The Crawfish Boil Combining Cajun and Vietnamese Cooking Techniques — Cooking in America


(hip-hop music)
– Ever watch a Chris
Brown video, it takes him
like five minutes to
walk to like right there.
What surprised me the most about Houston
is its diversity.
It’s just as diverse as
New York, but with that
southern hospitality.
In the late 70’s, Vietnamese
refugees made their
way over to Houston.
They’ve brought their
religion, their culture
and their food to make Houston their home.
I think this is the
largest concentration of
century-old eggs in America right there.
White fungus urchin.
I don’t even, what?
The gils, everything in there.
It’s like fresh still.
This is like paradise for me, it just
shows the concentration of
Vietnamese here in Houston,
and it’s so awesome that
they’ve brought Vietnam
to Texas.
(rap music)
Crawfish, blue crab.
We’re in the heart of
Chinatown, about to eat
some Vietnamese Cajun food.
We’re gonna go to Cajun kitchen.
These guys have seamlessly
put those two delicious
flavors together, and we’re
gonna taste some today.
It’s still kicking though?
– Yeah, they just probably caught this at
3:00-4:00 AM.
Our drivers go down to
Louisiana and they pick them up,
and then they come back
here and drop them off,
so this happens every day.
We wash it, boil it first, we let it soak
in our Cajun boil for
about 30 minutes to an hour
just to make sure that
the seasoning really
penetrates into the
crawfish meat and the head,
and that’s how you can tell
a good boil from a bad boil.
– Alright, show me the right way, man.
– So, you grab one of these,
take a hold of the tail,
pinch it like this, twist
the head off like that.
– Oh, look at that.
You can taste the spice right off the bat.
– The true Louisiana
people, they take this
and they just suck all the head fat out.
– I’m Filipino so I know
what to do with this, bro.
Kind of lends itself because of the Cajun
to have their French
influence, like in Vietnamese
cuisine, it kind of just came together.
– Yeah, Vietnamese
cuisine, you know, when the
French came, they brought
the baguette and the butter,
they kind of blend it in with their own,
I mean that’s what we do
around the restaurant, too,
when we come up with new
dishes, we think, hey,
what do we like to eat
that’s, you know, American,
for example, what do we
like to eat that’s Mexican
or that’s Thai, or whatever
it is, and let’s see
if it works with our Vietnamese food.
Goes through original
boil and then we do the
asian twist to it.
A ton of butter, a ton of
garlic, you know, we get
the sugar and all that
caramelized around the crawfish,
lime, there’s orange,
tamarind, sugar, green onion,
cayenne pepper.
(hip-hop music)
That’s the regular fatass.
So, that’s about six pounds of food.
– Looks pretty fat to me.
– Help me dispatch this crab here.
– Yo, you wasn’t lying, bro.
– What I would do is pull
it down here, take this
one here, we’re gonna break this off.
– Easy, buddy.
I thought you said it was docile.
Just take the lid off, just like that?
I’m sorry, brother.
So, growing up, you knew
you was gonna be a chef?
– I worked for a public accounting firm
and I worked for some oil companies,
but it wasn’t the thing
I wanted to do for the
rest of my life.
I was a cook in the army back in Europe,
and when this opportunity
came up to get in the
crawfish business, I was
like, yeah, let’s do it.
(hip-hop music)
We’re gonna flash fry
it, I mean it keeps the
sweetness, the juiciness in the crab meat,
and then we’re going to
stir-fry it in our wok
in our tamarind sauce.
We took butter and
scallions and fried onions
and garlic, top it off on the gulf oysters
and they will grill it over there.
(hip-hop music)
– Look at this spread, man, I’m excited.
– Some of the food is
spicy, if you don’t want
to experience some pain, I
suggest you put on some gloves.
– So, the first wave of
Vietnamese came in in 1975,
what was that?
– With the fall of Saigon,
the communists were
moving into Saigon, and
everyone would get out,
they would go to other countries.
