Ugly Delicious (2018) s01e04 Episode Script

Shrimp and Crawfish

1 [David Chang] So, I'm in the French Quarter, and one of my favorite restaurants in the world is Galatoire's.
It's just like, the essence, the quintessential New Orleans restaurant.
Go in, and the guy is like, "We can't let you in.
You look like a bum.
" I said, "No, no, you have rent-a-jackets right here.
Can I get one of those?" And then I'm in the rent-a-jacket, and then he looks, he's like, "No t-shirts.
" I've been practicing to keep my anger in check.
[chuckles] I don't blame any restaurant for not wanting to serve me, but it doesn't mean that I'm not gonna try to, like, win.
I said, "I'll be right back.
" And on the way to the hotel, I see this hip hop store.
[chuckles] "Do you have any collared shirts?" We finally get seated, I have my rent-a-jacket on.
Twenty minutes in, one of the servers recognized who I was.
That's when the magic happens.
Shrimp remoulade, seafood okra gumbo, crabmeat yvonne, red fish with shrimp étouffée.
The kitchen is trying to kill us.
They're sending out dishes we didn't even order.
Then they bring this giant metal cauldron of coffee.
And then they pour all this booze in it.
Motherfucker takes a goddamn ladle and says, "This ladle is 150 years old.
" I remember being very clearly like, "Who gives a shit?" And then he puts the whole content on the table.
And I was like, "What the fuck is this guy doing?" [laughs] One of the servers, his name is Josh, takes us to the bar next door.
[Josh Martinez] Now, here in New Orleans, it's very rigid.
This is Creole.
This is how we do it.
We don't change something that's been done forever.
[Chang] He had recently moved from Houston, and I love Houston.
It has everything you want to be a great food city.
Houston is a melting pot.
It's a new Creole.
It's immigrants who've moved there.
Everyone is just taking from everyone else.
But you do that here People look at you like you're nuts.
But when you get into, like, Viet-Cajun, uh, crawfish, it's never happened here.
And I don't know why, but we're hoping.
[Chang chuckles] Um We were drunk.
And the main reason Viet-Cajun hasn't picked up steam in a place where it should pick up steam isn't it because of race? [stammers] Yeah.
Race, and nobody's got the balls to do it.
Welcome to New Orleans.
[adventurous music playing] [Chang] Stop the music.
This is too far into the episode.
We need to get to New Orleans.
Tradition, tradition! Tradition! Tradition, tradition! [Chang] Where are we at right now? [Chris Heyn] We're in a courtyard of the Three-Legged Dog.
- [Chang] In the French Quarter.
- [Heyn] In the French Quarter.
Pretty much a service industry bar.
We serve a lot of bartenders, waiters, people who actually work on Bourbon.
We're closed to the public for six hours a year, for a family potluck Thanksgiving.
We're open 24/7.
We don't close.
When the bartenders get off work, when the bar people get off work, they come here, get drunk, eat crawfish.
- It's delicious.
- [Todd Lively] Thank you, much.
[Chang] But have you ever tried anything other than this? Oh, I've actually steamed blue crab before.
It was good, but I grew up eating boiled.
I like 'em boiled.
You understand though, like, culinary technique-wise, it would make more sense to steam it? But why do you have to put it in the boiler? There's other ways to do it.
I like my traditional ways.
[Luke Mandola Sr.
] Always traditional.
Since 1976, the first day we did it.
The same way.
We only cook crawfish when they're alive.
We get the Louisiana swamp crawfish.
That's what we get.
They ask sometimes what's the difference in shrimp and crawfish.
Shrimp comes out of the Gulf.
Crawfish come out of the freshwater, right out of the rice fields right here.
They clean everything out of 'em.
The dirt that's in the field, the mud.
Everything's out of 'em, 'cause it ain't fun eating dirty crawfish.
We start with the Zatarain's, right here, and we put it in our boil.
Two bottles of lemon juice.
We put every one of these spices in this boiler.
This is red pepper, chili pepper, salt, garlic pepper, black pepper.
That's what makes [coughs] Excuse me.
All right, here we go.
So, when we cook 'em and our spices get in 'em, when you suck that head, you get the spice juices, all the flavor, the way we mix it.
It is good stuff.
We sell 'em by the pound.
We're gonna do three pounds of this order right here.
We always put two potatoes and two corn, and that's just the tradition, you know.
- [Chang] Is that pineapple in here? - [Lively] Yes.
Did your parents freak out when you decided to put Vienna sausages in here? Oh, yeah.
[Chang] Pineapple, they must have had a stroke.
[Lively] Yeah.
[Chang] I'm baffled by tradition in this town.
Completely baffled.
We're in a building that's well over 100 years old.
We're in the French Quarter that's 300 years old.
