Saturday, December 13, 2024

In search of kaffir lime leaves and hidden Thai delights

Kaffir Lime Leaves: Wherefore Art Thou?
    While I love trying Thai recipes at home there was always something missing: Kaffir lime leaves.

There is no substitute for the aromatic ingredient that adds that signature Thai-ness to traditional dishes. I have bought the jarred version of chopped leaves submerged in water only to have them mold something awful and have to be tossed out. They didn't even add that special oomph I sought, so it was just a waste of money all around.

    So I Googled "kaffir lime leaves Houston" and found Asia Market in the Heights and saw that they also served food. When the fam and I pulled up to the market my husband flatly asked if we were really going to eat at a corner store. The establishment is nothing more than a strip center shop set up like a Stop-n-Go, except instead of candy bars and cigarettes they sell typical and elusive Asian ingredients, specifically catering to the Thai, Cambodian, and Laotian community. There is a small section set up with a few tables and the kitchen seemed like nothing more than a stove and a counter with an open view for those foodie voyeurs.

We ordered dinner at the cash register and proceeded to fill the time waiting with snooping through the shelves and coolers of exotic ingredients. I did find my kaffir lime leaves, as well as baby Thai eggplants, mysteriously creamy nam pla (fish sauce), Yan Yan, curry pastes and bases and other things I will leave for you to discover. (Okay, I'm bad at secrets so I'll just tell you that if you're ever shopping for grasshoppers or silkworms, amongst other frozen critters, this is your place.)

The food came out and while I wasn't disappointed in my dish, my husband had ordered the seafood green curry and found very few baby shrimp swimming alongside a ton of baby eggplant in a vat of sauce. I had the Panang with chicken which was decent and spicy enough but the fried tilapia with a sweet/spicy sauce was really good. None of the dishes cost more than six-eight bucks so we didn't feel slighted even though the green curry dish fell short of expectations. I would suggest to avoid ordering the seafood version of any dishes if you are looking for a larger serving of food.

If you want some really kick ass Thai go to Thai Spice at 8282 Bellaire. Yes, it's outside the loop but I wouldn't send you all the way out there if I didn't think you'd be stupid happy after eating there. And no, it's not the same as Thai Spice buffet on Voss, nor does it resemble Thai Spice in the village, but it is the best Thai I've come across for the price since Bangkok Place in Montrose (now Nidda) closed down and broke my heart. (I really did refuse to eat Thai for a long time after Marty Chuenpreecha, who used to own Patu's and Bangkok Place, closed down and moved to California. I'm still recovering from the loss.)

My next venture in Thai is to check out the notorious Telephone Thai. They had been closed for the past couple of weeks, but a recording said they would reopen soon.

So we're planning another trip back to Asia Market soon. Anywhere that I can shop the unknown while I wait for my order is the place for me. You can check out their menu online to get an idea of what all they have. If you've been here before, let me know what to try next.

Asia Market
1010 W Cavalcade St # D
Houston, TX 77009
(713) 863-7074


At December 14, 2024 12:02 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

reading it makes my mouth water ... berg

At January 24, 2024 8:58 PM , Blogger Free Press Houston said...

Fo real- also just tried Red Basil Thai Cafe, but it's on the west side- excellent though, almost worth the trip, esp. the lunch prices. Dang ol' dangitty delicious.

At January 29, 2024 2:44 PM , Blogger neverfull said...

try asia market again. they have some problems with consistency but when they are on, it is AMAZING. pad kee mao noodles w/ chicken are not to be missed. soups are good too.

my second go-to for authentic thai is vieng thai on longpoint. wins all the awards and is well deserving of them.


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