If you’re like me, you visited at a crawfish joint at least twice a month from March to July to crack and suck on some crawdads. They're gigantic, spicy, and oh-so messy, but then they're gone, having us wishing for more during the long off-season.
But what do you know about Oregon crawfish? They're in season right now, and Saigon House in Midtown is cooking them up Viet-Cajun style.
Duc Dinh opened Saigon House nearly three years ago with traditional Vietnamese fare like pho and rice dishes. In November 2017, Tony Nguyen joined and began tinkering with a more modern approach, including tweaking the crawfish by introducing the Pacific Northwest river signal crawfish species, whose season lasts most of August and leads into September—sometimes even October.
Signal crawfish look like miniature lobsters with larger pincers and harder shells, since they live on rockier terrain. And while Louisiana crawfish have that swamp flavor, signal have a clean, sweeter finish. They're rather large, but when you pinch the tail and get to the meat it slides out easily enough. The pincers are hard to crack but carry quite a bit of meat.
Saigon House's Viet-Cajun flavoring shows up in its H-Town Bang, comprised of cilantro, orange juice, and onions. It also features Saigon Heat (a lighter garlic butter but with fresh citrus), Thai Surprise (chiles, basil, and lemongrass), and a not-so-secret menu item called the Double D (H-Town Bang and Saigon Heat combined). Nugyen isn't afraid to showcase a variety of ingredients, just as he's daring enough to bring Oregon crawfish to the Gulf Coast.
“That’s really my goal, to play with different flavors and different inspirations," said Nguyen. "Houston is a melting pot of culture, and why not embrace all of the cultures and combine it into something delicious?”
He did just that. The Double D is mind-blowing: sweet, tangy with the spices kicking harder as you go deeper in the bowl. It's the perfect dish to satisfy your crawfish craving, and a reminder that in Houston, anything-goes can be really good.