If we were to update everything, what'd be the charm of the French Quarter? [Chang] Maybe that's the thing.
I don't have the history.
My parents immigrated to America from Korea.
Koreans don't love me.
You know what I mean? For me, it's trying to find another angle.
I have to do it.
It's like, I'm totally befuddled that you're like, "No, I'm never gonna try anything new ever again.
I've already reached my limit with pineapple.
" [chuckles] [Lively] I just prefer the boil.
[Chang] I love it here, but the food in New Orleans should look like the food in Houston.
I hate the weather, I hate the way it looks.
But the city of Houston is sort of perfectly set for people to take a chance on their meal.
And that's why I like it.
Tell me, is Houston the most exciting food city in America right now? The world, maybe? [chuckles] - Maybe not, but - [Chang] Without being hyperbolic.
[stutters] I'll tell you the truth.
Where else is this much stuff happening? I think it's the most dynamic and the most diverse.
We have good farms, we have strong produce.
Great seafood from the Gulf.
But honestly, the most fun to draw from is being able to incorporate a lot of different cultures into your food.
And then also being able to go out and be inspired by them.
It's easy for us.
And then also, it's just not out of place anymore.
Now a lot of restaurants are cooking the same stuff.
Whereas here, with the massive immigrant population, so much of it is stuff you can only get here.
To me, that's super exciting.
When I moved here for culinary school, it was the diversity.
I moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
- Oh, my God.
- Thank you.
These flavors are delicious.
It's what kept me as a cook here.
People have definite preconceived notions, like you wanna go to Houston, you're gonna get Mexican and steakhouses and barbecue.
But what we have is the largest Southeast Asian town in the country.
You go down Bellaire right now, it's six miles of pho shops and dim sum joints.
Cantonese and Sichuan.
Most cities have sandwich shops.
We have bánh mi shops.
These are people and places in the city that are important to us, as far as who we learn from and how we eat.
So my favorite bánh mi shop, Cali Sandwich, is right down the street.
She was the strong promoter of the bánh mi in this city in the early '80s and now her kids are looking to expand.
And so you're seeing first and second-generation folks doing things.
Then you got people like Justin Yu.
He is a second-generation Chinese, so he's gonna have a modern take on traditional cuisine.
[Yu] This is a savory porridge, smoked down with a little bit of homemade vadouvan and sweet navel oranges.
[Shepherd] It's immigrant cooking.
That's what Underbelly was about, was the side of things not seen.
So when you get the bill, it gives a description of every one of these places.
And it states on there, you know, "Thank you for coming in.
We'd love to have you back, but we ask that you go visit at least one of these places before you do.
" [Chang] What's going on, man? What's going on here? [Shepherd] So, we're gonna do a Vietnamese barbecue.
- Nice.
- We're gonna boil you some crawfish.
Brought the trailers out, doing a whole hog.
[Shepherd] A little Vietnamese, uh, tailgate, if you will.
So I brushed it down with thit kho broth.
Now, what is thit kho broth? [Shepherd] Caramelized onions, garlic, star anise, cinnamon, brown sugar and a shit ton of fish sauce.
You'll get thit kho broth with catfish or little bonehead ribs over rice.
[Chang] So, you've merged two things.
Texas, they don't really roast whole pork.
- We don't.
- Right? - And Vietnamese - [laughs] Don't do it on whole hogs.
So why do you feel like this makes sense? Obviously, to me, I'm like, this is gonna be fucking delicious.
That's exactly why.
How are you gonna flip Oh, wow.
You built a flip.
So when we get to this point, we brush it all in there - and let that broth sit in there.
- [chuckles] I think one of the most exciting things happening in Houston is the Vietnamese Cajun.
It sounds funny to people, but when you think about it, I don't think you're doing anything other than making Vietnamese.
- Right? 'Cause it's that seamless.
- [Nguyen] Yeah.
[Shepherd] The Vietnamese crawfish.
You started seeing this really in the late '90s, and now it's this kind of driving force of crawfish boil houses in the city.
This is the garlic butter sauce right here.
[Shepherd] So instead of adding the seasoning into the water, you're adding the seasoning afterwards and keeping the flavor of the crawfish really clean.
It's all in the seasoning blend afterwards, all the cayenne, all of and Creole seasoning, the butter, the garlic.
[Alison Cook] The whole thing that separates Cajun crawfish from Viet-Cajun crawfish is the garlic butter.
It's a French signature.
Really, after that, I don't think Houstonians ever looked back.
As much as we had liked Cajun crawfish, we liked Viet-Cajun crawfish even better.
And the thing about Viet-Cajun crawfish is it's still evolving.
This is ginger grass crawfish.
The main ingredient is, uh, lemongrass and ginger, with a little bit spice of the Cajun.
And, uh, most of it is the Vietnamese seasoning in here.
