Reyna Duong is the award-winning chef-owner of Sandwich Hag in Dallas, Texas. When she moved to Dallas from southern California more than two decades ago, she was shocked by how nice everyone was.
She came to realize that just as people in Texas held stereotypes about SoCal, the rest of the country stereotyped Texas. “It’s not just people in cowboy hats!” National media coverage especially overlooks the considerable diversity of Dallas and its surrounding metro area, Duong says. Her family fled Vietnam when she was one, and though she’s never been back, she feels at home when she visits her favorite Vietnamese-owned spots in the Dallas metro area.
Sandwich Hag, Dallas
Our regular customer base is very diverse. I’ve tried to cultivate that diversity as part of our mission of inclusion, to be a safe space. My brother Sang has Down Syndrome. He was my first employee. It’s been really great to build a platform to hire and partner with folks with disabilities who are differently abled. I love to see the extended age groups of our customers, and to see picky children chowing down on bánh mì and cà ri. It was important to me not to have a huge menu so that I could have fun sharing my chef’s specials—the very time-consuming dishes that you’ll only find in a Vietnamese home.
Vietnamese Food Trucks, Garland
There are two groupings: one in the parking lot of a Vietnamese strip mall called Saigon Cali, and another at a former car wash. You look up, and it’s your people. Most of the trucks are open Thursday through Sunday nights, from about 6 p.m. until 11 or 11:30. All are small and family-owned. I go to each truck for a specific item. Mooshie has bánh khọt, little savory pancakes that are nice and crispy, with shrimp, chives, and mung beans, and you dip them in nước chấm.
Saigon Block, Richardson
I go for the whole baked catfish, cá nướng. You get a huge plate of lettuce, herbs, pickles, cucumbers, sprouts, rice paper, a little bowl of hot water to soften the rice paper, and vermicelli noodles. You basically roll your own fish spring rolls and enjoy it family-style. We don’t talk about the talent in Vietnamese cuisine enough. To bake a fish hundreds of times a day, for years, and have it be consistent every single time, and the skin be so crisp, and the fish flaky and meaty—that’s not luck. That’s honed talent and skills.
Pho Tay Do, Richardson
They’re known for their bún bò huế, a spicy beef noodle soup. It’s a clear broth, but the chilies give it a reddish hue. It’s got tender beef and round, slightly chewy noodles, which I love, and is served with pork blood pudding and ham hock. It comes with a plate of fresh herbs and veggies, like bean sprouts and shaved purple cabbage. I always add limes and ask for a side of mắm ruốc, which is shrimp paste, and extra sa tế, or chile. The funkier, the better.
“Most Visited Places” is an ongoing digital and print series, underwritten by The Mountain Valley Spring Water.