100 Favorite Dishes: No. 73, Chu Chee Eggplant at Nidda Thai
This year leading up to our annual Best of Houston issue, we're counting down our 100 favorite dishes in Houston. This list comprises our favorite dishes from the last year, dishes that are essential to Houston's cultural landscape and/or dishes that any visitor (or resident) should try at least once.
Nidda Thai's chu chee eggplant has been called many things: "the restaurant's trump card," by The Cynical Cook; "excellent -- tasty and filling," by Paul Galvani; and "not only one of the best Thai dishes in town, but one of the best dishes, period," by Alison Cook at the Chronicle. And while I wouldn't go quite as far as that last statement, the red curry-coated eggplant at the longstanding Thai restaurant in Montrose is certainly one of my favorite dishes in the city.
"Choo chee" in Thai cuisine refers to a red curry that's made with an assortment of herbs and spices: galangal, caraway, lemongrass, chiles and garlic. But the most important ingredient is the addition of fresh kafir lime leaves. Nidda Thai does the curry justice, and then some, heaping it on top of battered slices of eggplant so fine and light it hardly seems right to call them "fried."
But fried they are, the delicate batter shattering into the soft eggplant beneath, which has been rendered soft and almost unctuous in the heat of the process. Taken together with the lime, garlic and chile-laced curry, it's the dish that all visitors to Nidda Thai must try at least once -- and the dish that no other restaurant in the city has been able to imitate.
The list so far:
No. 100: Dumplings at Heights Asian Cafe No. 99: Mixta Pizza at Friends Pizzeria No. 98: Veggie tacos from Radical Eats No. 97: Bean pie from Conscious Cafe No. 96: Swiss chard crepes from Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 95: Eggs Mia Bella at Mia Bella No. 94: Mulligatawny soup at the Queen Vic No. 93: Helado de Lúcuma from Pollo Bravo No. 92: Black bean burger from Natachee's No. 91: Chupacabra pizza from ERA No. 90: Roast chicken from El Norteño No. 89: Eggs El Salvador from Brasil No. 88: Frank the Pretzel from Eatsie Boys No. 87: Caldo Tlalpeño from Tacos del Julio No. 86: English pea soup at Brasserie 19 No. 85: Falafel from Zabak's No. 84: Buttermilk-fried pork loin with fried eggs at Canopy No. 83: Grillades and grits from BB's Cajun Cafe No. 82: Haemul dolsot from Seoul House No. 81: Pandan waffles at Parisian Bakery III No. 80: Pita bread and hummus at Phoenicia No. 79: Goat pepper soup at Peppersoup Cafe No. 78: Melon and Texas feta salad from Beaver's No. 77: Hot Italian beef from BB's Beef & Hot Dog No. 76: Bacon-avocado burger from Facundo Cafe No. 75: Pancakes from Fountain View Cafe No. 74: Hobnobs from Fluff Bake Bar
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