HOUSTON – In early March, a delivery truck carrying dozens of bags of Louisiana crawfish arrived Crawfish and noodles. The restaurant, a district known as Asiatown, is arguably Houston’s best-known purveyor of the best Vietnam-Cajun crawfish. The style changes the taste profile of traditional South Louisiana to whole-boiled raffish, with modified spice blends and a twist developed by Vietnamese-American chefs: a generous bath in seasoned butter sauce.
Crawfish and noodles serve their signature dish throughout the year, with the restaurant being the busiest in spring, when the rasfish is in season. Considering how much business he lost during the bandh during the onset of the epidemic last year, the restaurant’s owner and head chef Trong Nguyen (below) feared a winter storm in Texas in February – and crawling of Louisiana in Louisiana. The harvest was delayed – this spring will cause similar damage.
“I need the high season to come in the slow season,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t get that.”
But as soon as the delivery took place, Mr. Nguyen was confident that his connections to creepfish suppliers in the Cajun country of Louisiana, about 230 miles east of his restaurant, would help him recover in the spring of 2021.
Renegades across the country have been suffering the loss of a large-scale virus for over a year. In Asiatown, owners have also faced winter weather and a Increased anti-Asian sentiment. For Mr. Nguyen, a measure of fresh crawfish is a welcome reason for optimism.
“They are called grade A select jumbo crawfish,” he said, placing his hand on top of three yellow mesh bags of living crustaceans in the back of the truck.
February freeze Based on crawling ponds In southwestern Louisiana and southeastern Texas, temporarily disrupting a crop that traditionally spreads to meet increased demand during Lent. In early March, supply lines did not fully return to normal, Mr. Nguyen said, making delivery of all of the more prized select creepfish.
“It is not available to anyone right now because of the freeze,” he said.
Nicholas Yaxos (below) took one of the 36-pound bags into the kitchen and put it on a counter. He looted the dead shellfish from the pile and left, pushing the rest into a sink filled with water.
Miguel Cotti, one of the chefs, was already preparing batches of rangfish to serve dinner, which had just begun. Crawfish are boiled for three to seven minutes, depending on their size and batch volume.
Mr. Coty (below left) shook a powdered spice mixture on an order of three pounds and threw it in a large metal bowl. They then put several pieces of orange-red butter sauce over the crawfish and tossed it some more. He scooped the now glossy crawfish in a small metal bowl to serve and topped them with three crumbled pieces of corn on the cob.
Mr. Nguyen, 51, was a teenager when his family moved from Vietnam to Houston. He tasted full boiled crayfish for the first time while working at a casino in Lake Charles, La. It was a classic Louisiana crawfish boil with a salty, cayenne-charged kick. “It was something I loved to eat, because it’s spicy,” he said.
Viet-Cajun Creeper Emerged in houston In the early 2000s. Mr. Nguyen opened crawfish and noodles with relatives in 2008, and has since changed the spice mix and sauce recipe several times. For special events, he said, he sometimes uses a spice mix that includes ginger and lemongrass, commonly found in the Gulf Coast region and at Vietnam-Cajun crawfish locations in California, where the style also Is popular. But garlic, onion, parsley, lemon pepper and butter are the main flavors in her home recipe.
Jim Gossen, a retired local restaurant and seafood distributor, remembers trying butter-coated crawfish for the first time in crawfish and noodles, not long after it opened.
“They were really good, and really, really rich,” said 72-year-old Mr. Gosain, who helped introduce the traditional boiled raffish to the Houston market in the early 1980s. “I have no proof, but I would venture to say that today they sell more creepfish in Houston than in Louisiana.”
Mr. Nguyen said that early customers mocked the name of his restaurant, and were regularly patronizing about his creepfish. “They say, ‘This is not how you cook crawfish,” he said. “I’d say: ‘I don’t cook Louisiana crawfish. It’s Vietnamese creepfish. My style is different.'”
By 2011, when Mr. Nguyen moved the crawfish and noodles to his current location, the restaurant was on its way to find an audience. His wife, Alexa Nguyen, is its business manager. Later this year, the couple plans to open Another place Of crawfish and noodles Houston Farmers Market, Where his son, Corey, will work with Mr. Nguyen as the chef.
“Is there a better-loved restaurant in the Chinatown of Belair Boulevard, from Tonga Nguyen’s Mecca for the viet-Cajun creepfish?” The Houston Chronicle’s restaurant critic Alison Cook wrote in it 2019 review. “I doubt it.” Last year, Mr. Nguyen was a finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award Best Chef: Texas (Although the foundation Decided not to announce Winner of the Chef & Restaurant Awards).
“We have an unprecedented amount of tourists coming from everywhere,” said Mr. Nguyen. “People are dragged directly from the airport into a suitcase.”
He was now sitting at a banquet in the dining room. It was the first day that Kovid restrictions in the state of Texas were completely lifted, and their restaurant was almost full. It was a welcome sight, especially given the lack of business in Asiatown restaurants have experienced an epidemic due to the baseless, racist fears that they are more likely to spread Kovid.
Some customers, Mr. Nguyen said, “also told us that they did not want to come to our area. They started coming back now.”
Wearing a glove to sample his only ripe creepfish, he bitten off a tail and sucked it into the split head. This is the best way, he said, to taste spices mixed with conch butter and juice.
At an adjacent table, Andrew Duong (above right) was eating his second meal at Crawfish & Noodles in a week. Mr. Duong, 27, was coming from Chicago, where he said he runs a restaurant, which also specializes in Viet-Cajun crawfish. It is a measure of how the genre has spread beyond the Bay Area, Georgia and parts of California in recent years.
“It’s booming in Chicago,” he said. “But it’s not like the bottom, where you see crawfish everywhere.”
Dymond Simpson (they are her hands, above) and her husband, Alexander (below), are regulars in crawfish and noodles. Houston residents have family ties to Louisiana, and grew up eating Louisiana-style rangfish. He first tried Mr. Nguyen’s crawfish in 2015.
“At first I felt that there was too much baggage on it,” Ms. Simpson said. “Then it grew on me.”
The couple, who were dining with their three young children, come to crawfish and noodles once a month, “even when it’s not the crawling season,” Mr. Simpson said. He particularly appreciates that the restaurant orders crayfish to cook so that it will be warmer, a departure from many Louisiana-style venues, where crawfish are often sold at room temperature.
Ms. Diamond said her children were already devoted fans. “They love this creep,” she said. “For birthday parties, we do not serve pizza or hot dogs. We do crawfish. “