Once the communists took
over right after the fall
it got harder for people
to leave because if
you got caught then you
end up in a prison camp,
and Vietnamese people really appreciative,
you know, they got a
lot of help, and I think
that made them also more open to embrace
the American culture and
learning about, you know,
American food.
– Also, a huge influence of
Vietnamese was the Katrina.
– Yeah, I heard 9,000
Vietnamese people moved
from New Orleans to
Houston because of Katrina.
My family, when they left
Vietnam, came to Louisiana,
fishermen, too, so they would
go catch some of the stuff
like same stuff that
we’re eating right now,
they lived in Louisiana,
they loved it there.
With Katrina happening,
they had to move here
’cause their houses got flooded.
After Katrina, we also
had the recession that hit
in 2008-2009, and a lot of
people from Orange County,
California, Vietnamese
people, moved to Houston
because jobs weren’t
plenty over there, property
values were too high, a
lot of them had really
good Vietnamese restaurant,
so we’ve had these
two waves of Vietnamese
people from other cities
coming in who come with ideas.
– And, what I’m seeing
in my short time here
is that the community embraces them.
– A couple years, maybe
there will be an influx
of other people from somewhere else that’s
gonna change all this
stuff that we do here, too.
We’re blessed to have such a diverse
scene here in Houston.
– Secret kitchen special
sauce, look at that.
– The butter, the garlic, the seasonings.
It’s good?
– Hell yeah.
Just wanna drink that.
Your parents come around
into the restaurant?
– They do.
Asian people, you know,
it’s all about family stuff,
they take up the whole
table, order a lot of
different things, very
family-oriented way of eating.
– So, this is the gulf oysters,
and that means grilled,
so we’ve got butter,
scallions in there, garlic…
– Fried shallots, put a little
lemon juice on top of there.
Good, nice and buttery.
– I’ve literally seen how
fresh it is, the guy…
– Just came in.
– You just got your delivery in,
straight onto the grill, man.
– A lot of Vietnamese
people moved from Vietnam
to the gulf coast.
Fishing is what they knew
how to do, and it’s just
been what they’ve been
doing since, you know?
So, that’s kind of like
how Vietnamese people
got into the whole Asian-Cajun thing.
Asians are all about eating the freshest.
If you’ve ever toured through Vietnam,
everything is still,
before you eat something,
it’s right there, it’s crab, the shrimp,
there might be a chicken
that’s still walking around,
and they’ll dispatch it
right there in front of you,
they’ll bring it to your
table, hey, you like this
chicken, yeah, I want that chicken.
– People think about
Texas, people think about
brisket and doing all of
that, but people don’t
realize that it’s right there on the gulf,
it’s a port city.
– So, not only do we
get the freshest seafood
from the gulf coast, but
because it’s a port city,
we get ingredients from
anywhere, from South America,
from Asia, from Europe.
You see all kinds of
produce and fish that some
other people haven’t seen
since they left Vietnam,
you see it in the grocery aisle.
Houston has the
second-largest Asian community
in the United States
outside of Orange County.
They have a huge Indian,
Pakistani community,
a huge Middle-Eastern community, it’s made
Houston grow into such a multi-dimensional
foods that it is today.
– Man, this is so good.
– Yo, this is medium spicy.
– Let’s try crayfish.
– You’re a brave man.
Even I don’t order the cray-cray.
– I’m doing it for the gram, bro.
– Our highest level,
the suicide, which has
a ton of cayenne, but
then we had to go a level
above that and add a ton of
habanero, so good luck, bro.
– I just gotta keep on eating.
– Just gotta keep on eating.
Forget about the pain.
It’s usually even spicier
than this, they knew
you were a rookie, so maybe they…
– Come on, they knew I was a wuss, bro.
Now it’s getting to me now.
(hip-hop music)
Look at this, who knew
you’d find a spot like
this in the middle of Houston.
It has delicious food,
it has crazy ingredients,
but no cowboys in Houston.
Is there cowboys in Houston?
Here in Hawaii, we get to
cook Korean, Portuguese,
Japanese, Puerto Rican,
Filipino, Hawaiian,
and it’s still one cuisine.

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