This is Chef’s Special, a column dedicated to highlighting the haunts and hangouts of Houston’s culinary and hospitality pros.
“Obviously I would never cheat on my parents.” This curious statement is chef Dory Fung’s charming reason for not trying many of Houston’s amazing Chinese food offerings.
The celebrated pastry chef and pastry arts instructor at Houston Community College is both the genetic and culinary heir to Fung’s Kitchen, the massive Southwest Freeway dim sum restaurant and beloved Houston dining institution owned by her parents. We think Fung's is a necessary visit when you're in Houston.
Fung’s loyalty to her parent’s renowned cooking means the Chinese-American chef rarely eats dumplings or duck anywhere else. Instead, she feeds her culinary curiosity in locally owned, mom-and-pop kitchens of different cultures—in particular, Japanese and Vietnamese.
“I really like eating at Genji,” she says of Genji Japanese Restaurant & Karaoke Bar. “A lot of chefs eat there because their kitchen closes at 1:30 a.m. From 15 years ago, my college days, until today. I still go there to eat.”
Fung’s usual order involves some combination of tuna tartare, omurice (ketchup fried rice served with egg), and kimchi egg rolls. “After a night of getting your ass kicked, it’s exactly what you want to eat.”
Fung has worked in some of Houston’s most prestigious kitchens. Before working on the opening staff of Ian Tucker’s contemporary Southern kitchen, Poitín, she helmed the pastry programs of Aqui and Yauatcha. Later, she impressed guests and media as part of the all-star team of Houston-based chefs behind Secret Taste, a series of secretive ultra-luxe omakase sushi dinners hosted in various mansions around the city. But today, Fung is a free agent. She continues to teach, and supplements her income by working at a juice bar, but has taken some time away from fine dining to rest and spend time with her family.
“You get kind of used and abused,” she explains. “I know so many chefs who are really good, but they’re kind of quiet right now.” Fung says she’s laying low and enjoying the luxury of a normal work week, free time, and the occasional seven-course beef dinner.
Seven-course beef (bò 7 món) is a traditional Vietnamese meal consisting, naturally, of seven individual beef courses. While dishes vary across kitchens, staple items include thinly sliced beef fondued in a vinegar broth, various types of beef sausage, grilled beef wrapped in lolot leaf, thin beefsteak, and grilled beef patties called bò chả đùm.
“A friend took me years ago and I just love it,” Fung continues. “I don’t even know the names; I just order seven-course beef.” Sounds like the ultimate endorsement to us.