What food does my wife miss the most after moving from New York to Houston?
"Cheap, no-frills Chinese-American food."
Or, at least the accessibility of such cuisine. It's easy to find inexpensive General Tso's chicken in New York and throughout the East Coast since a dimly lit restaurant with a bright overhead panel of dish pictures exists on just about every block. Pick any one of these places: the General Tso's is heavy, sweet, and spicy, and the pork fried rice is amazing with a couple beers.
But in Houston you have to drive, and even then, you won't find as many of these restaurants (that said, shoutout to The Rice Box and Heights Asian Cafe).
Let's add one to the list. Recently I visited Fu Belly, whose half-measured design resembles a church's youth group hangout. It hosts trivia nights and game-watching parties, and its menu goes in a bunch of directions, from your traditional Chinese-American items (sweet-and-sour chicken, sesame chicken, beef with broccoli), to a large-format duck dish; from Vietnamese vermicelli dishes and pho to several milk tea offerings and blended drinks.
But for my money, this is some of the best General Tso's chicken I've had. I'm talking a generous amount of white meat, lightly fried, served in a much more syrupy chili soy sauce that coats the chicken well. Eggy fried rice comes alongside. It's simple and so effective in delivering a familiar guilty pleasure while still proving to be just a bit more chef-driven than the usual fare.
For something that shows off Fu Belly's uniqueness, order the avocado chicken. Much more of a rarity in Chinese-American restaurants, this dish finds thin, tender chicken bites packed in with avocado chunks and tomatoes in a spicy soy vinegar sauce and served with flat noodles. It's a fun alternative to the more ubiquitous broccoli, peppers, and beans, though don't expect this avocado dish to play healthy.
While I may have to drive a bit longer than I want for this throwback Chinese-American cuisine experience, it's now securely on my list. Especially when I want some milk tea to go with it.