Ginger sauce and the lemongrass.
That's everything in the sauce right here.
[Shepherd] Would this work anywhere else? I don't know.
But, in the Gulf Coast, it definitely does.
[Cook] Oh, man! I'm glad my late mother is not here to see this.
She would not approve.
Do you feel that Viet-Cajun was actually invented with your grandmother and your mother? No, I would not say that.
I say Viet-Cajun is what the young generation created.
So who invented Viet-Cajun? [Nguyen] I'm very proud to say that we are the ones who brought it into Houston.
And then after that, the city of Houston adapt to it.
[Chang] But how come Viet-Cajun didn't happen in New Orleans? Well, because-- I've gone to Louisiana several times.
I've always tried to find There's a huge Vietnamese population, but I don't see anything.
- We're basically in Vietnamese-town.
- Yeah.
More or less.
More or less.
Across the river.
I have an affinity for Vietnamese-style crawfish and I look all around.
When I first moved here, I tried looking for it, and I couldn't find it and I still can't really find it.
I find crawfish in a traditional sense.
Uh, and I found this little place, and they do great crawfish, and so I'm just trying to coerce them to maybe think about bringing Vietnamese-style crawfish here.
- [Chang] Hello.
- [Georgette Dang] How are you? - [Chang] Got some blue crabs? - [Dang] We have blue crabs, we have crawfish, we have shrimp, Gulf shrimp.
[Chang] How come I can't get Viet-Cajun here? Because we stay true to the tradition here in New Orleans.
But you're not from New Orleans.
I am born and raised here in New Orleans.
Right here.
Does that make you That makes me just as Cajun as everybody else here.
I just had Viet-Cajun and it was delicious.
And I think it should be served everywhere.
But if it could be anywhere, it should be served here as well.
You know, I don't think that they're ready for the fusion, because crawfish here is just a staple food on its own.
It shouldn't be changed.
It should be eaten the same way that's always been made.
- I got to try this.
- [stammers] We have to.
[Dang] You gotta eat it out the bag.
- [Chang] Get in there, man.
- [Martinez] Hell, yeah.
You don't have to lick your fingers like the Viet-Cajun way to get the seasoning.
[Tommy Tran] Yeah, we suck the head.
Don't have to lick our fingers.
Why do you guys have to hate so much? We don't, we don't.
We embrace our Viet culture.
Just not in crawfish.
But I'm saying, I think I taste some star anise in there.
- [Dang] No.
- No? [Dang] That's the pho you're smelling.
I mean, I'm cooking pho back there.
- [Chang] You're cooking pho right now? - Chicken pho.
I can't put cayenne pepper or celery inside my chicken broth to make chicken pho.
[Chang] That's funny though, 'cause how did Vietnamese food come to be? Someone merged together some French and some Southeast Asian food.
Vietnamese food is probably the most classic fusion food and greatest success story as a fusion food of the past 100 years.
- [laughs] - [Chang] Can I try the pho you're making? Is that the broth we just put in everything together? - [Chang] You're gonna make pho ga.
- [indistinct chatter] [Chang] They're making Vietnamese food in the back.
That's what I find to be so ironic.
- [Tommy laughs] We have blue crab here.
- [Chang] Why're you icing it down now? [Tran] It won't over cook.
[Chang] Have you ever cooked, like, a beautiful piece of steak before? - Yes.
- Right, beautiful.
- Very expensive, right? - Yes.
- Do you ever boil it? - No.
- Why? - Because it's too expensive to boil.
- Because there's a better way to cook it.
- Yeah.
See how the ice is drawing all the temperature? [Chang] Yes, but it doesn't mean that it's going inside the crab.
[Tommy] Yes.
It's making its way in.
[Chang] I don't think there's a correlation.
I think the correlation is that it's sitting in water.
I'm sorry, bro.
I [stutters] Forty-two years I live here and I learned this from an American Cajun guy.
Well, I will promise you-- I don't even serve ice to my customer.
I promise you, I will not pick up this tradition.
[both laugh] And, of course, we walk our crawfish.
- We walk our crawfish.
- [Chang] Oh, this is amazing.
[Tommy] Yeah, we walk our crawfish.
We don't believe in boiling our dead.
[Chang] Can you show me the pho? I got my chicken and I use it for the broth.
And my broth is almost ready already.
But since you insist It's hot, be careful.
- That's good.
That's really good.
- In only about two hours.
You know what this needs? - Some of this.
- No! [both laugh] No way.
- I will beat you.
- [both laugh] So what's more popular to the Gulf region food-wise and business-wise? Shrimp or crawfish? - Shrimp, crawfish - [Shepherd] Shrimp.
- Shrimp is by far number one, right? - [Yu] I like shrimp.
- [Shepherd] Shrimp is king.
- Why is that the case? It's easy.
