Eating is my job, so I don't necessarily stress-eat these days. If anything, I stress-walk or stress-run or stress-play-a-video-game-when-I-should-be-asleep. But a friend and I were chatting about what we stress-eat, and since it's January, and we might be feeling a little post-holiday anxiety, I thought about what I would eat in Houston if I stress-ate today. Where would I go if my emotions were telling me to get gluttonous?
If there's a single dish that has always been there for me in stressful moments, it's shrimp with lobster sauce. It might sound glamorous, but the Chinese-American staple doesn't actually have lobster; it's merely jumbo shrimp in rich egg sauce. But it hits all the spots for me, especially when ladled over fried rice. Even better? An appetizer of crab rangoon beforehand. Few things make me happier when I'm down, but Fu's Garden, a destination for inexpensive Chinese-American eats such as my nostalgic favorites, has all that and much more.
It's scientific fact that a cheesy, gravy-coated enchilada improves your mood. If I had to pick one to ride with when I'm feeling low, it's going to be ground beef and cheddar in chili gravy—that's it. So I'd head to this popular spot with two locations (Woodway, Eldridge) for a Donna; okay, maybe I need more meat, in which case the Lubbock is my move.
Honestly, the best antidote for my tough times is probably a big bowl of ramen. Give me salt, a touch of sweetness, and a chance to slurp up big piles of pulled noodles. The Tonkotsu Sho-Yu, with pork broth, soy sauce blend, chashu (pork belly), ajitama (half-boiled egg), menma (bamboo shoots), scallion, nori, and pepper, combines lovely flavors and brings awesome texture. Now I want to take a bar seat at the usually busy Ramen Tatsu-Ya and let my cares slip away, one slurp at a time.
Speaking of ramen, if I want heat, I might visit one of Jinya's locations for its spicy umami miso ramen. This bowl has ground pork soboro with a variety of vegetables and chili oil (my favorite condiment). The thick noodles absorb all that oil, making for an experience that lightly heats up the palate.
If I'm ever at home alone for a night, my go-to is about three different maki rolls and a glass (or two) of wine. It doesn't feel cheap, but then I buy the most unoriginal rolls—Philadelphia, spicy tuna, spicy salmon—and pick up some table wine. That's $35 at most, and I can live with that. Ka Sushi is a solid everyday spot for rolls, sashimi, nigiri, crudo, and the occasional oddity such as Three Little Pigs (pork belly, bacon cream cheese, chicharrones).
I used to steal bites of cheese all the time, especially when stressed. Add a cracker, some bread, maybe a dollop of chili oil ... look, whatever gets the job done. Thus, I can't think of a better place to fulfill my cheese-eating fantasies than 13 Celsius (OK, I can raid the counter at Houston Dairymaids, but I would want a glass of wine to go with it). You can have three cheeses—like chèvre from local goat dairy Pure Luck and Sapore Del Piave, a nutty Italian with the characteristics of Pecorino—for $16.