100 Favorite Houston Dishes 2015, No. 33: Tom Kha Gai at Kanomwan

The Tom Kha Gai at Kanomwan
The Tom Kha Gai at Kanomwan
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 tom kha hai, or Thai soup with chicken and coconut milk, is a dichotomy in a bowl. It’s a creamy soup nonetheless bolstered with the tang of lime juice. It’s a big, comforting bowl of goodness, the heartiness bolstered with white meat chicken. 

At east Houston stalwart Kanomwan, the flavors are deepened with herbs that lend a lot of classic Thai flavors, like lemongrass and kaffir lime. Probably the most important addition of all is galangal. Galangal is a relative of ginger root, but it tastes nothing like it. The earthy smell is more reminiscent of ginseng. Part of what makes Kanomwan's the best example of the dish is that the kitchen doesn't try to dumb down the flavors for tentative palates. It is as it should be. Take it or leave it. 

The patriarch of Kanomwan, Darawan Charoenrat, died five years ago. He was affectionately known as the Thai Nazi for his gruff and persnickety temperament. Diners who were regular patrons knew that was just how he was. Two ladies I used to work with would make a point of trying to make Charoenrat crack a smile during their visits. Sometimes they succeeded, and it was a rare delight to get a peek behind the facade.

His family carries on. The tom kha gai seems to still be the same recipe and hasn’t suffered from the loss. It’s mild enough that people who don’t like spicy foods ought to be able to handle it, but I like the heat, so I also put a big spoonful of nam pla prik, or Thai fish sauce with chile peppers, into mine to amp it up.

The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:

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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Kanomwan Thai

736 1/2 Telephone Rd.
Houston, TX 77023

713-923-4230


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