People that only eat chicken will also only eat shrimp.
- Yeah.
- 'Cause it's a protein that is easily acceptable and it's not really aggressive.
- Good evening, I am a shrimp.
- And I am a crawfish.
We're both ten-legged crustaceans with two main parts.
A cephalothorax and an abdomen.
Now, crawfish come with two claws, so we look a little like baby lobsters.
Fancy! Shrimp don't have claws.
Just a big fat booty for snacking.
And even though we're cousins, grouping us together is kind of like mixing cows and pigs.
[shrimp] That sounds delicious.
Now, crawfish live exclusively in freshwater.
Shrimp live in saltwater and freshwater, and we come in thousands of species found anywhere in the world.
So beat that, mother Well, congratulations.
You're like the Walmart of the sea.
Now, we're more discriminating.
With 400 species, mostly from the southern United States, as well as Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.
New Zealand, huh? Hmm.
Didn't I say you can find us everywhere? That makes you not very special.
But guess what? We're gaining on you.
Now we're raised extensively in China.
[shrimp] I hope you realize that this is planet of the shrimp.
Seems like somebody's got a Napoleon complex.
[Chang] Crawfish is an invasive species in China.
Like in North America, though, the best crawfish, they have a symbiotic relationship in rice paddies.
China wanted to get rid of 'em, but they found out they're delicious.
I was in Beijing 15 years ago and I had one of the times of my life.
We ate crawfish all the time.
There'd be six of us, and they would just dump a mound of crawfish on the table.
[Dunlop] But look at all that Sichuan pepper.
- [coughing] Oh, my God! - [Dunlop laughs] That is going to kill someone.
You know, these flavors, especially with this garlic butter one, if you merge these together, they taste like uh, Viet-Cajun crawfish in Houston.
It's like if you merge these two together, you have Viet-Cajun.
I don't think the world's seen this many Sichuan peppers.
[Dunlop] Sichuan pepper, yeah.
Yeah, nice dishes.
You could put a teaspoon-full of Sichuan pepper, and that would be plenty.
You're used to eating this kind of stuff, right? This heat? Yeah, I think so.
[chuckles] [Chang] It's basically stir-fried crawfish.
[Dunlop] With lots of chili.
I'm sweating from the top of my head.
It is like a pool of sweat.
- Like a sauna.
DIY sauna.
- Oh, yeah.
I feel like Homer Simpson in that episode where he eats the hot chili and he starts hallucinating.
[screams] [exhales] [laughing] - Holy shit.
- [Dunlop chuckles] I don't love seafood boils.
I would prefer a stir-fry over a boil.
And you said you've never tried crawfish like that? [Nguyen] Yeah.
- It'd be my honor to cook you that.
- [Nguyen] I'll try it.
- Hopefully I don't fuck it up.
- No.
You tried a new one.
[Chang] We'll cook this together.
First time I had this dish was in Beijing.
Have you ever stir-fried crawfish? No way, right? [Shepherd] Not in the south.
Boil it.
Fry it.
Pull the tail meat.
Stir-fry it? Hell, no.
So, why is it okay to cook a pig Vietnamese style in Houston, - but I can't stir-fry crawfish? - [chuckles] I don't know.
- We'll figure it out.
I want to try it.
- [Chang] Hand me the crawfish now.
[Yu] They're not very lively right now.
[Shepherd] I'm actually looking at it, going,"This is This is gonna be delicious.
" [Yu] I mean, every ounce of this makes sense, right? [Chang] It's funny, it's like, we're talking to four guys that like pushing the boundaries a little bit.
But even you guys, in this town, there's certain things you just can't do.
I think it's gonna be really good.
Although, my mouth is on fire.
[laughs] - [Shepherd] Sichuan peppercorn? - Yeah, I can't taste anything.
[all laughing] - [Nguyen] It's very good.
- [Shepherd] Yeah.
[Chang] I could eat crawfish all fucking day.
I'd be down with that.
[Chang] I didn't make this dish.
I never asked the chef what was in there.
But when I tasted it, I was like, "Oh, he probably did this, this and this.
" And it's way spicier and they definitely put MSG into it, too [Yu] There ain't nothing wrong with a little MSG.
- We'll talk about that tomorrow.
- That's a whole other conversation.
[indistinct chatter] - [Shepherd] That's a whole episode.
- [Chang laughs] [Chang] So, what's more predominant in Vietnamese food? Shrimp? Shrimp and crab.
Why'd you choose crawfish? Because it's a new trend.
So you call this "Shrimp & Noodles," we're not here right now.
- [Shepherd] Probably not.
- Probably not.
- I have a shrimp dish.
- [Chang] Let's be honest.
[Nguyen] Oh, I have a very nice shrimp dish.
I'm gonna make it for you and you're gonna like it.
- All right.
