Sang Phan and Tuan Huynh recently launched their barbecue stand NOLA BBQeaux (@nola_bbqeaux) at the Westbank Fleamarket (1048 Scotsdale Drive; www.westbankfleamarket.com), a weekend-only open-air market with a rotating mix of vendors. Phan and Huynh are engineers by profession, but their love of cooking led them to start a barbecue business. Phan spoke with Gambit about barbecue.
What inspired you to start a barbecue business?
Phan: Even though we're both engineers, cooking is our passion. I think they complement each other: I'm very particular and very precise ... and I put that into my cooking. I like to record everything we do. My family owns a (restaurant) in Baton Rouge called the Blue Store, and I've been in the service industry since I was young. I met Tuan when I started college, and the guy can cook.
At first, we just experimented — cooking for friends and family. It wasn't until recently that we started doing competitions, and we found we really enjoyed ourselves. Our friends and family were big supporters.
We found out about the market from a friend. We knew it only opens on Saturdays and Sundays, but that was perfect because we have our careers and our day jobs. The marketplace had a trailer for rent that had everything we needed.
It's a 50/50 partnership. We don't see this as a job, really. This is doing what we love. If you don't see it as a job, you enjoy it a lot more.
Do you have a barbecue style?
P: It's definitely Texas-style, even the sauces, because that's similar to our tastes. I'm not saying Texas has the best barbecue, but I like the style. I also really like The Joint; you could say I was inspired by them.
Our sauces are thinner than North Carolina-style sauces and made out of a different base. We don't cook with the sauce on the meat; we like dry rubs. It's slow-cooked, and everything is homemade, even our rub.
We smoke our brisket for 16 hours, and we use hickory for everything. I think it has really great smoke flavor. We try to not make (the rub) too spicy so kids can also enjoy it. We use a dry rub for the brisket, the pulled pork and the ribs.
We do three sauces: one with red wine vinegar, a spicy sauce that's made with habanero (peppers) and a tangy sauce that's made with apple cider vinegar. I would recommend the apple cider with the pork because it gives it the sweet and tangy taste with the meat, and then I'd recommend the spicy or the original with the ribs and the brisket.
For sides, we make cowboy beans, which are basically baked beans with ground beef and some of the smoked brisket. We cook that for about three hours to make the smoky flavor come out. We also have corn grits, coleslaw and mac and cheese, and we do a pulled pork sandwich and loaded pulled pork nachos.
Does your Vietnamese heritage play into any of the recipes?
P: We are both Vietnamese, and there are some Vietnamese ingredients here and there. I haven't found anyone from the Vietnamese community doing barbecue here.
Since we're also from New Orleans, we try to include that Cajun flavor in our style as well. Vietnamese flavors can be strong, and we don't want it to take over the flavor of the barbecue, and we're not just targeting one group. There's a mix of different influences we both have. — HELEN FREUND