At Blood Bros. BBQ in the Bellaire neighborhood of Houston, TX, Vietnam-born pitmaster Quy Hoang is bringing Asian spices, sauces, and cooking techniques to classic Texas barbecue. “I like to look at us as using traditional cuts of meat, traditional cooking methods, but just with flavors that we grew up eating,” he says. “After a while we were like, hey we have the Texas trinity down, now let’s have some fun.”
The restaurant, which is among the Eater 38 Essential Houston Restaurants, is known for its wildly popular gochujang ribs, brisket burnt end steam buns, Thai red curry and chili sausage, and more. But one item that really stands out on the menu is the restaurant’s smoked char siu pork belly fried bao buns. Hoang begins the process of this dish by rubbing down a slab of pork belly with a spice rub consisting of brown sugar, salt, and Chinese five-spice. The pork belly gets placed on the smoker for six hours, and doused in a char siu glaze when it comes off. “It’s something we always grew up eating,” Hoang says. “After school, me and the boys, we would go to the local Asian supermarket and buy char siu, heat it up and eat it with a bowl of rice, it was delicious. So this is another one of those dishes that’s inspired by our upbringing.”
Once the meat is ready, it’s time to get the other components of the bun set up. Chefs at the restaurant fry a set of bao buns in hot oil for less than a minute, before tossing them in a honey syrup. Next, strips of the pork belly get fried in a pan until there is a deep char on each side. Once they’re dark, they get an extra layer of glaze to help with the caramelization process. The meat gets added to the bun, dolloped with Chinese mustard, and topped with some in-house pickled ong choy, also known as Chinese water spinach.
Says Hoang, “Houston is such a melting pot, there’s guys all over the city that are taking their heritage and putting it into barbecue, and it’s working.”