Last week, many of you commented about ethnic foods that are not well-represented in Houston.
Today, the NYT has an interactive graphic showing the number of foreign-born immigrants in every American county. It helps explain why Houston restaurants have a lot of some cuisines, but not others.
Some facts are obvious: Houston has more Vietnamese immigrants than Russians. But other details are fascinating:
•Houston has more Vietnamese-born residents (more than 44,000) than anywhere outside of California. But three California counties (Los Angeles, Orange County, and Santa Clara) have more.
•Houston has far fewer Russian-born immigrants (2,876) than well over a dozen counties around the country. That may explain why we have no Russian restaurants.
•But, Houston has fewer Japanese-born immigrants (2,665) than Russians. Yet we have 140 sushi restaurants.
•Houston had fewer Chinese-born immigrants in 2000 (16,115) than California, New York, Chicago, Boston, and Seattle.
•Compared to some areas of the country, Houston does not get many immigrants from the entire continent of Africa (21,574). The Northeast, California, and even one county in Minnesota (!?) get more. But Chicago has fewer.
•Only two cities in the U.S. -- Los Angeles and Chicago -- have more Mexican-born residents than Houston.
•Houston beats Dallas and every other Texas city in every immigrant group -- with one exception: Dallas has slightly more Koreans.
Conclusions and Questions
This data suggests that Houston is the most immigrant-diverse American city outside of New York and California. (Chicago has as many immigrants, but is a much larger city.)
-If we have more Russian-born immigrants than Japanese, why do we have 140 Japanese restaurants and not a single Russian one? Who is cooking all of Houston's "Japanese" food?
-If we have more African-born residents than Chinese, why do we have so few African restaurants and so many good Chinese restaurants?
-Does it make sense to refer to that long stretch of Bellaire as "Chinatown"? We have far more Vietnamese immigrants than Chinese. I suspect our Chinatown may be much more of a Chinese/Vietnamese hybrid.