Two hours before closing time, the pork and salted egg yolk sausages that Katy Truong and Steve Ong make on site were sold out for the day.
Customer demand for the unusual product was validation that the young married couple’s ambitious business plan is working.
Not yet 30 years old, they launched their Houston Sausage Inc. shop in the International Management District six months ago as their first venture into working for themselves full time.
The couple from Vietnam makes several types of Vietnamese/Chinese sausages from pork, chicken, beef and shrimp, which they sell wholesale to markets and restaurants as well as retail to the public near and far.
Their sparse shop in the Universal Shopping Center on Bellaire Boulevard is filled mostly with1-pound, sealed packages ($8 each) of sausage links and cardboard boxes for shipping to customers in Louisiana, Florida, north Texas and elsewhere.
Truong said their business is apparently the only one of its kind in the U.S. outside of California — and the only one in the same vast territory or even beyond it, to make sausage with salted egg yolks.
(We tested that claim with a Google search for where to get Vietnamese sausage made with salted egg yolks straight from the source. The search took us to Tien Giang province in Vietnam).
The yolks give the sausage a creamy flavor, she said, but because of the perishable nature of eggs, the finished product must pass federal inspections before being sold.
Truong, who was camera shy during our visit, also takes pride in saying Houston Sausage Inc. safeguards the steady national consumption of such Asian sausages.
“I would like to provide a stable supply to the central states and the East (Coast),” she said. “Most of the Vietnamese/Chinese sausage comes from California. What if there is a supply chain problem somewhere? People here are not going to get the best products fresh and at a good price.”
The shop’s sausage also comes with Houston in mind. A few kinds include hot peppers, which can satisfy the local yen for heat in our meals. And, Truong said, Vietnamese-Americans who visit Houston with hopes of taking home souvenirs and gifts find the cured meats — which don’t need refrigeration in sealed packages — to be a convenient keepsake.
“And they love the idea of buying it from the manufacturer,” Truong added.
The basic recipes for their sausages started with ingredients used by her husband’s family, she said.
Along with meat the couple obtains from local suppliers, the sausage varieties include everything from cane vinegar and tomato paste to rice and salt.
Though many Asian restaurant food fans may not notice, sausages often are part of popular dishes here. Tiny cubes of sausage are used in fried rice variations. Very thin slices of sausage provide flavor and chewy protein in Vietnamese spring rolls.
Houston Sausage Inc.
(Lạp Xưởng Mai Quế Lộ)
11360 Bellaire Blvd.
Monday-Friday 6 a.m – 5 p.m.
Saturday-Sunday 12-5 p.m.
— By Alan Bernstein and Annie Trinh