Houston Gets Curry’d Away
A Report By Ruchi Mukherjee
It was high time Houston gets its First Annual Curry Crawl Festival, as the city raves about its multicultural population thriving with various international communities. The city also has a very large South Asian population and so even as the temperatures kept rising, more than 200 curry enthusiasts gathered at CityCenter’s Straits Restaurant for South Asian centric spices and flavors.
With the support of Studio Communications the crawl began just on time with Houston’s 10 best restaurants competing for the People’s Choice Winner and the Judge’s Choice. Amongst the fiery lineup of up-and-coming and established chefs from around the city were venue host John Sikhatanna of Straits, Philip Speer of UCHI, David Guerrero of Samba Grille, Junnajet “Jett” Hurapan of BLU, Mary Cuclis of Pondicheri, Kiran Verma of Kiran’s, Shiva Patel of The Queen Vic, Simran Patel of Korma Sutra, German Mosquera of Roots Bistro, and Phuong Nguyen of RA Sushi. Guests also cooled down enjoying a tasty selection of cocktails from Grey Goose.
The judges included Greg Morago (Houston Chronicle), Katharine Shilcutt (Houston Press), Sarah Rufca (CultureMap), and me representing Lights Camera Action/TV Asia. The mouth watering journey of the hot curry started with Straits presenting Lamb Chop with Israeli cous-cous with mango chutney over a succulent mild sauce. Korma Sutra went over board with biryani, grilled portobello mushrooms and main course of duck over tandoori potatoes and curry. Pondicheri and Queen Vic were my favorites as I relished Pondicheri’s South Indian style dry curry prawns caramelized onions, tomato, ginger with Kerala (bitter gourd) and fresh turmeric. They also served Ladoos, a sweet made with whole wheat flour, sugar, cardamom, and other ingredients. Queen Vic kept it simple with crab koftas with a very strong curry sauce and managed to bag both the People’s Choice Award and Judge’s Choice.
Judge Katherine and Sarah both absolutely loved the Goan Curry koftas, also Kiran’s tender halibut in a watermelon curry sauce. However Greg Morago could not resist the cotton candies by Uchi that were infused with a sweet meat flavor. “It is so difficult to judge when everything tastes so good,” says Sarah Rufca.
The event had a cover of $55 which included food and cocktails, which was quite an amazing deal, the proceeds benefit PULSE, a new upcoming young professionals group supporting Houston’s St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital. If curry and cocktails was not enough then the splendid display of chocolates most certainly blew everyone’s mind away. Paskintani heritage Annie Rupani creator of Cacao & Cardamom created interesting fusions with chocolate displaying some exotic handmade chocolates where taste meets art. The chocolates are inspired by ingredients and spices from around the world bringing a new twist on chocolate. Flavors like guava with tamarind, chai latte, caramel with sea salt, melted on the tongue after a perfect crisp bite into the shell of the bon-bons.
Spotted getting curry’d away Mai Pham, Lynn Ghose Cabrera, Shubra Ramini, Stuart Rosenberg, Miya Shay, Deborah Elias, Elizabeth Weiss, Jason and Lindley Arnoldy and many others. Clearly the chefs went out of their way to impress the audience making the event curry-licious with everyone craving for more.