- All right.
[Chang] So, how do you guys feel about the endless shrimp buffets of Red Lobster and the Vegas buffets? How do we feel about Americans, for the most part, buying really crappy shrimp? I think when people go into, like, a large grocery chain or whatever and they see their options, they're automatically gonna go for "Ooh, look how cheap this is.
" You know? They're gonna do that, instead of, like, "Oh, look at the quality of this," and "I should probably buy this," because, traditionally, I think, can you even get really, really fantastic shrimp in a grocery store? I don't know.
I don't think so.
[Chang] Tsukiji.
It's probably the preeminent fish market in the world.
Nothing even comes close.
People are trying to do their business, and if you're in their way, they're not being rude.
They're just like, "Get out of the way.
" Basically, you have the world's experts on selling seafood, and you have the highest quality, whether it's uni, tuna, swordfish, all the way down to shrimp.
These are wild.
These are farm-raised? Big difference.
[in Japanese] Wild ones' color is completely different as you can see.
[in English] Color.
What? Takai an in the price? [in Japanese] The price of these two types of shrimps? The wild-raised ones are 18,000 yen ($163) for 1 kilo, and the farm-raised ones are 8,000 yen ($72) for 1 kilo.
10,000 yen ($90) difference.
[in English] Which do you prefer? Ah! [both chuckle] [in Japanese] I prefer wild ones, but they are too expensive.
[in English] Too expensive.
It's too expensive to eat.
He prefers this.
I prefer this too, but $180 a kilo, that's a lot.
Do you know what this one is fed? [in Japanese] They will not tell us what they feed them.
It's secret, so they keep it private.
[in English] That was a kuruma ebi that was farm-raised and delicious.
And these are the wild guys.
It's hard to describe, but it just tastes better than the farm-raised.
This is fucking unbelievable.
I did not know that Japan had langoustine.
This is arguably one of the most, if not the most, delicious shellfish in the world.
What about all of this? Are you worried about sustainability? [in Japanese] As shrimping is not highly regulated, z the numbers are decreasing every year.
I'm worried if there will still be enough shrimp in the next 20 years' time.
But we try not to over-shrimp to sustain the numbers.
[in English] I feel really sad about the future of this, but the selfish, awful person in me is like, "I'm going to eat this while it's still around.
" [in Japanese] I feel the same way as you do, but we really should preserve shrimps.
[in English] You guys all buy local, support local farms.
Sustainability is massively important - [Shepherd] Yeah.
- as I think it is for all chefs.
I think there's got to be a lot of things that changes, just as laws.
I don't think shrimp laws have changed - since the '70s.
- [Chang] Yeah.
Well, the waters have changed in the past 30 years.
When you're talking about damming, fresh water coming into the Gulf, and if that brackish water goes away, shrimp goes away.
Just to prove to you I'm not anti-shrimp, - look at the shrimp dish.
- [laughing] Everything I have to prove.
[Shepherd stammering] I mean, this is the shrimp cocktail, right? [Yu] What if this is the new shrimp cocktail? This would be amazing, but also, like, this is not date food.
[Yu] Oh, man, if your date can't touch shrimp - [Shepherd] Right? - and shrimp shells, or-- [Shepherd] You're dating the wrong person.
Eating shrimp, shell on, head on, freaks people out.
So, the question I have is, and I [chuckles] - Has shrimp cocktail set us back? - [laughing] Has it set us back because it's become this iconic image of what shrimp needs to be? [narrator] Shrimp cocktail.
Symbol of success.
Bloody Mary with a body count.
Cold snap of the sea mixed with the naughty tang of the soul.
It means the night is young.
The possibilities are limitless.
You leave behind that little one-bedroom apartment and that cat litter box that needs changing.
For a few hours, at least, the power is yours.
[waiter] Would you like to order? Yes.
I would like the shrimp cocktail, please.
[narrator] It's a night on the town, to make you feel like the lead in some old movie on the UHF channel you forgot about.
[waiter] The shrimp cocktail It's the overture.
It's prelude.
It's foreplay.
[narrator] Your companion smiles across the table and you hope you're the canary that that ruby-lipped cat's gonna eat.
Shrimp cocktail.
Cock shrimp-tail.
Makes a magic tiny dancer.
Smokey eyes.
Smokey nose.
Smokey the Bear.
And everyone's a star.
[Chang] I'd argue that the shrimp cocktail is the greatest culinary invention by white people.
Whole WASP food culture at large.
[Yu] I'm all set for today.
Picked up the Whataburger ketchup last night for the cocktail sauce.
It's got to be specifically Whataburger.
[Shepherd] That's Texas.
[Yu] It's a Texas White Castle.
You're done drinking, you're off your shift late.
But, definitely, the most key is the Whataburger ketchup.
