100 Favorite Houston Dishes 2015, No. 12: Blue Crab Soup at Caracol

The wonderful Blue Crab Soup, or Chilpachole de Jaiba, at Caracol, is full of warming spices, seafood, vegetables and little masa dumplings.
The wonderful Blue Crab Soup, or Chilpachole de Jaiba, at Caracol, is full of warming spices, seafood, vegetables and little masa dumplings.
Photo by Chuck Cook Photography

Phaedra Cook is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes of 2015. It's a collection of personal favorites that is also indicative of Houston dining. It's a scene where a vast range of dishes coexist: highbrow and lowbrow; local and international; cheap and expensive; modern cuisine and beloved tenets — and everything in between.

The first time I visited Caracol, beverage director Sean Beck looked at what we had ordered and said emphatically, “You must also try the Blue Crab Soup! I love it so much that I asked chef Hugo to make it for my wedding reception!”

After tasting it, I could understand why and was a little envious. The food at my reception wasn’t nearly as good.

The soup, a traditional dish of Veracruz listed as Chilpachole de Jaiba on the menu, is just that good. First, the broth will warm you down to the toes, as much by virtue of the ample dose of chili powder as by the heat of the soup. It’s made with puya chiles, which are similar to guajillos but smaller and a little hotter. After a sip of the rich broth, some residual heat lingers in the back of the throat and it’s an entirely pleasant sensation.

Here and there are tiny dumplings made with masa and the ground corn flavor pairs beautifully with the deeply seasoned broth. For color and texture, there are sweet green peas and tiny cubes of zucchini. There’s a hunk of corn-on-the-cob that’s great fun to extract from the broth and munch on.

The star, of course, is the softshell crab. In addition to the roasted, papery-shelled crab, there’s an ample quantity of tender, yielding lump crab meat as well.

The soup is only offered at dinnertime. Those with smaller appetites might be content with it as a light meal. Otherwise, it’s a terrific starter before wood-roasted snapper or one of the many other delightful dishes at Caracol. 

The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:

No. 13, Machi Cure at Uchi
No. 14, Rabbit Loin at BCN Taste & Tradition
No. 15, Smoked Fried Chicken at Prohibition
No. 16: Bone-In Pork Belly at Killen's Barbecue
No. 17, Hangover Burger at Hubcap Grill
No. 18, Kanpaccio at KUU
No. 19, Hunter's Beef at Himalaya
No. 20, Brisket at CorkScrew BBQ
No. 21, Chicken Fried Steak at Frank's Americana
No. 22, Chicken Chicharrón at Piqueo 
No. 23, Mole Verde at Cuchara
No. 24, Butcher's Cut at Underbelly
No. 25, Morning Thali at Pondicheri
No. 26, Pho Ga Dac Biet at Pho Ga Dakao
No. 27, Veruca Salt Cake at Fluff Bake Bar
No. 28, Seafood Demi-Tower at Julep
No. 29, Shrimp & Pork Dumplings at Fung's Kitchen
No. 30, Fried Chicken & Waffle at The Breakfast Klub
No. 31, Risotto with Veal and Parmesean at Mascalzone
No. 32, Burnt Ends at Southern Goods
No. 33, Tom Kha Gai at Kanomwan
No. 34, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake at Vic & Anthony's
No. 35, Pozole at El Big Bad
No. 36, Bacon Mochi at Izakaya
No. 37, Nasi Lemak at Banana Leaf
No. 38, Make Your Own Gyro at Helen Greek Food & Wine
No. 39, Spicy Blue Cheese Burger at Alamo Drafthouse
No. 40, Pizza at Dolce Vita
No. 41, Grilled Shrimp at La Grange
No. 42, Duck With Two Moles at Arnaldo Richards' Picos
No. 43, Stuffed Pepperoncini at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 44, LH Gumbo at Holley's Seafood Kitchen & Oyster Bar
No. 45, KG's Double-Brined Cast Iron Chicken at Harold's
No. 46, Ceviche Mixto at Andes Café 
No. 47, Sunday Gravy at Liberty Kitchen & BRC
No. 48, Tonkotsu Ramen at Tiger Den
No. 49, Charcuterie at Kris Bistro
No. 50, Cauliflower Steak at Backstreet Cafe
No. 51, Telur Balado at Rice Bowl II
No. 52, Green Curry at Asia Market Restaurant
No. 53, Foie Gras Breakfast at Triniti
No. 54, Korean Fried Chicken at ToreOre at Super H Mart
No. 55, Bulgogi Bibimbap at BiBiJo Express at Super H Mart
No. 56, Vegetable Plate at Hugo's
No. 57, The Cured Plate at Revival Market
No. 58, Simply Grilled Fish at Ibiza
No. 59, Tonkotsu Black Ramen at JINYA Houston
No. 60, The Rancor Burger at The Petrol Station
No. 61, Heritage Sampler Platter at Rudi Lechner's
No. 62, Oxtails at Le' Pam's House Of Creole
No. 63, The 420 Slice at Pi Pizza Truck
No. 64, Frenchy's Fried Chicken On Scott Street
No. 65, 3 Pig Mac & Cheese at Urban Eats
No. 66, Pucchia Pugliese Foggia at Sud Italia
No. 67, Triple-Smoked Pastrami On Rye At Kenny & Ziggy's
No. 68, Fume Pizza at Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana
No. 69, Banh Mi Thap Cam at Café TH
No. 70, Caramelized Onion Soup at Mockingbird Bistro
No. 71, Milk Chocolate Stout Malt at Fat Cat Creamery
No. 72, Pork Ribs at Roegels Barbecue Co. 
No. 73, Carrot Pizza at Weights + Measures
No. 74, Jalisco Wings at El Big Bad
No. 75, Mussels at Cafe Brussels
No. 76, Cresta di Gallo at The Pass & Provisions
No. 77, Beef Fajitas at El Real Tex-Mex 
No. 78, Chicken Tikka Masala from the Tandoori Nite truck
No. 79, Chocolates at Cacao & Cardamom
No, 80, Hummus Supreme at Al's Quick Stop
No. 81, Red Oil Dumplings at Mala Sichuan
No. 82, Tex-Cajun Fries at BB's Café
No. 83, Mac & Cheese at The Oceanaire Seafood Room
No. 84, The Principal Burger at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 85, Hunter's Honey-Roasted Duck at Brennan's Of Houston
No. 86, Fish & Chips at Good Dog Houston
No. 87, Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit at Blacksmith
No. 88, "Saucy Balls" At Brooklyn Meatball Company
No. 89, Perry's Steakhouse/Perry & Sons Pork Chop
No. 90, General Tso's Chicken from The Rice Box
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed 
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies

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Caracol

2200 Post Oak Blvd
Houston, TX 77056

713-622-9996

www.caracol.net


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