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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Ghetto bite

I finally has the opportunity to sample the cooking over at the Ghetto Dinners. They are sort of a supper club - two items, usually every other Monday, at the Grand Prize bar here in Houston. People usually tweet raves about it, and it's such an in-crowd thing, I wasn't even really sure how to order a dish (as it turns out, you go into the kitchen, say hi, ask for what you want, and drop some cash in the pot). The night I went featured a Thai curry, of sorts, some with some beautiful prawns, and a vegetarian version. I opted for the latter.

Vegetable curry, Ghetto Dinner, Grand Prize Bar, Houston, TX
When I first saw the plates, I was impressed, thinking that the chefs had paid an homage to the Indonesian tumpeng by creating conical mounds of rice to be surrounded by the curry. Turns out that they were just using a funnel to portion out the rice. Overall, I enjoyed what I had, but it was by no means a rollicking success. My biggest issue is the rice itself - I recognized immediately that this was short grain glutinous ("sticky") rice. That was boiled

Glutinous rice is certainly quite traditional in Thai cuisine. Served in little baskets, one pinches off little knobs of them to eat the food, as one would with African fufu. But it should be steamed; boiling creates this pasty goop that was just a textural failure. The vegetarian curry itself was all right, I certainly tasted the inclusion of pineapple in the mix, and I suspect cubes of kohlrabi. I wonder why pineapple is so prevalent in Thai cooking, considering that the plant itself originated from South America? Another discussion for another day. 

Would this win over Thai traditionalists? Certainly not (I spotted the clever use of Marmite as an umami agent in the vegetarian broth), but it was a decent and flavorful curry. The rice, though, could use a lot of work. 


  1. It's interesting that you posted this because I was just having a conversation with my Dad on the phone about glutinous rice this morning.

    I did a little reading up on pineapples. Turns out the Spanish used to carry them to prevent scurvy and might have introduced them to the Philippines. South East Asia remains the largest producer.

    I didn't know about the Ghetto dinners. I just might have to check it out soon.

  2. i just looked at the Ghetto Dinners website and it looks like nothing is coming up at this time... hopefully they will post another date for a ghetto dinner, that sounds like something worth trying!