Thiên Thanh | Vietnamese Banh Cuon | A Houston Best

Review by: Michael Stern

Bellaire Boulevard‘s Thiên Thanh doesn’t have a broad menu, but its banh cuon sings a siren song for Houston Vietnamese food enthusiasts. If you’re not up on Indochinese food, you may ask, what is banh cuon? Fragile, slightly chewy steamed rice-paper noodles, like crepes, envelop minced shrimp or BBQ pork with mushrooms. Choose either soft crepes or crisp ones. Make it cha lua by adding the bologna-like pork sausage. Garnish it with fish sauce, cilantro and bean sprouts.

Unlike pho and banh mi, which have gained popularity in America’s Vietnamese restaurants, banh cuon is a rarity. But to those who grew up with it, it’s everyday food, frequently eaten for breakfast, especially if you get the crepes without the savory fillings. That’s why Thiên Thanh starts serving meals at 8am.

Thiên Thanh is a shopping center storefront. Inside, long tables invite large parties. Or, when crowds mob the place, they welcome a dining-with-strangers experience. Interior decor includes walls with images of jungle greenery that contrast with the bustle of Bellaire Boulevard outside.

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