[Chang] So, who wins? You think this is more delicious than this? [Yu] I think this is way better here, but that's 'cause you're here.
You know? There's so many other cultures that can accept this.
[Shepherd] Minnesota's gonna accept this a lot more than that.
These guys are basically kissing cousins.
But this looks way more foreboding than this.
- [Shepherd] Mmm-hmm.
- Yeah, you gotta work for it, though.
[Chang] How long before, when you started serving crawfish this way, was it accepted? It took us about a year and a half, or two.
[Yu] There's a reason why Vietnamese moved to Houston, because it felt like home, you know? Even in the Gulf Coast, there's so many Vietnamese shrimpers, because it's the job that they did back home as well.
[Shepherd]You've got the Mississippi Delta and the Mekong Delta that are pretty much exactly the same.
You know? If you look at a map, it's like, "I get this now.
" It's not like the Vietnamese population was embraced, originally.
I feel like most people came here after the war.
Lot of people worked in fishing boats.
Shrimping boats.
And I read a New York Times article, 1981, there was, like, Ku Klux Klan fighting against the Vietnamese population.
That was shocking.
Tonight, we begin a series on the Vietnamese refugees.
Jim Laurie has been on Special Assignment.
[Jim Laurie] Almost everyone here wants to go to America.
The US takes more refugees than anyone else and the doubling of the American quota, plus new pledges by others, mean all will be relocated eventually.
When they came over here, our government basically gave them boats and I don't have a problem with that.
But needless to say, the local shrimpers did.
[Laurie] Fearing physical harm, most of the refugees fled town.
[Gene Fisher] I went to my government and I begged them to help the situation, and do something about it.
And they wouldn't do it, so I'm a white American.
I went to the KKK.
[Guindon] American shrimp boats started having Klan members riding on the boats.
You could always tell Vietnamese shrimpers, because there'd be ten of 'em in a group, because they were afraid.
I can speak, most emphatically and positively, that the Ku Klux Klan is more than willing to select out of the ranks of American fishermen, some of your more hearty souls, and send them to our training camps.
When you come out of there, - you'll be ready for the Vietnamese.
- [people cheer] [grunts] [Chang] Was your dad a shrimper in, uh, Vietnam? My dad was in the South Vietnamese Air Force.
So he got to leave.
He had a sponsor.
That's why we came here.
There was tough times.
You had the KKK come down picketing, uh, there was killing, in Seadrift, just 45 minutes from here.
For my father to have seen that in less than ten, 15 years, the complete 180 of the community just embracing us We were the new kids on the block in '75, and within a ten-year time frame, they realized that we were actually contributing.
Watch out, this will swing towards y'all, all right? So, we got couple of shrimp, and a squid and a cuttlefish.
[Chang] Here we go.
[Johnny] Yeah, it was like Forrest Gump on his first, uh, drag.
One shrimp.
Hey, Dave, imagine back in the days, grabbing them by the handfuls.
[Chang] What happens if this becomes a completely dry fishing area? There's just nothing left? [Johnny] Well, you know, we have a very healthy sport fishing industry here.
For us, it's going to be tourism.
I don't see the shrimping industry coming back to what it once was.
Unless the bays recover to support, where you can make a good living, I don't see it coming back.
[Chang] Your restaurant, what kind of food is it? Is there a particular style in Vietnam? Or is it just sort of everything Vietnamese? Uh, no.
I have, uh, Vietnamese, Chinese and American.
- American? - Yes.
So, because some kids, they don't like, uh, Vietnamese food, and some don't like Chinese food, so they can have American food.
[Johnny] Our clientele here are not as adventurous as those kind of eaters.
[Chang] You think the acceptance you've had in this industry, in this area, which is hardworking blue-collar labor, particularly in the shrimping-- Just trying to raise our families.
- Just trying to raise your family - Earning a living.
has been through sheer hard work and resilience.
- [Ann] Yes.
- Yes, sir.
When you do have time, how do you spend it? - Outdoors.
I mean, we're-- - Hunting? Oh, yeah.
We're hunting, we're fishing.
We're like Vietnamese rednecks.
[chuckles] [Ann] Try this.
How do they taste? I can see you like Vietnamese right now.
[Chang] I love Vietnamese.
These are delicious.
Are you guys accepting of people from, you know, uh countries in the Middle East - Mmm-hmm.
- Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Iran, Iraq, that are trying to come to America, or other democratic countries, but they're not allowed to? [Johnny] To be honest, we came over here and we had to go through the same vetting process.
It took my mother ten years to be a citizen.
To become a US citizen.
So, I mean But at least you're given the opportunity.
Well, I feel they're given the opportunity now, but a lot It seems like the system has even made it easier than how it was for us.
You went through this.
Why can't you be a little bit more empathetic? Or, not that you're empathetic, why can't we share that story so people realize, "Look at the success you guys have had"? And maybe we can pay that story forward for others.
