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


On a literal degree, the reply is simple. The coronet of laminated pastry I scored from Koffeteria a couple of Saturdays back held a trove of gelled, spicy roux studded with hunks of sausage and rooster.

I experienced been not able to resist the concept when I went on-line to place an get the night time right before — always the very best way to make absolutely sure of receiving the latest concoctions from chef Vanarin Kuch at this well-liked bakery-cafe in EaDo. It sells out of selected items speedily, and the far more daring the notion, the much more probably it is to fly out the doorway with the early birds.

That is how it goes in Houston these days. The foodstuff-obsessed seem at any time far more devoted to conspicuously consuming the most outrageous examples of the style-swapping that has turn out to be central to Houston delicacies. Instagram feeds are entire of these hybrid dishes, daring us to take in them and then brag about them to our buddies.

I am not immune. Just a number of weeks in the past, I was drawn to sample — and then rejoice — the freewheeling quesadilla that has grow to be a signature dish at Cobos Que, the birria and barbecue experts who have set up shop equidistant from downtown’s baseball, soccer and basketball venues. We’re chatting barbecue brisket meshed with mac and cheese that has smoked boudin combined in, folded into a flour tortilla and griddled until finally the cheese pulls and oozes in a highly enjoyable way.


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It is a minor nuts and nuts very good.

So, in its very own trend, was my Gumbo Danish, which available the taste profile of the Louisiana soup so beloved in this city as a room-temperature sound somewhat than a scorching soup. Yeah, I could have heated up the danish pastry when I obtained it residence and manufactured a liquid result, but I couldn’t wait around that prolonged to test it.

It worked, in its have peculiar way. And it remaining me questioning how the Crawfish Rangoon Danish that Koffeteria highlighted in its Instagram feed awhile back had tasted. It appeared wild: its short, cylindrical foundation spouting two drastically swirled claws of laminated pastry. It slyly referenced not just the Cajun and Creole pressure of our local food stuff culture but Kuch’s individual Asian roots, as the son of Cambodian immigrants.

One of last week’s specials, a Cambodian pesto roll, made use of 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 suggested, with peanuts as the nut foundation. A bit previously, Kuch dipped into a little bit of Americana that has develop into quintessentially Texan, thanks to our barbecue lifestyle: 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 since the 1980s, as I don’t forget it. That cross-fertilization is important to our distinctive regional cooking in the 21st century.

But lately I’ve been asking myself why the mixing and matching seems to have hit a feverish pitch listed here in early 2022. What is definitely in that Gumbo Danish, or underneath it, contacting it into existence?

I have a few of theories, both equally associated to the pandemic that is now moving into its third grinding yr.

The to start with is the way Instagram has fueled the present surge of experimentation. During the past couple of years, the system surged into prominence as a advertising and marketing instrument for having difficulties dining places, and instantly underemployed cooks and bakers and cooks of all forms. The extra outrageous and swaggery the combine-and-match thought, the much more “OMG!” feedback and visitors it draws. Verify it out on-line and you will see — the experimentation fuels alone.

My 2nd concept is that dishes that kick over the culinary traces, that jolt our feeling of “normality,” make us really feel a little something in a way that all the pandemic-welcoming convenience foods in the globe can not do. To eat a Gumbo Danish is to remind your self you’re alive, if you will. It is a promise that shock and even astonishment can lie close to any corner.

At Koffeteria — and at Houston foods establishments of all stripes ideal now — they do.

alison.prepare [email protected]

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