que huong

que huong
8200 wilcrest dr # 27 @ beechnut

our lunch from Que Huong

the chowhounds and i had an impromptu lunch @ que huong yesterday, where robb walsh claims may be the best authentic vietnamese in the country. several attempts have been made to organize meals here but have fallen apart for one reason or another. my tum was crying for a light meal and i knew QH would hit the spot.

to start, 2 cold salads:

#300 jellyfish salad topped w/shrimp and pork from Que Huong

where's the jellyfish? i asked 2 or 3 times. i finally saw it hidden in the nether regions of the salad. once detected not much was found either. the salad was still wonderful w/sliced pork, shrimp, julienned celery, onion, carrots, cucumbers, crunchy fried shallots, and cilantro.

#306 sliced rare beef & shrimp water spinach salad from Que Huong

the beef (probably tai used for pho) was tender and pink, shrimp seemed fresh enough but the real standout was the bed of fresh water spinach (rau muống, ong choy, or in chinese, kongxincai "hollow heart vegetable") and the tasty dressing which was vinegar based, not overly sweet, and well-balanced.

both salads were light, fresh, and tasty. both were accompanied by shrimp chips - although slightly reminiscent of packaging peanuts -which were crunchy and fun to eat. they shared the same pleasant vinaigrette. i could eat either of these salads every day and have mentally added them to my list of healthy yummy food that i need to direct more attention to in following through with some new years resolutions.

next up, an appetizer:

#14 fried sticky rice combination from Que Huong

the fried sticky rice combination came with chinese sausage, vietnamese ham (chả lụa), tiny dried shrimp, and crushed peanuts. the dish was simple yet comforting and delicious. the fried puck of rice didn't appear to be deep fried as it did not have consistent browning. my guess is it is panfried, however i'm not sure how they do it. sticky rice is, well, sticky. i'm assuming copious amounts of oil must be involved yet the dish seemed grease-free. (if anyone can enlighten me on the preparation of this dish, please leave a comment.)

continuing on... i was disappointed they didn't have bánh bột chiên (fried rice flour cake) or bánh cuốn, steamed rice noodle rolls similar to chinese cheong fun served during dim sum. but bánh ướt is similar.

#99 banh uot w/ham, pickled pork sausage, fried shrimp cupcake from Que Huong

bánh ướt or steamed rice sheets are almost translucent white and have a bit of a gelatinous texture. while i quite enjoy it, i've known others to be turned off by the soft, chewy texture. by themselves they don't have much flavor and here QH cuts them into strips and pairs a small mound of cold bánh ướt with vietnamese ham or chả lụa (steamed pork loaf), pickled sour pork sausage or nem, and a fried shrimp cup cake. garnished with cilantro, julienned cukes, bean sprouts, and fried shallots, this dish is eaten after a generous amount of fish sauce or Nước chấm is added.

i loved the different textures of this dish: the soft, slimy noodles, the fresh crunch of the veggies and herbs, the pork prepared 2 ways, and the deep fried shrimp cake. even the juxtaposition of the 2 meats was interesting: nem- pickled, mushy, rawish-looking sausage (not sour to me at all) could turn others off, but i think it is quite tasty. and chả lụa- boiled/steamed silky smooth and mild pork bologna.

#274 soft shell crab tempura w/butter sauce from Que Huong

fried soft shell crab in "french" butter sauce. the crab looked quartered, then battered and fried. it was then tossed with butter sauce which i couldn't detect enough of and served on a bed of watercress. who can hate fried soft shells? i didn't with this version, although i have had much better at mai's. misha seems to think sinh sinh has the best in town and i look forward to confirming that.

#224 bo luc lac from Que Huong

lastly, i ordered bo luc lac or "shaken beef" which is a good benchmark dish with which to critique all vietnamese restaurants. misha remarked that i went safe and boring, the others at the table thought we probably already had enough food w/o this last dish, but our server promised me it was good. well... he was wrong. the beef cubes were overcooked and chewy. the flavors of the dish, even though i liked the addition of snow peas, were unremarkable.

i should have ordered something more adventurous like:
  • #287 aromatic snail sauteed w/basil leaves
  • #288 quail simmered in honey soy sauce
  • #289, 291, 294 eel, frog legs, or alligator w/hot pepper & lemongrass
  • #290, 292, 295 eel, frog legs, or alligator in curry sauce
  • #296 grilled alligator on hot plate
  • #321 goat meat, taro, and carrots in curry sauce w/ french bread or vermicelli
is this the best authentic vietnamese in houston? yes, so far, as far as i can tell.


anankae said...

Gee. Usually I get pho with spring rolls or Vietnamese fried egg rolls. (for a change of pace I'll get seafood instead of the mixed meats I like). Sometimes pan fried wide noodles. Sometimes beef with gai lan or beef with snow pea leaves. Or a vermicelli bowl. My kids like the plates with fried rice. My bf likes the beef stew. The meekong soup is good. I guess I'm safer than you are.

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