Vietnamese Food Gains Popularity in Clear Lake
Lately I've been using any excuse I can to sneak away from my wife, kids, and job so that I can dash to the closest Vietnamese restaurant around. My wife is going to kill me when she finds out that I've been "nickel and dime-ing" my paycheck away at these restaurants, but, what can I say? I’m addicted. I feel like a crack head as I dig through my change so that I can scrounge enough money to enjoy the ecstasy of another meal. These restaurants have been around for some time here in Clear Lake because of the large Vietnamese population in the Houston area, but it is only because of the recent trend towards healthier foods that pack on flavor and not calories that their popularity has begun to spread. If you look around next time you're out you'll probably notice about 5 or 6 of these usually small and indistinct restaurants.
In this culinary world of increasing dependence on fast, yet healthy foods, Vietnamese is an excellent choice. Vietnamese food in general is low in fat (very little oil is used) but high in carbs and protein providing an active individual with good, clean energy. The main ingredients consist of beef broth, rice or rice noodles, meat, fresh herbs, and fresh vegetables. The key ingredients being the fresh herbs and veggies. The most popular dish is Pho, which is a scalding hot bowl of light beef broth traditionally served with rare beef and rice noodles. The beef finishes cooking in the broth. Usually served alongside the Pho are bean sprouts, green onions, cilantro, jalapenos or chilies, and fish sauce. The condiments available are Sriracha (chili sauce), soy sauce, and fresh limes which are used to finish off the dish and give it some acidity. Because these are served on the side, you are able to control the final flavor of the dish. Any amount you use creates a vibrant, mouthwatering and aromatic bowl of comfort food. It is a well known fact among the college crowd that a steaming bowl of Pho after a night of heavy drinking is the perfect hangover cure.
As for me, I prefer the char grilled chicken served with rice vermicelli. Served on a bed of fresh lettuce, the addictive flavor comes from the marinated meat plus the garnishes of fresh cilantro, chopped peanuts, pickled and shredded carrots, sliced cucumber, and bean sprouts. These dishes are also served with Sriracha and fish sauce as condiments. I love to pour the fish sauce on top, then top it all off with a few dashes of Sriracha to provide the heat and make it all just hot enough to make my tongue tingle. The combination of the fish sauce and the Sriracha give the dish a hot and sweet flavor profile. Most Vietnamese restaurants also serve a variety of appetizers and variations of the above dishes. You are not locked into chicken or beef. Pork and shrimp are two popular alternative meat choices.
Simple ingredients, big flavor, and affordable prices (meal prices at "NASA Fast Food range from $5.25 - $10.95), create an addicting, healthy experience. From the moment you smell the food you'll be hooked on Vietnamese cuisine. An added bonus is, because of low calorie ingredients, you don't feel like you've just eaten a five course meal when you leave the table. It's virtually guilt free!