Chinatown, Summer in the City

Chinatown, USA

Inspired, of course, by the classic Lovin’ Spoonful song.

Despite the fact that we’re experiencing the longest, strongest heat wave since 1980, I decided that today would be a good day to roam around Chinatown and finish collecting information for a Press article I’m working on. So I grabbed one of my trusty partners in crime, Groovehouse, and we hit the streets.

Our first stop was Banana Leaf, one of the few Malaysian restaurants in Houston. I am constantly amazed that we don’t have more Malaysian places in a city like ours (and I’m not the only one). Malaysian cuisine combines the best of Thai, Indian and Chinese cooking into a delicious amalgamation of flavors and spices. You’ll find sweet peanut sauces and tropical dishes alongside spicy curries and mild fish head casseroles — Banana Leaf has something for everybody. On this visit, I had the roti canai (flat, doughy pancakes served with curry sauce), crispy fried tofu with cucumber and bean sprouts in satay sauce, a gingery masak lemak with shrimp, sambal shrimp with mango and — for dessert — more hot roti filled with butter and bananas. I won’t say too much more for now, lest I have nothing to write about later on, but it was one of the better meals I’ve had in recent memory — and that’s after eating at a $600 a night farm-to-table, five-starred restaurant on Wednesday that I thought might be the pinnacle of Texas restaurants. Groovehouse loved it, too.

Afterwards, I took him on a tour of the “new” Chinatown along Beltway 8. Since the “old” Chinatown just outside of downtown off Chenevert has all but dried up and blown away, too many die-hard ITLers are now missing out on one of Houston’s greatest and most fascinating landscapes. I first took him past the little-known Vietnam memorial located on Bellaire Boulevard, notable for the fact that it was financed by local southern Vietnamese business owners to thank American soldiers who tried to help them during the quagmire that was the Vietnam “War.” The memorial depicts an American soldier and a southern Vietnamese soldier fighting side by side and is remarkably moving for a statue located in a strip center parking lot. Continue reading Chinatown, Summer in the City

Testing the Water

Among the things I now get paid to do (such as make ice cream sandwiches out of Pop-Tarts and eat them) is test whatever makes its way into the Houston Press offices, especially if it seems (a) interesting and/or (b) sublimely ridiculous.  Luckily, the LifeBag water filtration system came to our offices just in time for hurricane season and our editorial assistant, Blake, had the brilliant idea of finding the most disgusting water in Houston and seeing what the LifeBag would make of it.

Our first idea was to take water from Buffalo Bayou and attempt to make it potable, clumps of unidentified detritus and all.  But then we noticed some language on the side of the filtration system that warned against using raw sewage (and seawater, for that matter).  So, obviously, Buffalo Bayou was out.

We didn’t want terribly clean water, though, and set about thinking of the nastiest water we could put into the LifeBag without potentially compromising our health and wellbeing.  We finally settled on the duck pond at Hermann Park, at which point Blake set off to gather water for our test.  A transcript of his conversation with two concerned gentleman at the duck pond, as well as the results of our test, follow here:

The Facts of LifeBag

If the above isn’t enough to convince you to go read the post, here are two added bonuses: (1) there’s video and (2) after the pond water experiment, we tried filtering vodka.

Go.  Read.  Now.