Though it’s only the fourth most populated American city, Houston recently surpassed New York City as the most racially and culturally diverse metropolis in the nation. A product of the city’s diversity is an abundance of ethnic food. If your palate is adventurous and you’re thinking about making Houston your new home, here are the cuisines, and restaurants, you’ll want to check out.
British food often gets a bad rap for being too starchy, but there is nothing quite as satisfying as a hearty meat pie or a crispy order of fish n’ chips. Try the bangers and mash (sausage and potatoes) or the full english breakfast (sausage, beans, tomatoes, egg, ham, toast and more) at The Red Lion Pub (2316 Shepherd Dr, Houston, TX 77019) or The Queen Vic (2712 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77098).
Polish food also tends to be pretty meat and starch heavy. Signature dishes include Polish sausage, pierogi (savory or sweet filled dumplings), golabki (cabbage rolls), bigos (hunter stew) and golonka (pork shank). Houston’s most popular Polish restaurant is Polonia (1900 Blalock Road, Houston, TX 77080).
Texas cuisine has its fair share of German influence, so if you’re a fan of barbecue link sausage, than you’ll probably love bratwurst. Get an order of schnitzel and a side of sauerkraut at Rudi Lechners (2503 S Gessner Rd, Houston, TX 77063).
The staple of Sichuan Chinese cuisine is the sichuan peppercorn, an item so spicy it leaves a lingering numbness on the tongue. Sichuan incorporates a lot of heat into its dishes. Popular ones include kung pao chicken, twice cooked-pork, and hot pot. Try them all at Mala Sichuan Bistro (9348 Bellaire Blvd Houston, TX 77036).
Dim Sum is another Chinese cuisine, this one from the Canton region, though the dim sum restaurants we have in America today originated in Hong Kong in the 1950s. These days, dim sum is often consumed as a brunch, and features a variety of small dishes, like steamed buns and dumplings of many flavors. Houston has several dim sum restaurants, some of them more traditional and some incorporating pan-asian flavors that reflects the city’s diversity. For a classic dim sum experience, try Fungs Kitchen (7320 Southwest Fwy #115, Houston, TX 77074) or Golden Dim Sum (10600 Bellaire Blvd, Houston, TX 77072).
Korean food should be popular with many Texans, since it uses a lot of beef. Popular dishes include bulgogi (Korean barbecue), bibimbap (rice, vegetables and meat) and kimchi (fermented cabbage). Try it yourself at Lucky Palace Korean Restaurant (8508 Bellaire Blvd,Houston, TX 77036).
Vietnamese is one of Houston’s most popular ethnic foods, since the city has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the country. Popular dishes include spring rolls (soft rice paper wraps filled with meat, vegetables and noodles), pho (a rice noodle soup), bahn mi (a sandwich served on french baguette), and bun (a vermicelli noodle bowl). You can find them in restaurants around the city, though Pho Saigon Vietnamese Noodle House (2808 Milam St Ste D, Houston, TX 77006-3599) and Les Ba’get Vietnamese Cafe (1717 Montrose Blvd, Houston, TX 77006-1241) are two good choices.
Indian cuisine is flavorful, rich and aromatic, but it can be daunting to navigate a menu without some guidance. Popular dishes include tandoori chicken (roasted, spiced chicken) and samosas (a crispy pastry filled with potatoes, onions, peas and spices). Indian cuisine is also known for it’s curries, like masala (tomato-based), paneer (spinach-based), korma (cream-based) and vindaloo (the spiciest). Make sure to order a side of naan, a soft, fluffy flatbread. Try it all at Biryani Pot (6509 Westheimer Rd B, Houston, TX 77057). If you want South Indian cuisine, which is vegetarian, go to Shri Balaji Bhavan (5655 Hillcroft St, Houston, TX 77036).
Pakistani cuisine is similar to North Indian food, though it usually incorporates more meat and is influenced by cuisines from other regions in Asia. Kebabs (grilled meats) are typical on a Pakistani menu, often involving spicy and flavorful ground meats. You can find some at DDK Kabab & Grill (9348 Bellaire Blvd Houston, TX 77036).
Mediterranean fare uses a lot of whole grains, olives, grapes, vegetables, fruits, seafood, and poultry or lamb. Many mediterranean dishes have made their way into mainstream diets, like falafel (fried chickpeas), hummus (chickpea spread), and schwarma (marinated lamb or chicken). Try some at Aladdin Mediterranean Cafe (912 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77006).
When most people think of Ethiopian food, they think of injera, the sourdough flatbread that accompanies every meal. Made with iron and protein-rich teff flour, injera is like a pancake that functions as both both a utensil and a plate. Try it with doro wat (chicken stew) or kifta (minced and seasoned beef) at Blue Nile (9400 Richmond Ave, Houston, TX 77063).
The flavors of Nigerian food should be familiar to anyone who has grown up on soul food and cajun cuisine. Pepper soup is the cousin of gumbo and akumi is reminiscent of grits. Often flavored by guinea and alligator peppers, Nigerian dishes are typically served with fufu, a yam-flour starch that has the consistency of dumpling dough. Try some at Finger Licking Bukateria (9811 Bissonnet St. Houston, TX 77036).
Argentina has a booming cattle industry, which means that, like Texans, Argentinos know a thing or two about grilling beef. Their barbecue is called asado, and it’s usually served on a parrillada, a portable grill brought to the table loaded with different types of meats. Try that with empanadas and choripán at Pampa Grill (10111 Hammerly Blvd, Houston, TX 77080).
Venezuelan cuisine has been influenced by flavors from Europe, Africa and the Caribbean and relies heavily on corn, plantains and meat. Popular dishes include arepas (a corn-based flatbread used for sandwiches), asado negro (tangy roasted beef) and fried plantains. Check out the food truck Sabor Venezolana (8621 Westheimer Rd, Houston, TX 77063).