for banh cuon that I realized exactly what the attraction was.
Banh cuon restaurants are a lot more common in Southern California than they are in Houston. Owner James Luu was standing behind the counter when I stopped to sample the barbecued pork rolls, so I asked him the obvious question: "Did you sell your house in Southern California and use the profits to buy a similar house in Houston plus a restaurant?" Luu confirmed that he was a Southern California real estate refuge.
He said he used to be an administrator in a law office. He sold his house in L.A. in 2004, and used the money he made to build a house in Sugar Land and open the Tay Ho Banh Cuon franchise. Had he waited to sell until 2006, he would have picked up an extra quarter million, he lamented.
Tay Ho 18 is Houston's first Southern California fast-style food banh cuon restaurant. And it's one of many Asian restaurants recently opened in Houston by former Southern California residents who made a small fortune in the real estate market.
The list to date:
#100: Green Chile Chicken Kebabs at Chatkhara Grill
#99: The All-Day Burrito at Cherry Top Bakery
#98: "You Buy We Fry" Trout Basket at Hank's Fish Market
#97: Chicharron de Barriga at La Michoacana Meat Market # 10
#96: Pakistani Breakfast at Kings Chicken
#95: Fried Mojarra at Taqueria Jesus Maria
#94: Chocolate-Peanut Butter Cake Ball at Coffee Groundz
#93:Cheeseburger at Leonard's Famous Burgers
#92: Lasagna at Doyle's
#91: Cochinita Pibil at Tacos La Bala
#90: Fajita Tacos at Taqueria El Charro
#89: Kubideh and Zereshk Polo at Kasra Persian Grill
#88: Trentino Gelato's Dulce de Leche at Shisha
#87: Deviled Eggs at Nielsen's Deli
#86: Italian-Cuban Sandwich at Logan Farms
#85: Vegetable Trio in Sichuan Sauce at Spicy Sichuan
#84: Salchi-Burger at Brisa Cocina
#83: El Ultimo Taco Truck's Breakfast Tacos
#82: Kielbasa on a Sizzling Comal at Polonia
#81: Shrimp and Grits at Bistro Alex, Hotel Sorella
#80: A Bowl of Chili at James Coney Island
#79: Lamb Dumplings at Lucky Pot
#78: Crazy Irishman Sushi Roll at Soma
#77:Tesar's "Magic" Burger
#76: Mac n' Cheese at Two Saints
#75: Spicy Armenian Kebabs at Café Rita
#74: Jalapeño Gefilte Fish at Rustika
#73: Greek Burger at the Hubcap Grill
#72: The Basil Inferno at Thai Bistro
#71 Paella at Rioja on Kirkwood
#70: The Big Adrian Burger at Adrian's Local Café
#69: Dulce de Leche Ice Cream Bar at La Paletera
#68: Indonesian Deviled Eggs at Rice Bowl II
#67: Al Pastor Quesadillas at Tierra Caliente Meat Market
#66: Boudin Kolaches at Shipley's on North Main