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Mutt City: Hot Breads and Himalaya Sweets

Anglo-Indian chicken tikka in French pastry. Welcome to Houston.

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

Taking a break from the kitchen and riding along with Dad on various stops around town, I gasped at a familiar sight as we made our way down Hillcroft.

“HOT BREADS!” I said, wiggling my eyebrows up and down at him. He obliged, pulling into the parking lot as I eagerly unbuckled my seatbelt.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years since my sister Julia and I sampled the Euro-Indian fusion fare of this spicy bakery for a story Dad was working on. The “goat doughnuts,” as we’d affectionately dubbed their curry goat croissants, looked just as tasty as ever.

Hot Breads is so dang cool because of the story it tells about fusion food and blending cultures. An Indian marketing professor returned to Madras after living abroad to open this European-style cafe and bakery, but instead of putting pepperoni on the pizza and ham in the croissants, he went with the popular ingredients of Southern India, creating a cross-cuisine hit. Hot Breads franchises became hugely popular on the subcontinent. Then in a baffling turnabout, franchisees took the concept to the NRI (non-resident Indian) community and all over the world. The huge Indian populations in Houston and New Jersey were easy targets.

Which is how we ended up with a Indian-owned, European-inspired bakery in Houston serving Indo-Chinese “chilli chicken puffs.” No wonder John T. Edge labeled Houston “Mutt City.”

Aside from the savory stuff, Hot Breads sells a ton of great cakes and cookies too, including egg-free stuff for the Jain crowd (and the vegans!). My all-time, hands-down, indisputable favorite is the mango gâteau (about halfway down the row in the picture).

Dreamily light and airy, its layers of lady finger and fluffy mousse burst with sweet, tangy fresh mango flavor. All those years ago, it was love at first bite.

“You’re gonna have to share,” Dad warns me as I watch the woman box it up. These days, the baby sibs are just as fond of Hot Breads mango cake.

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Houston Ramen: Waiting for Goro

Soma's Kaisen ramen

Goro ought to be here anytime now. While waiting, I sampled some ramen from other spots around Houston. In July 2011, the Modular food truck and Soma, the Japanese restaurant on Washington had a ramen throw-down. Some might say Soma chef Jason Hauk cheated by serving foie gras ramen with [...]

A Tsunami of Ramen

A bowl of ramen at Teppay

The pork in the Tonkotsu ramen at Teppay on Westheimer is as tender as the roast pork Grandma served for Sunday dinner.The pork bone broth is milky in color and intensely flavored, which is typical of this style of ramen. (No, we are not talking about the [...]

New Gig!

HOUSTON – (Jan. 28, 2013) – Today, SagaCity Media President Nicole Vogel announced the full editorial and art staffs for the April launch of Houstonia magazine, a new monthly publication aimed squarely at the residents of America’s fourth largest city. The brainchild of two Houston natives, and with a staff packed with top local talent, Houstonia is poised to become an indispensable publication for the Houston area’s 6 million residents, as well as the city’s only paid monthly title with content solely produced by and for Houstonians.

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b-10: 2nd Generation Houston Vietnamese

The Vietnamese steak and eggs at b-10 are a new take on the classic bo luc lac, the Vietnamese dish better known as “rock n’ roll beef.” At b-10, they use high quality filet mignon marinated with lemongrass instead of the authentic chewy cuts served in Vietnam. The steak and egg combination is an American coffee shop breakfast favorite and the sizzling comal is borrowed from Tex-Mex. I puzzled at the plastic cup half full of pate and half full of mayo. “Stir the pate up with the aioli and spread it on your baguette, that’s what the kids do,” my tablemate Thuy Tran instructed. It was excellent advice.

Thuy Tran and her mom Thu Ho filled me on the complicated saga of their Vietnamese restaurant. b-10 Vietnamese Cafe was called Givral when the banh mi and pho restaurant on Bellaire was first opened in 1988 by a Vietnamese man named Hoang. The most popular order there has long been b-10, the barbecued pork banh mi sandwich. Recently, the restaurant changed its name from Givral to b-10 Vietnamese Cafe and opened a satellite sandwich shop at Westheimer and Hillcroft. The name change ended the confusion among the three Houston Vietnamese restaurants named Givral–the other two are Givral on Milam and Les Givrales Kahve on Washington.

The namesake of the Houston restaurants was the original Le Givral Cafe which was located at the corner of Dong Khoi and Le Loi streets in Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City. For over 60 years, the historic Le Givral Cafe was the favorite meeting spot for travelers and Saigon-watchers. It closed in April of 2010 when the owners of the building decided to demolish the center for new construction.
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