Once again, Kaitlin Steinberg is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes as we work our way toward our annual Menu of Menus® issue and culinary extravaganza. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most delicious, most creative and, of course, most indicative of our ever-changing food scene. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that are uniquely Houstonian.
Here are a few of my favorite things: Sriracha. French fries. Kimchi. Cilantro. Bugogi beef.
Here is where these things converge: Fat Fries at Fat Bao.
There are dozens of iterations of loaded fries in this city, from the kim cheese fries at Coreanos to the lazy lane frites at Brasserie 19, but what sets the fries at Fat Bao apart from the rest is the quality of the fried potatoes themselves.
In this year's Best Of issue, we even awarded Fat Bao best fries for their simple rosemary and Parmesan-coated side dish. And while those fries are pretty perfect, I prefer a little more bang for my buck. The Fat Fries provide that bang, simultaneously satisfying a myriad of cravings.
The thin, crispy shoestring fries made to order are topped with your choice of slightly sweet glazed bulgogi beef or fatty pork belly. I've tried both, and I honestly don't have a favorite. Every time I choose a meat, I'm convinced it's the better option until the next time, when I order the other meat. One of these days I'm going to ask for both. Mark my words.
Regardless of which protein you order, you can guarantee it will be tender and juicy. Add to that diced onions; fresh, leafy cilantro; and Fat Bao's signature "kimcheenaise dip," and you've got one heck of a plate of food. It becomes more main dish than side dish, but I always order a side salad with it to make me feel better about eating only meat and potatoes.
The kimcheenaise really elevates the dish. The meat is already nicely seasoned with a sweet and salty mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and mirin, but the kimcheenaise adds an extra layer of heat and richness. It's mayonnaise infused with kimchi--spicy Korean fermented cabbage--then drizzled on top with some Sriracha as well, for a punch of spice and a lovely, colorful presentation.
For some, the Fat Fries might be an embarrassment of riches, too much of a good thing. The simple rosemary and Parmesan fries are a lesson in restraint and the notion of less is more. But sometimes, I don't want to be restrained. I want a bunch of my favorite foods all packed together and infusing one another with disparate but bright flavors. And when I want that, only Fat Fries can calm the craving. Check out our list of 100 Favorite Dishes for 2014-15 here.