Familiar faces in Houston media and the hospitality industry share their favorite destinations in Asiatown. This is the first of a three-part series. For more features related to Houston’s Asiatown dining scene, click here

MINH NGUYEN, waiter, chef and owner of Cafe TH
Ethnic heritage: Vietnamese
How long a Houstonian: more than 25 years
Favorite Asiatown destinations: Thien Thanh (11210 Bellaire Blvd.), Hai Cang (Harbor) Seafood Restaurant (11768 Bellaire Blvd.) and Nam Giao Restaurant & Bakery (6938 Wilcrest)
Best-kept secret in Asiatown: Xin Jiang BBQ (9260 Bellaire Blvd.)
Favorite comfort food: Bun rieu [a fresh, sour Vietnamese soup, often with crab and tomato], all day everyday.

ANDREW MUSICO, cook at Aqui (opening soon)
Ethnic heritage: Filipino
How long a Houstonian: Entire life
Favorite Asiatown destinations: Ever since high school, I’ve been going to a spot called Tapioca House (9104 Bellaire Blvd.) for boba. Good boba is pretty easy to come by in Chinatown, but I really enjoy their small bites as well. Their Crispy Basil Chicken can be ordered on a spice scale from 1 to 10. It was the perfect snack to accompany some milk tea.
• Mala Sichuan (9348 Bellaire Blvd.) is by far my favorite Chinese place for that region of cuisine. The food is phenomenal and unique but the service is what really set it apart as a restaurant in Chinatown. I’ve been going well before they were a big enough name to open up in Montrose or even have a big name beer/wine consultant. I’m glad to see that expansion has not affected their quality or authenticity.
• Tofu Village (9889 Bellaire Blvd.) has a typical Korean-style menu, but they specialize in a spicy tofu soup that is to die for. It comes with all the banchan or Korean accompaniments, a raw egg to crack into your soup and a whole fried yellow croaker.
In the battle of phở vs ramen, who wins? That’s like comparing chicken noodle soup to beef stew. Pho is a springtime soup, light yet flavorful, with rice noodles and relatively light portions of meat. Ramen, however, is hearty. It typically has such a rich broth, egg noodles, pork belly, half a soft-boiled egg. Yeah, if I had to take a bullet for either dish, I’d make the dive for ramen.
Favorite comfort food: “Really good fried rice. It doesn’t matter from what country, they all have a version I love.”

AKIKO HAGIO, bartender at Ninja Ramen
Ethnic heritage: Japanese/mixed race
How long a Houstonian: Entire life
Favorite Asiatown destinations: San Dong Noodle House (9938 Bellaire Blvd.), Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot (8488 Bellaire Blvd.) and Nu Ice Cafe (9889 Bellaire Blvd.)
Best-kept secret in Asiatown: $20 foot massages.
Favorite comfort food: Chazuke (a simple Japanese soup made by pouring green tea, dashi or hot water over cooked rice, sometimes garnished)

Nu Ice Cafe's shaved ice. Photo by Melody Yip

Nu Ice Cafe’s shaved ice. Photo by Melody Yip

JENNY WANG, owner of Hunan Garden Restaurant (Click here for Hunan Garden’s tutorial and recipe for Chinese dumplings.)
Ethnic heritage: Chinese
How long a Houstonian: Entire life
Favorite Asiatown destinations: Confucius Seafood Restaurant (8880 Bellaire Blvd.) for their lunch specials and the Jade Tofu with King Mushrooms dish. Xiong’s Cafe (9888 Bellaire Blvd.) for spicy beef (tendon) noodle soup and fried dumplings. Crawfish & Noodles (11360 Bellaire Blvd.) for boiled crawfish and salt and pepper crab.
Best-kept secret in Asiatown? All the cheap, prepared food ready to go at San Dong Noodle House. I love filling my fridge with snacks from there like steamed pork buns, fried buns stuffed with Chinese chives, sticky rice-covered meatballs, cucumber salad and soy sauce eggs. Cash only.
In the battle of phở vs ramen, who wins? Pho! I want pho all year round for any meal of the day. And Houston has great pho houses. The caliber of ramen is not as high.
Favorite comfort food: Fried chicken

This article was originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of My Table magazine, now on newsstands. To purchase a copy online, click here. To find one at a local retailer, click here