Here, Eat This

Here, Eat This: A Beginner's Guide to Vietnamese Cuisine

It was only a matter of time before we hit Vietnamese food. The cuisine has become one of Houston's favorite over the last few decades -- coinciding with the large influx of Vietnamese immigrants that began following the Vietnam War -- with dishes such as pho now rivaling cheese enchiladas as sought-out comfort food and banh mi joints rivaling taquerias as reliable spots for a cheap, delicious, filling meal.

As of 2010, Greater Houston held the third largest Vietnamese population in the nation (behind only Los Angeles and San Jose)-- and it's growing quickly. According to the most recent census, the Vietnamese population was the fourth largest among the Asian population groups in the United States, growing faster than the Chinese, Korean or Japanese populations. It grew by 56 percent in Texas alone between 2000 and 2010, as more Vietnamese immigrants settle in Houston and Dallas each year.

The result is a boom in Vietnamese cuisine not just in Chinatown, but throughout the city. Houston in particular has also been the beneficiary of Vietnamese-style crawfish, a fusion phenomenon with its roots in Louisiana, where thousands of immigrants fled following the Fall of Saigon in 1975. But it's not crawfish we're looking at today.

Today, we're covering some of the most basic Vietnamese dishes that you'll encounter across Houston. Some, like the well-known pho, are representative of the northern part of Vietnam. Others, like bun bo Hue, are emblematic of the spice-loving central region of the country. And still more are sweeter, more tropical dishes that are found in the coastal southern part of Vietnam. And all of them are delicious.

Note: Pronunciation guides are included for all of the terms below. To read more about how to pronounce various Vietnamese dishes, check out our sister blog SFoodie's helpful post on the topic or Loving Pho's guide to pronouncing various Vietnamese dishes, names and regions.

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Katharine Shilcutt