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A Guide to Asian BBQ And Where To Find It In Collin County

We know you love BBQ, but so do our friends in the Far East
Photo: bonchan | Shutterstock

When the brisket is done, as any barbecue-loving Texan knows, the eating starts. It can be Thanksgiving: A turkey is ready to be carved, but nobody is called to the table until the brisket is done. Like any coveted meat, good brisket can be eaten alone by the slice, savored, or it can be chopped up and mixed in, enhancing already-special dishes with its juiciness, its smokiness.

The bánh mí is barbecue perfection from the world’s sandwich board.

The Chinese Neighbor is one of the top spots for Asian Q in Collin County
The dragon dumpling burger at The Chinese Neighbor, now open in Prosper and Frisco - Photography by Kathy Tran

Full disclosure: We love a simple sandwich. Po boys, tortas, cheesesteaks, arepas. Stuff your market’s freshest meats and cheeses into your most beloved bread, dress it up with whatever veggies you must, and put it on the menu. It’ll get eaten. With so many global sandwiches to choose from, the Vietnamese contribution with the bánh mí is an easy transition into new foods you may not have tried. That’s why you need to visit Saltlight Station, where you can order a bánh mí with brisket inside.

Brisket bánh mí. It just makes sense. With Saltlight’s Allen location being drive-thru-only right now, you can check out the menu from your car, where you will find the meats—the kinds Texans love, with brisket dancing across the menu. Get the brisket bánh mí—on a baguette with a bed of cucumbers, cilantro, pickled carrots, sriracha aioli (with jalapeños on the side)—or dive into the Texas pho, which comes with brisket and ribeye.

Collin County is not a bad place to start learning about Asian Q. There are excellent Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean barbecue options to choose from. And all across these menus, from high-end places to the no-frills spots, there are elements of what Texans consider BBQ-worthy: pork belly, ribs, chicken, more pork and different types of sausage. There are menus with designated BBQ sections as well as menus with BBQ scattered throughout. There are traditional dishes as well as fusion.

Sometimes it’s easy to fold barbecue into Texas culture. We love meat here, the land of massive trailer-mounted smoker pits. Often at a Texas cookout, the meat is the point, it’s the star of the dish. This mark on Texas’ barbecue history can be traced to Czech and German people whose meals centered on meats, these immigrants among a long line of indigenous and immigrant groups who have shaped this food.

It is not hard to find blog posts or stories talking about the differences in American versus Asian barbecue. And it’s often said that the main difference is that with Asian Q, the overall flavor of the dish—the vegetables, too, y’all—is what’s important. That observation is certainly not wrong, but don’t let anyone tell you there are no traditional Asian BBQ spots that offer meat in the leading role.

Check out First Chinese BBQ. There are multiple locations throughout North Texas, including one in Plano. It’s a classic in this category (and it’s cash only, so come prepared). When you walk in, there are meats hanging behind glass, the first of many promising signs at this place. Whole chickens, duck, various cuts of pork. At the location in Richardson, there was one waitress on the floor taking orders. I had a glass of water and so, so much pork. From the barbecue and marinated specials menu, I ordered the barbecue pork, which came only with rice. The pork was sweet. And then I tried the BBQ pork and wonton noodle soup. Whether the main flavor of the dish or not, the BBQ pork was savory and totally necessary, a unique flavor that appears throughout the menu in various roles.

Morefan in Plano - Photography by Cori Baker

From the Morefan stall located on Legacy Drive in Plano, I ordered a hot and sour soup with pork belly. Little slices of pork belly take what feels like a backseat to the other flavors in the bowl, but to chew into the pork belly is to taste everything that is right about the piece of meat paired with this fantastic soup.

A couple of doors down is the newly-arrived Friendship BBQ. The New York-based chain opened last year and serves Chinese street food-style barbecue. Order skewers of pig feet, quail, lamb, ribs, pork belly, chicken and other meats. There are skewers of vegetables and seafood as well. The skewers of pork belly and kidney were delicious after-meal snacks. Friendship BBQ is basically the Buffalo Wild Wings of Asian BBQ, not only because it is a
chain or the color scheme is black and yellow—it’s the massive TV behind the bar tuned to whatever sport was on. Eat barbecue skewers and sip on big-name Asian beers like Sapporo and watch the game. (Which game? Who cares. Just watch it.) Sounds like a plan, one that obviously has potential to scale.

In Collin County, there are the regional chains, the big chains and the local chains. There is even a Filipino caterer near Princeton, Texas, outside of Frisco that serves lechón, or spit-roasted pig. Across the state, critics are taking note of an expansion happening to Texas barbecue, with brisket bento boxes available in Austin and brisket ramen in Arlington.

Lechón like that from ORC Filipino Asian/American BBQ - MArk Kenneth Salita | Shutterstock

In true saving-the-best-for-last spirit, perhaps the best place for Asian Q in Collin County is The Chinese Neighbor. From Executive Chef Bob Tam, The Chinese Neighbor offers actual American-Chinese fusion, not just Americanized Chinese food, and the results are a quippy, casual menu with riffs on fish and chips, mac ‘n’ cheese and Caesar salad. By far the best offering on the menu is the dragon dumpling burger. This blend of two popular comfort foods represents everything The Chinese Neighbor is about. The patty is formed from the same marinated ground beef and pork that fill in the chili wontons. It’s topped with melting Swiss and American cheeses, caramelized onions and kewpie mayo.

Please be advised: We’re not trying to take you away from your favorite BBQ joint, nor are we discouraging you from trying new Texas Q. We’re just trying to broaden your horizons. While you may not make it to Asia anytime soon, you can make it to an Asian kitchen without venturing too far from home.