A man in a gray shirt smiles while poking a dumpling with chopsticks

© Todd White Stills and Motion

Houston is known as the city that sent humans to the moon, but it should also be known as the place that brings the entire earth together. Not only is Houston the most populous city in Texas, but it’s also one of the most culturally diverse. Exploring Houston’s Chinatown district showcases all the flavors, sights, and adventure of a trip to East Asia.

Hong Kong Food Market

If you want to learn about a different culture, the best place to start is the local market. From the outside this building looks like an H-E-B, but inside it feels like shopping in another country. The aisles are lined with items like black garlic, shrimp paste, and green curry paste, and the fresh fish section sells everything from conch to stingray. It made me wish I was a better chef to know what to do with it all, but luckily, there are restaurants on-site.

 

HK Dim Sum

This restaurant specializes in the Chinese dining experience known as dim sum, which is a meal made up of small plates. The best part is you get to try a little bit of everything, from siu mai (pork and shrimp dumplings) and char siu bao (barbecue pork buns), to cheong fun (rolled rice noodles).

Reflexology Foot Massage

The practice of reflexology—a part of ­traditional Chinese medicine—teaches that every part of the human foot ­corresponds to a different part of the body. There are dozens of places in Chinatown where patrons can sit and relax for an hour while a reflexologist gives them the best foot massage of their lives. Oasis Massage Salon and JL Luxurious Foot Spa are local massage favorites.

 

Teo Chew Temple

While most of Chinatown consists of strip malls, this complex is an ­architecturally­ beautiful exception. The Vietnamese Buddhist temple is made up of multiple buildings; ornate works of sculpture; and a vibrant red, white, and gold exterior. The temple is open to visitors daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

 

Crawfish Cafe

Houston is known for its Cajun crawfish, but this joint takes inspiration from across the Pacific Ocean, specifically Vietnam. Fresh mudbugs, as well as crab and shrimp, are boiled in various seasonings like Thai basil, coconut, garlic, and citrus. Then, they’re tossed in additional seasonings of your choice, such as Cajun spices and lemon pepper, and garlic butter that coats your hands with each bite. If you’re not careful, you’ll eat your own fingers along the way.

 

So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path, I hope to see you on the road.


Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS. To view the Chinatown episode visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.

From the November 2021 issue
The November cover of Texas Highways Magazine, with a title reading "Food Worth Traveling For"


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The November cover of Texas Highways Magazine, with a title reading "Food Worth Traveling For"


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The November cover of Texas Highways Magazine, with a title reading "Food Worth Traveling For"


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