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.
First, let’s straighten out some potential confusion. The original Asia Market that was the combination restaurant and grocery store at 1010 West Cavalcade has moved. It’s now strictly a restaurant (no more groceries) in a new place at 4822 Fulton.
Confusingly, the owners who took over the old spot continued with the combination grocery-and-restaurant concept, and the place is now Asia Market Thai Lao Food. (I haven't tried the food there yet.) The green curry described here is from the original owners at the new restaurant on Fulton. It’s great to see people who have worked hard for years achieve that dream.
The new place is next to the Fulton/North Central stop on the MetroRail red line, which is really convenient if you work downtown or in the Medical Center. No worries if you have to drive there, though — there’s a decently sized parking lot out front.
Green curry is my favorite Thai dish, and there are several distressing examples of it. Green curry should be green. It should not be white, as it was when I ordered it in a Greenway-area Thai restaurant. (Actually, even a dark beige color is acceptable, as sometimes the peppers and Kaffir lime rind don’t yield much color. Apparently, adding some jalapeños to the mix helps solve the color problem.)
It should not be sweet, as was one horrid example recently experienced in a formerly reliable spot in west Houston. (The server said, “If you don’t want sweet curry, maybe order the red next time,” which made no sense at all. I should have known when I saw the "Under new management" sign on the door that I was in trouble.)
The owners of Asia Market Restaurant know their ingredients, so their green curry is balanced. It’s not overwhelmed with coconut milk. It is spicy, and any sweetness is just a subtle, underlying note. It’s an addictive combination of herbaceous flavors enhanced with tart, thin planks of bamboo shoots
I do have one small complaint, and that is that sometimes Asia Market uses an overwhelming amount of those halved, seedy Thai eggplants (and that has always been the case, even at the original spot). However, the flavor of the curry sauce is so compelling that I always end up eating the whole dang bowl of it anyway.
I usually order mine “hot” with pork, although chicken is more traditional. Pork just seems to lend more meaty, rich flavor. Tofu is a good option as well, since it soaks up the flavor from the curry.
There’s a great account of making green curry paste from scratch at the Temple of Thai website. Every curry lover should try it, but for many it will be the first and last time they attempt it. It takes a lot of effort and time to grind the ingredients together by hand. It’s definitely a worthwhile learning experience, though.
As a Caucasian, I get questioned on the heat level I order pretty regularly. Yes, I want it hot. Yes, I’m sure. At other restaurants, I usually get second-guessed by the staff and end up with something that’s more of a “medium." That is annoying, so I generally skew the results by ordering “Thai hot," therefore ending up with what I wanted in the first place.
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I do not play that game at Asia Market. If you order "Thai hot," that is what you will receive. I did that once.
The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:
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