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100 Favorite Dishes 2012: No. 80, Dahi Puri at Shiv Sagar

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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.

Some people like to eat Sunday brunch at Backstreet Cafe or benjy's. While I adore both of those places -- and traditional American brunch in general -- Shiv Sagar is my preferred go-to spot for Sunday mid-morning eating, and has been for years. It may not offer mimosas or bellinis, but I'd rather drink the dregs of a cumin-dusted salt lassi to restore myself after a long Saturday any day.

The salt lassi (or mango, if you have a sweet tooth) serves another purpose, too: cooling off the heat from Shiv Sagar's fiery samosas or peppery plates of dahi puri. I switch between the two dishes each time, trying to decide which I like best. Lately, the vibrant dahi puri have been winning out.

It's not just about the brightly bouncing flavors inside the puffy puri shells -- sour-sweet tamarind chutney, tangy yogurt, spicy mint chutney, stiff red onions, herbal cilantro -- but about the contrasting textures and even temperatures. The chickpeas inside are soft and tender under the boisterous crunch of the puri shells and shreds of sev, the yogurt cold and bracing against the warmer chutneys. The dahi puri are so much fun to eat, they're one of the few dishes I could have every day and never grow bored of. Luckily, they're quite inexpensive, too -- under $5 for a plate of six -- so indulging is a cheap, thrilling treat.

The list so far:

No. 100: Chili cheese mac at Jus' Mac No. 99: Texas turkey sandwich at Spec's No. 98: Custard at Petite Sweets No. 97: Caprichos mixtos at Taqueria Monterrey Chiquito No. 96: Pineapple-wasabi burger at Lankford Grocery No. 95: Farmer's MKT Pizza at Phoenicia's MKT Bar No. 94: Potatoes at Money Cat Brunch No. 93: Breakfast tacos at Sunrise Taquito No. 92: Hot dog at Tacos D.F. No. 91: Avocado gelato at Frozen Cafe No. 90: Chicken sandwich at JerryBuilt Homegrown Burgers No. 89: Beer-battered asparagus at Hearsay No. 88: Honey Badger omelet at Kraftsmen Cafe No. 87: Pastelitos de carne at El Jalapeño No. 86: Pancakes at Union Kitchen No. 85: Wild boar and crab pizza at Boheme No. 84: Breakfast croissant at BB Donuts No. 83: Pretzel at Anvil Bar & Refuge No. 82: Short rib sandwich at Shepherd Park Draught House No. 81: Grilled shrimp po-boy at Pappadeaux


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