What’s in a Gumbo Danish? Why Houston chefs are mixing and matching cuisines additional than at any time

Versie Dortch

On a literal stage, the respond to is simple. The coronet of laminated pastry I scored from Koffeteria a few of Saturdays back held a trove of gelled, spicy roux studded with hunks of sausage and hen.

I had been not able to resist the notion when I went on the net to put an buy the night right before — often the finest way to make certain of getting the most up-to-date concoctions from chef Vanarin Kuch at this well-known bakery-cafe in EaDo. It sells out of sure objects swiftly, and the much more daring the thought, the a lot more possible it is to fly out the doorway with the early birds.

That’s how it goes in Houston these days. The food items-obsessed seem to be at any time a lot more committed to conspicuously consuming the most outrageous examples of the style-swapping that has come to be central to Houston cuisine. Instagram feeds are comprehensive of these hybrid dishes, daring us to try to eat them and then brag about them to our buddies.

I am not immune. Just a several weeks ago, I was drawn to sample — and then celebrate — the freewheeling quesadilla that has become a signature dish at Cobos Que, the birria and barbecue experts who have set up store equidistant from downtown’s baseball, soccer and basketball venues. We’re speaking barbecue brisket meshed with mac and cheese that has smoked boudin blended in, folded into a flour tortilla and griddled until finally the cheese pulls and oozes in a very fulfilling way.


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It is a very little nuts and nuts fantastic.

So, in its possess fashion, was my Gumbo Danish, which provided the flavor profile of the Louisiana soup so beloved in this metropolis as a place-temperature solid rather than a sizzling soup. Yeah, I could have heated up the danish pastry when I received it house and created a liquid influence, but I could not hold out that prolonged to consider it.

It labored, in its individual peculiar way. And it still left me asking yourself how the Crawfish Rangoon Danish that Koffeteria highlighted in its Instagram feed awhile back again had tasted. It seemed wild: its quick, cylindrical base spouting two considerably swirled claws of laminated pastry. It slyly referenced not just the Cajun and Creole strain of our regional food items tradition but Kuch’s possess Asian roots, as the son of Cambodian immigrants.

A single of last week’s specials, a Cambodian pesto roll, applied French croissant pastry as a cradle for pesto based on Thai basil and meka leaves, or hog plum leaves, “which have a fragile citrus taste,” the Instagram caption advised, with peanuts as the nut foundation. A bit before, Kuch dipped into a little bit of Americana that has become quintessentially Texan, many thanks to our barbecue tradition: a Tex-Czech kolache loaded with a loaded mashed potato fluff laced with both equally cheddar and Oaxaca cheeses.

Houston cooks have been mixing and matching the city’s foundational foodways with our prosperous array of intercontinental cuisines at any time because the 1980s, as I recall it. That cross-fertilization is key to our distinct regional cooking in the 21st century.

But recently I’ve been asking myself why the mixing and matching appears to have strike a feverish pitch here in early 2022. What is genuinely in that Gumbo Danish, or underneath it, calling it into existence?

I have a couple of theories, both of those linked to the pandemic that is now entering its 3rd grinding yr.

The initial is the way Instagram has fueled the present-day surge of experimentation. In the course of the earlier few of yrs, the platform surged into prominence as a promoting tool for battling places to eat, and abruptly underemployed chefs and bakers and cooks of all sorts. The more outrageous and swaggery the mix-and-match notion, the more “OMG!” comments and visitors it draws. Check out it out on the net and you’ll see — the experimentation fuels alone.

My second theory is that dishes that kick about the culinary traces, that jolt our feeling of “normality,” make us experience a little something in a way that all the pandemic-friendly comfort meals in the entire world can not do. To take in a Gumbo Danish is to remind you you’re alive, if you will. It is a guarantee that shock and even astonishment can lie about any corner.

At Koffeteria — and at Houston meals establishments of all stripes appropriate now — they do.

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