Good news for fans of Pepper Twins, the authentic Sichuan-style restaurant that currently has five locations in Houston: another is on the way. A sixth outpost will open at City Center by the end of the 2018, and foodies all across America are rejoicing.
In 2016, Texas Monthly food editor Pat Sharpe named Pepper Twins the state's eighth best new restaurant, and that same year Time Out included it among the 17 best Chinese restaurants in the nation. Just last year, GQ declared the "Mr. and Mrs. Smith," — a Pepper Twins specialty that features brisket and beef tendon dressed in sesame paste, chiles, Sichuan peppercorns, and scallions — the best appetizer of 2017.
It's been a whirlwind few years for owner Yunan Yang, who left a career in cancer research to focus on serving additive-free, organic meals that reflect her hometown of Chongqing, China. Three years ago she uprooted her life in Madison, Wisconsin, and headed to Texas, where she and her sister Lily Luo opened Cooking Girl. Perhaps you've heard of it? CultureMap named the restaurant an under-the-radar favorite in 2015.
"Everyone was astonished when I announced I was moving and starting a new career," says Yang. "But I wanted to share with people my opinion of food, which should be natural and have no artificial flavors. I wanted to impress people in Houston with real Chinese food."
Fair warning: Those natural flavors might shock some American tongues, which may not be as accustomed to the region's intense spiciness (the name is a nod to her children's love of spicy food). Yang flies in the tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorns from Chongqing, but everything else she uses is organic, farm-raised, and locally sourced whenever possible.
Pepper Twins in Montrose was Yang's first solo project, and it was a success from day one. Many of the beloved Cooking Girl recipes made the jump to the new restaurant's menu, and the BYOB eatery was so successful that Yang quickly opened locations in River Oaks, Kirby, Katy, and Pearland.
A few of diners' favorite dishes include an osso buco Berkshire pork shank creatively named Jumping on the Mountain, and Broken Heart Jelly Noodles, which are made from mung beans. A Pepper Twins signature is sprinkling dried plum powder, a digestive aid, onto fried sweet potatoes.
"Nobody is offering the same type of food anywhere in Houston, or the United States for that matter," says Yang.
How lucky for Houstonians then that we'll soon have another location of Pepper Twins in our own backyard.