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How Pitmaster Don Nguyen Makes Vietnamese-Influenced Texas Barbecue

Khói Barbecue is known for smoky brisket pho and bò lá lốt sausage

“Growing up in Texas, in Houston especially, where there’s a ton of Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian people, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani... that has a huge influence on how and what we cook,” says Don Nguyen, who along with his brother Theo, co-owns and operates Khói Barbecue in Houston. “When we cook [at] Khoi we ask ourselves: ‘What dishes can we riff on that brings us nostalgia?’”

That’s where notable dishes like Khóis brisket pho come into play. Growing up eating both Texas-style brisket and pho often, they figured this combination of smokey meat and noodles would work perfectly. The Nguyens also make a bò lá lốt sausage, turning the traditional lá lốt leaf-wrapped beef dish into a sausage, and smoked chicken rice and yuzukoshō dish that’s a play on the chicken and rice they ate growing up.

“Viet-Tex means few different things,” says Don. “It’s a term that we feel encapsulates our identity. We’re Vietnamese Americans that grew up in Texas, it’s as simple as that. But it’s also the type of food that we like to do. We love traditional Vietnamese food, we love traditional Texas barbecue — that’s what started the essence of Khói.”

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