100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 43, Duck Red Curry at Morningside Thai

This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.

I love all curries.

I love Indian curry, the thick, ruddy stuff so complex in its flavor profile. I love its British counterpart, slightly creamier and less spicy. I love Malaysian rendang, Ethiopian wat and Mexican mole, all curry-like in their temperament. But my favorite is Thai curry, the thin, coconut-scented sauce that at times makes me grab wildly for a glass of water in an attempt to extinguish the heat building in my sinuses.

One my my favorite Thai curries in town is at a small Thai restaurant in a largely empty shopping center at Braeswood and Kirby. There you'll find red curry with juicy duck meat with pineapple and whole tomatoes stewed in a velvety broth of coconut milk and aromatic spices. And you'll find some of the best Thai curry Houston has to offer.

Morningside Thai's red curry is richer, silkier and more dimensional than any I've had elsewhere in Houston. The piquant mixture of herbs and spices and coconut milk is dotted with chunks of chewy pineapple and softened tomatoes and long strands of wilted green basil leaves that sneak up on you with a rush of herbal heat every other bite.

It isn't so spicy hot that I can no longer discern the individual flavors of fresh red chiles, tomato puree and lemongrass, but it packs enough heat that no additional spices are needed to make my cheeks flush and cool my sinuses. It's hot with the dull burn of smoked chile paste and ground coriander, and it's sweet and creamy with rich coconut milk, fragrant cardamom and shrimp paste.

The addition of duck is not traditional in Thailand except for very special occasions, but it's become popular on menus in the U.S., and it's clear why. Sweet, fatty duck meat lends itself to fragrant red curry better than any other protein I can imagine.

Traditionally, curry is served over rice, or it at least comes with a bowl of rice so you can cut the heat a little with some plain, sticky carbs that won't affect the flavor. But this curry ... this is too pungent and, simultaneously, too delicate to mix with rice, the afterthought of the curry platter.

True, making proper rice can be a feat all on its own, but nothing should come between you and that subtly alluring bright, red-orange curry. Nothing.

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The list so far: No. 44: BBQ Pulled Wild Boar Sandwich at Sammy's Wild Game Grill No. 45: Guanciale Burger at Plonk No. 46: Parma 600 Pizza at Pizzeria Solario No. 47: CFC Deviled Eggs at Liberty Kitchen & Oyster Bar No. 48: The El Real Burger at El Real Tex-Mex Cafe No. 49: Custard Sandwich at Petite Sweets No. 50: Black Pepper Beer Lobster at Hai Cang Seafood Restaurant No. 51: Red Dragon Roll at Michiru Sushi No. 52: Fried Bananas Foster at Custom Confections No. 53: Bánh Canh Hue at Simply Pho No. 54: Kimchi Koagie at Koagie Hots No. 55: The Juicy Lucy Burger at Lowbrow No. 56: Eggplant Fries at Batanga No. 57: Macarons at Ganache Dessert Bar No. 58: Grilled Cheese at The Golden Grill No. 59: Baklava French Toast at Harry's Restaurant & Cafe No. 60: Patata e Funghi Pizza at Pizaro's No. 61: Old Fashioned Frito Pie at Armadillo Palace No. 62: Korean Spiced Brisket Plate at Revival Market No. 63: Bánh Mì at Les Givral's Sandwich and Cafe No. 64: Squirrel Master Burger at Cottonwood No. 65: Shorty Mac at H-Town StrEATS No. 66: Enchiladas de Mole at La Guadalupana No. 67: Bad Ass Hambur-Torta at Pistolero's No. 68: Green "Hurry Curry" at Nit Noi No. 69: Dozen Raw Oysters at Pappas Seafood No 70: Banana Split at Cloud 10 Creamery No. 71: Lazy Lane Frites at Brasserie 19 No. 72: Chicken Pot Pie at Kenny & Ziggy's No. 73: Chili Cheese Mac from Jus' Mac No. 74: Taco al Pastor at Taco Keto No. 75: 'Date With a Pig' at Sparrow Bar + Cookshop No. 76: The Heights Burger at Gratifi No. 77: Lamb Lollipops at Américas No. 78: Mortadella Sandwich at 13 Celsius No. 79: Carnissima Pizza at Coppa Osteria No. 80: The Marie Laveau Sandwich at Sandy Witch No. 81: Catfish and Grits at The Breakfast Klub No. 82: Grilled Ahi Tuna at St. John's Fire No. 83: Lobster Roll at Maine-ly Sandwiches No. 84: Greek Burger at Hubcap Grill No. 85: Pork Tamales at Irma's No. 86: Ham, Egg & Cheese Crepe at Melange Creperie No. 87: Crab Daddy Bao at Fat Bao No. 88: Sesame Soft Balls at Golden Dim Sum No. 89: Porchetta e Fagioli at Giacomo's Cibo e Vino No. 90: Uncle Daryl's Cake at The Chocolate Bar No. 91: Lobster Cake Benedict at Sorrel Urban Bistro No. 92: Homeroom at Bernie's Burger Bus No. 93: Vuelve a la Vida Soup at Connie's Seafood No. 94: Foie Gras Mac & Cheese at BRC Gastropub No. 95: Sweet Potato Gnocchi at Brooklyn Athletic Club No. 96: Chicken and Waffles at Adair Kitchen No. 97: Soft Pretzel from Mongoose Versus Cobra No. 98: Bulgogi Tacos with Kimchi at Chi'Lantro No. 99: Almond Croissant at Phoenicia No. 100: Bangkok Fries at Boheme

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