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At JUN in Houston, two chefs are celebrating their Chinese and Hispanic roots in what they call “New Asian American Cuisine” 

For chefs Evelyn Garcia and Henry Lu, cooking is a form of storytelling through ingredients and flavors. At Jūn, their wildly popular restaurant in Houston, the stories these talented chefs want to share are all about the foods they loved to eat in the culturally diverse households of their childhoods.  

Chef Evelyn grew up in Houston in a Mexican and Salvadoran family. “My mom cooked in a lot of professional kitchens, including a Chinese cafeteria,” she says. “She learned a lot about Asian cooking techniques and ingredients, and to this day, she’s famous for her fried rice. So, I grew up with Latin food, but also chili oil, soy sauce, and all kinds of Asian flavors. We have a huge Vietnamese community in Houston, and I’ve been in love with all those big Southeast Asian flavors like fish sauce, calamansi and lime leaf ever since I was a kid.”  

After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Evelyn worked in New York at several Southeast Asian hotspots, including Spice Market and Kin, before returning to her hometown and making a splash on the Houston-based Season 19 of “Top Chef.”  

Chef Henry was raised in the Bronx in a family that owned Chinese restaurants. He got his degree from the French Culinary Institute and cooked at several high-profile New York restaurants, including Loosie’s Kitchen, Pearl and Ash, and Llama Inn.  

The two chefs have been close friends since they met in 2011 in New York at Kin Shop, where Evelyn was a junior sous chef and Henry a line cook. During the pandemic, they found themselves contemplating their next move. Evelyn was developing a brand and a business in Houston catering and operating popups and a stall in a food hall. Henry decided to move to Houston and join her in those ventures. And in February 2023, they opened their first brick-and-mortar restaurant, Jūn, to immediate critical and popular acclaim.  

“Houston has a really diverse food scene that’s still developing,” says Henry, “and that gave us a lot of room to try something outside of the box.” 

The restaurant’s name, pronounced “June,” tells a family story of its own. “It’s the month when Evelyn, my mom, and my sister were all born,” says Henry, “and it’s an homage to the people who taught us how to cook and eat and helped get us to where we are today.” 

The vibe at Jūn is comfortable and casual, with a design that reflects textures and colors from Asia and the Americas and a family-style menu that allows for lots of sharing and experiencing new tastes. 

“We cook all the big, funky, spicy, fermented flavors we grew up eating and we still crave,” says Evelyn. “And we’re excited that Houston is loving them, too.” 

For both chefs, Kikkoman has been a household brand and a kitchen staple for as long as they can remember—and it’s a brand that’s still inspiring their cooking today in signature dishes, drinks, and desserts like these. 

JUN Michelada

Houston loves a good michelada, and the classic Texas-style version features beer, Clamato juice, lime juice, and chile-lime powder. Chefs Henry and Evelyn love micheladas, too, “but we like them less tomatoey and less spicy, the way they’re often served in southern Mexico and El Salvador,” says Chef Henry. In keeping with Jūn’s New Asian American approach, they replace the tomato with ingredients like Kikkoman® Hoisin Sauce and Sriracha to take the drink to a whole new level of craveable complexity.

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Sweet Potato with Cumin Labneh and Pickled Leeks

Typical of Evelyn and Henry’s eclectic style of cooking, this popular dish uses a roasted sweet potato, seared in cultured butter, as a canvas to highlight a variety of unexpected flavors and textures. “People tend to think of sweet ways to serve sweet potatoes, especially here in the South,” says Chef Evelyn, but we wanted to take it in a different direction—actually a whole bunch of different directions. Walnuts sauteed with Kikkoman® Soy Sauce, piloncillo and citric acid add savory, sweet and sour notes. Quick-pickled leeks get their bright, tart flavor from Kikkoman® Rice Vinegar. A crisp sweet potato chip adds crunch. And a creamy cumin-scented labneh helps tie all the flavors together. 

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Aguachile is a Mexican style of ceviche in which seafood is seasoned with a citrus-chile dressing just before serving for a fresh, clean flavor. Chefs Evelyn and Henry’s version features a sauce of freshly juiced raw cucumber, apple, cilantro, ginger, and Kikkoman® Lime Ponzu. Chilled, lightly cooked shrimp are tossed with pickled gooseberries and layered with avocado and sliced radishes. The bright green cucumber sauce is spooned around the edges, and a drizzle of house-made shrimp-chili oilmade with Kikkoman® Toasted Sesame Oil, the shrimp shells, Thai chili flakes and garlicoffsets the bright aguachile sauce with earthy warmth and depth. “This is the most popular dish on our menu,” says Chef Henry. “People often finish it and order a second one right away!

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Sesame Buñuelo with Soy-Caramel Glaze

Desserts at Jūn feature the same mix of Asian and Latin ideas that infuse the savory side of the menu— like this showstopping coconut milk tapioca topped with seasonal fruit and a light, crisp buñuelo flecked with black sesame seeds. “When I was a kid, my mom would make rice pudding with coconut milk, and I always loved that,” says Evelyn. The crunchy buñeulo that crowns this dish, adding textural context and a bit of a “crust effect,” has become something of a signature of hers since she showcased it in a savory application on “Top Chef.” A reduction of Kikkoman® Soy Sauce and honey adds a sweet savory finishing touch— “a lot like the way we use Maldon salt or other savory elements as a finish to balance the sweetness of a dessert.” 

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