Yeah, but I think the sensitive point is, you know, with Islam and all this, uh, radicalization of individuals who skew their own faith, - and you're seeing-- - [Chang] That's not everyone.
[Johnny] Exactly.
Everyone who comes over is allowed the same thing that we've been allowed.
I feel, for the most part, it's been like that.
But, to a certain extent, you have to prove yourself.
- [Ann] Yes.
- And by proving yourself is that you prove to us that you want to be here to work.
[Ann] Yes.
As I look at the society nowadays, it feels like half of America wants handouts and the other half works.
We're the other half that works.
So, when you come here, which half are you gonna be? [Chang] I was sad because I didn't hear the perfect answer that makes me happy.
[sighs] I'm more mad at myself 'cause I'm trying to curb my judgments, all right? If anyone's I'm just trying to How do I tell someone to be more open? And I think, for me, it's like, "How do you do it with food?" [Cook] Houston always seems to me like the most inclusive, accepting city I've ever experienced.
And I think we've come a long way, partly by eating each other's food.
The first Vietnamese restaurant that opened was called Kim Son, which was 1982.
And I remember being really fascinated.
They were calling a dish of beef that you wrapped up in your soft rice noodles with herbs Vietnamese fajitas.
They got it.
[Chang] You think Houston could lead the charge in accepting food from, you know, Muslim countries? It does right now.
But, I mean, Houston's still crazy conservative to me, too.
Simultaneously, right? When it comes to food, people don't really think about politics.
- Honestly.
- [Yu] Yeah.
[Nguyen] I have a lot of conservatives come to this restaurant.
They don't say, "Oh, because you're Vietnamese, or Democrats or because of who you are, that we're not going to eat your food.
It's because your food is something the people like and we'd like to try it.
" But in 1981, no one would have ever eaten Vietnamese food the way they would today.
- [Nguyen] I agree with you.
- It's taken - [Nguyen] I agree.
- years and years of-- Back in 1981, there is not many restaurants.
So, the acceptance can happen.
You can still be All I want to struggle for is acceptance.
We have to think of how to twist it to fit people's taste.
It's easy to accept.
It's like, you're still eating a Gulf oyster, but you're just like, "Okay, how am I going to eat a Gulf oyster and be able to serve it in a Vietnamese restaurant that everybody will eat up?" And they do.
So, Viet-Cajun couldn't happen anywhere else except for Houston? Very much.
It can happen, but It'll be forced then.
Do you think the Viet-Cajun might actually go to Vietnam? [Shepherd] Yeah.
Some over there already opened - One or two already closed.
- [Shepherd] Yeah.
- Yeah, I've seen it.
- Yeah, no doubt.
[Nikki Tran] You have to credit the Vietnamese in terms of bringing Cajun food further.
I don't have all the Cajun ingredients here, but I like to make it so it's more suitable to the Vietnamese taste.
I use more fruit and I use local shrimp.
And vegetable.
You have to be able to work with what you have.
I grew up here in Saigon, surrounded by the rivers.
I grew up hungry.
My mom had to work, my father had to work, so they locked me and my brother inside the house and asked the neighbors to watch for us.
Every once in a while, I get invited to my neighbor's house, and they have some good food.
I'm like, "Oh, when I grow up, when I have a lot of money, I'm going to eat this," you know.
So, that trained me in my mind, I have to make something good for other people to eat.
[indistinct chatter] Why the Vietnamese in Houston or Louisiana like crawfish, because they're live.
In Vietnam, we eat live shrimp.
You eat a lot of live stuff, not frozen.
The first time I had crawfish in Houston, I thought it's very familiar to me.
It's not something that I grew up with, but there's some Vietnamese part to it.
[Chang] You lived in Houston for a long time? [Nikki] Yes, yes.
- You brought Viet-Cajun food to Vietnam.
- Yes.
How did that happen? They went crazy over it, you know.
When I offered crawfish, they were like, "Yeah.
" So, I thought I had to make adjustment.
[Chang] So, you're not making it with crawfish.
You're using river prawns because the crawfish are not indigenous to - Ah.
- [Nikki] Exactly.
I use live river prawns.
I throw a lot of pho spices, I put lemongrass into it.
[Chang] So, you're making Vietnamese - Viet-Cajun with local Vietnamese.
- Yeah.
Local Vietnamese.
So, it's like two generations removed from Vietnam? - [Nikki] Mmm-hmm.
- [Chang] That's super interesting.
- So, it's Viet-Cajun-Vietnamese almost? - [Nikki] Yes.
I call it Viejun.
[chuckles] - What was that? - Viejun.
- "Viejun?" - Yeah, that's my own term of [both laugh] [Chang] Vietnamese food becomes Viet-Cajun.
