Bánh cuốn Hoa – The rule of the steamed rolls

    Like with most Asian eating establishments, it’s virtually impossible to answer the question “what is the best Vietnamese restaurant in [name of city]?” Let me stay there for about half a year, and I can tell you where to get the best pho, the best cha gio, the best bun thit nuong, the best banh mi, but not the best Vietnamese. Assuming you would agree that I can’t compare a place that specializes in noodle to another that specializes in beef, I would admit: I don’t know what you mean by “the best Vietnamese”. Do you mean everything on the menu is the best of its kind? Everything is good? Everything is cheap and good? Everything is cheap and good and the service is the best? Everything is cheap and good, the service is good, and the ambiance is the best? You see, there are more variables in your generic question than I could possibly control with my subjectivity. And that is not to consider the possibility of you asking that question just because I’m Vietnamese, which doesn’t bother me at all, but I’m usually not sure of how much detail you’d like to receive. (I’ve included the preferred question at the end of this post.)

    That said, if you ask me, what is the best Vietnamese restaurant in Houston, which I take that you’ve given me the full freedom to interpret your meaning and exert my subjectivity, I’d say Banh Cuon Hoa. Why? Because they serve the best of my favorite Vietnamese dish, and as I’ve discovered, the “best Vietnamese” shops are those with the best steamed rolls. Steamed rolls are hard to get right, so when they get them right, everything else they have is good. 😉

    The flour skin is super thin, cool but not sour, and not oily. The pork-and-mushroom stuffing is well seasoned, not too much to bore, and not too little to bore. This banh cuon is better than banh cuon from Tay Ho’s. Ask any Vietnamese person, and they’d agree that that statement is not to be precariously thrown around unless the banh cuon is very good.

    The mi Quang tastes as good as it looks (the yellow noodle). So does the bun chao tom tau hu ky, a shrimp and tofu variant of bun thit nuong. The price? Students can afford this.

    Address: Banh Cuon Hoa
    11106 Veterans Memorial Dr
    Houston, TX 77067
    (281) 820-3388

    They have another business near Hong Kong Market IV: Banh Cuon Hoa II, but this Hoa is not as good as its sister shop.
    Anyway, the question I usually ask my friends is: “Where do you usually go for [type of food]?”

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    7 comments to Bánh cuốn Hoa – The rule of the steamed rolls

    • Bob

      I don’t know if I have ever had steamed roll. Interesting that it is the dish to use as a measuring stick. If there must be one 🙂

    • Mai

      Few places have it, and even fewer make it well. I think you’d like it, and it’s served with fish sauce 😉 And I know just the place in Oakland, too.

    • Mmm I love banh cuon and that looks just right, too. Not too baroque (and yet I can’t seem to resist ordering the house special with everything whenever I go to Banh Cuon Tay Ho in SJ).

    • Mai

      I always get just the pork banh cuon (I think it’s number 7, also a good number :-P). Have you tried Banh Cuon Tay Ho in Oakland? I like it more than the one in SJ.

    • I’m not in Oakland too often, but I’ll keep that in mind.

    • Henry Chotkowski

      Just outside of Washington DC, and deep within the Eden Center, Alexandrai Va., resides a tiny one room restaurant, Banh Cuon Thang Long. The menu is limited, but features three outstanding specialties: a half a dozen or so variations of homemade Banh Cuon, Banh Xeo and Hue noodle soups. I agree with your notions about the pitfalls of declaring “the best Vietnamese restaurant” in large, multicultural urbane areas, but this one is my favorite.
      Also if you ever find yourself going cross country on I-40, stop into Pho Vietnam in Ft. Smith Arkansas. It’s located in a former gas station and operated for the last thirty(!) years by a husband(server) and wife(chef) team. Entrees are prepared with a certain amount of whim with a side order of what’s on hand and always, always, always, delicious.

    • Thanks for the tip, Henry! If I’m in the area I’ll be sure to check out these places!

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