Deep Dive into Soups (and Where in Houston to Find Them) with Liz Nguyen
Asia Society at Home
Discover your newest binge and get to know our staff a little better with the Asia Society Texas Center team's favorite ways to stay entertained indoors! With our Deep Dives we take you on a journey into the obsessions of individual staff members for an in-depth look at a specific art form or cultural production.
Elizabeth Nguyen is a production technician at Asia Society Texas Center. Spending time with her family, friends, and pup keeps her grounded. Consuming copious amounts of food and media, investing too much time into personal projects, and breakin' keep her sane.
Why I'm focusing on food
Food is comfort, community, and love — all things that we can always use more of, especially now. Soups are the quintessential comfort food. Sick? Bowl of congee. Celebrating? Hot pot with your loved ones. Sad? Pho may not fix that, but it sure would help. In this Deep Dive, I define soup as a liquid dish served hot (so, milk and cereal do not fall into this category). Support local restaurants if you can, and I hope you find these dishes as enjoyable as I do!
What I am currently enjoying
Kimchi Jigae, also known as kimchi stew or kimchi soup, is a warm, hearty, and savory Korean dish made with kimchi and tofu. I used to reserve the indulgences of kimchi jigae for restaurants, but some intense cravings and the Internet have taught me that it's not so intimidating to make! I like Marc Matsumoto's recipe because most of the effort comes from acquiring the ingredients. Once you have them, it becomes a straightforward and enjoyable endeavor. Occasionally, I substitute the pork belly with tuna, or go completely meatless and add mushrooms and cabbage instead.
Admittedly, there are days when I want to commit to the lowest effort for the greatest taste, so I turn to Jenn Im's recipe, which is even quicker to make and hits the spot.
I still make pilgrimages to Tofu Village or Jang Guem Tofu & BBQ House to indulge in the banchan and soup when cooking just isn't in the cards.
What I find myself returning to again and again
Eating Shui Zhu Yu or Water Boiled Fish is an experience — the explosion of flavor from the tender fish fillets soaks up the mala spicy broth, and Sichuan peppercorns create a numbing deliciousness. The numbing sensation is a shock at first, but becomes addictive once you're accustomed to it. And an addiction it has become — Sichuan boiled fish is a dish I always order when it's available.
To try to the tingling dish yourself, Mala Sichuan Bistro and Spicy Girl are solid options. Also consider Mala's Eggplant in Garlic Sauce, and Spicy Girl's 3 Flavor Pepper Chicken if you find yourself ordering from these restaurants.
Dishes that I'm excited to try
Since quarantine, my friends and I have been sending each other pictures of new takeout items we order. My friend Ishita's photo took the cake, with a creamy orange stew coating some buttery garlic naan. I found out later that this rich stew prepared using mutton and whole spices is Haleem.
Ishita ordered her beef haleem from Aga's Restaurant & Catering, and recommends that you "order some naan and request for it to be spicy."
Order from: Aga's Restaurant & Catering
A dish that excites me is
When I think of Hot Pot, I think of community. And right now, the idea of seeing my family and friends gathered around a large pot with the sole goal of devouring the soup definitely fills my soul with joy.
Chongqing Chicken Pot is my favorite Houston spot for hot pot. The restaurant serves a shareable stir-fry entree, and then once the meal is finished, a rich broth is poured into the entree, deglazing it and converting the meal into a hot pot to which you add raw ingredients Unfortunately, there's not vegetarian options there, but Happy Lamb Hot Pot serves up a vegetarian mushroom broth with a yummy umami flavor.
My wildcard recommendation is
Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings) — I know, I know this is cheating a little, but c'mon, soup is in the name. Xiao long bao is a dumpling with delicate skin enveloping a filling and gelatinized broth. During steaming, the broth liquefies, creating a delectable mini broth balloon.
Mein Restaurant, One Dragon Restaurant, and Wanna Bao are always my go-to's. Mein's Wonton Soup and Red Oil Dumplings, One Dragon's lunch specials, and Wanna Bao's Pork Crispy Bottom Bao are all fire and should also be consumed if you order from any of them.
For those who are night owls and get some serious cravings in the wee hours of the morning like me, try stocking up on Trader Joe's Chicken Soup Dumplings. I always have a few boxes in my freezer for emergencies.
Business and Policy programs are endowed by Huffington Foundation. We give special thanks to Bank of America, Muffet Blake, Anne and Albert Chao, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Nancy Pollok Guinee, and United Airlines, Presenting Sponsors of Business and Policy programs; Nancy C. Allen, Chinhui Juhn and Eddie Allen, and Leslie and Brad Bucher, Presenting Sponsors of Exhibitions; Dr. Ellen R. Gritz and Milton D. Rosenau, Presenting Sponsors of Performing Arts and Culture; Wells Fargo, Presenting Sponsor of Education & Outreach; and Mitsubishi Corporation (Americas), Presenting Sponsor of the Japan Series. General support of programs and exhibitions is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., The Hearst Foundation, Inc., Houston Endowment, Inc., the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance, McKinsey & Company, Inc., National Endowment for the Arts, Texas Commission on the Arts, Vinson & Elkins LLP, and Mary Lawrence Porter, as well as Friends of Asia Society.
About Asia Society at Home
We are dedicated to continuing our mission of building cross-cultural understanding and uplifting human connectivity. Using digital tools, we bring you content for all ages and conversations that matter, in order to spark curiosity about Asia and to foster empathy.
About Asia Society Texas Center
With 13 locations throughout the world, Asia Society is the leading educational organization promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and West. Asia Society Texas Center executes the global mission with a local focus, enriching and engaging the vast diversity of Houston through innovative, relevant programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach.
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