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But in the eyes of the world, this is the year that pho became a thing. In fact, I'll throw down the gauntlet: Houston is home to the best pho in America. This soulful noodle soup - first introduced to Houstonians in the Vietnamese enclaves of Midtown and east downtown in the late '70s and '80s at places such as Mai's and Pho Cong Ly - has emerged as one of our city's must-try signature dishes, right up there with Ninfa's Original Tex-Mex fajitas.Like barbecue, poke, ramen and soup dumplings, pho has become the focus of foodie pilgrimages and late-night food runs, of endless Instagram posts and foodie debates: Where is the best pho in the city? It makes perfect sense: Houston boasts third-largest Vietnamese population in the nation (110,000, according to 2010 U. Pho is no longer confined to Vietnamese-centric enclaves, either.Address: 1717 Montrose, 832-548-1080; Pho Ve Dem Craving pho at night?This old-school mom-and-pop joint opens every Tuesday through Sunday from 5 p.m. serving hearty bowls of 17- to 18-hour simmered pho.
Optional upgrades include whole roasted bone marrow served on a sizzling comal, or a side bowl of bone marrow with quail egg.
New pho joints are popping up in every major suburb, such as on the outskirts of New Territory in Sugar Land, where The Pho Shack is poised to open, or in Rosenberg, where construction has begun on Pho Huynh.
The soup has even gone upscale at restaurants such as River Oaks District's Le Colonial, where Saigon-born Nicole Routhier - whose 1989 cookbook "The Foods of Vietnam" was seminal in helping introduce Vietnamese cuisine to New York and the rest of America - consulted on the menu.
But it's our local love of pho and the increasingly high demand for it that have made Houston a destination for the most creative expressions of pho in the country. And more important, how do you distinguish a good bowl of pho from a bad one?
At its most basic, pho is made of a bone broth, rice noodles and meat toppings.
What to order: Pho ga dac biet (house special chicken pho), which comes with white and dark chicken meat, giblets and a quail egg.