A Tour of Houston's Chinatown with Randy Evans and Van Pham

Ready To Wrap

The dish comes with a side plate of carrots, radish, bean sprouts, cucumber, lettuce, and fresh herbs, all meant to be stuffed into hand-rolled rice paper wraps. Dip the rounds of rice paper in the bowl of warm water, top it with fillings, and roll tightly. It takes a bit of practice, but it's key to getting a bit of everything in each bite.

J. Kenji Lopez-Alt

As a New Yorker, when I hear "Chinatown," I picture fish gut-covered streets, cheap dumplings, dried seafood, old ladies with shopping carts poking at vegetables, restaurant supply stores, and inexpensive Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants lining every street in a one mile square area. So when I signed up to go on a tour of Houston's Chinatown with chefs Randy Evans (of Haven) and Van Pham (of the Phamily Bites truck) as part of the Where The Chefs Eat series of Houston Culinary Tours, I expected some walking in the Texas sun, perhaps an outdoor market or two, and a whole lot of noodles and stir-frys.

Not so. See, in Houston, "Chinatown" should probably more aptly be named "Asiatown," or perhaps even "Vietnam-town," as the population there is by no means solely Chinese. I might suggest calling it "Little Saigon," but there's nothing little about it either. Occupying a 6 square mile area, it's bigger than New York's Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho, Lower East Side, East Village, West Village, Flatiron District, and Tribeca combined. Heck, there are single mega-supermarkets in Houston's chinatown that are big enough to house the entirety of New York's Chinatown.

Bigger doesn't always mean better, but in this case I can say that the Vietnamese food in Houston's Chinatown is some of the finest I've had anywhere outside of Vietnam.

Check out the slideshow above for a look at the food we tasted.

Restaurants and Stores Visited:

Saigon Pagolac

9600 Bellaire Boulevard Houston, TX 77036‎ (map); (713) 988-6106

Tan Be Le Baguette

11169 Beechnut Street Houston, TX 77072‎ (map); (832) 351-3389

Nam Giao Restaurant and Bakery

6938 Wilcrest Drive Houston, TX 77072‎ (map); (281) 568-4888

Sun's Wholesale Club

8388 West Sam Houston Parkway South #180 Houston, TX 77072‎ (map); (832) 456-8228; sunswholesale.com