Viet-Cajun goes back to Vietnam - as Viejun.
- [Nikki chuckles] How many years did that take you to do? Viejun? - [Nikki] Only one month-- - [Chang] One month? - Yes, yes.
That's right.
- [chuckles] That's crazy! [Chang] It's so crazy to me now how fast these food cycles move.
That might have taken, like, 50 years.
Now this could probably happen in six months.
Thank you.
[Chang] It's amazing to me.
So, the third wave of Vietnamese food, then, would be bringing back Viejun to Houston? I have been thinking about that and I think I can make it work, 'cause I have a lot of ingredients in Houston now that weren't available before.
I want to bring it to the world so that they could see that Vietnamese food is not all about pho, not all about spring roll, but it has, you know, very different angles.
- [Chang] We're in your hometown.
- [Yu] Yeah.
[Chang] You've cooked all over the world, but you came back here.
- [Yu] Yeah.
- Grown up, born and raised.
[Yu] Yeah.
Is this Chinatown we're in right now? Or is it the outskirts I mean, it's always growing.
That's the crazy part.
Chinatown started off on the east end of Houston.
Everything moved over here probably in about the '80s.
It doesn't even feel like just Chinatown anymore.
There is Korean barbecue, there's Crawfish & Noodles, probably, like, ten pho shops People consider it Chinatown, but a huge population here is Vietnamese.
And honestly, I like the Vietnamese food a lot more here in Chinatown than I like the Chinese food.
All right, so this is Nam Giao.
It specializes in Hue-style food.
Hue is, like, the capital of food in Vietnam.
[Chang] Well, I'm excited.
This food is a lot lighter, maybe a lot less bombastic than some of the, uh, food you're used to.
- So what's this made out of? - It's made out of, uh, rice flour and minced shrimp and minced pork.
[Chang] So, it's like a Vietnamese tamale? [Le] And this is the sauce that you pour on top of the cake, and then you use the spoon, and you slice it.
And I tell you, this dish, we can compete with the Happy Meal of McDonald's, because children, they enjoy this more than the Happy Meal.
- [Yu] Better ingredients, too.
- [chuckles] - This is delicious.
- Wow.
Super delicious.
[Le] Yes, sir.
And that one is called the Crystal Shrimp Dumpling.
Holy cow! This is one of the best things I've ever had.
This is a style of food that is not represented too much in America, right? Yes.
The reason is it's so hard to make.
- [Yu] Very labor-intensive.
- Yes, it's very labor-intensive.
[Chang] You're doing very difficult food to make.
You do more work - than many French kitchens.
- [Le] Yes.
I feel like your prices could be four times as much.
Yes, sir.
And I-- - And don't you get upset about that? - No.
I want to bring Vietnamese food to the public.
To say thanks to Americans, to say thanks to America, who gave us an opportunity here.
- You are literally an angel.
- [Yu chuckles] [Le] No.
Actually, I really enjoy serving the people.
- Wow, this is humbling.
- [Yu chuckles] Food is the bridge that make, uh, the general public understand the Vietnamese better.
In 1975, when a lot of Vietnamese came to the US as refugees, they make the Vietnamese egg rolls.
They gave it to the neighbor.
It was something new to the neighbors.
They tried the egg roll and they loved them.
So, it's something from heart to heart.
[chuckles] [Yu] It's the way to go.
[chuckles] It's the best way to make peace.
The Americans love Vietnamese food.
[Yu] Absolutely.
- As an American, I love Vietnamese food.
- [Le] Yes, and then-- And then we go from there.
[Shepherd] Let's go cook a pig.
Crawfish? Justin, shrimp cocktail time, bro.
- [Yu] Shrimp cocktail, you got it.
- Let's do it! Beautiful.
[indistinct chatter] - [coughs] Oh! - Yeah, it gets you every time, right? [laughs] This is so good.
I mean, this is everything that I love about food.
A real privilege to eat this way.
So, thank you.
- No problem.
I'm glad you like it.
- [Chang] Thank you very much.
[Shepherd] Crispy pig skin.
[Chang] How am I supposed to eat the rice cake? [Shepherd] It's kind of a snack on the side.
- Like chips and dip, you know? - Hmm.
[Shepherd] That's beautiful, right? I think fusion is when you're talking about things that are forced.
That's painful.
Fusing bones together, fusing things together, that's not an easy thing.
This is just natural.
It's an easy progression.
This is great.
[Shepherd] And it's surviving and maintaining and living in a beautiful harmony.
This is people coming together as a whole.
I don't think it's like this anywhere else, you know? You would do the hog roast, but you wouldn't have fish sauce added to it, you wouldn't do it in lettuce leaves, you usually wouldn't have these little crispy things.
Nowhere else.
- It's a beautiful time to be here.
- It is.
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