Orthogonal Thought | Random musings from the creator of Cooking For Engineers and Lead Architect of Fanpop




What I Ate: Fu Fu Cafe (Houston, Texas)

Posted 4 November, 2012 at 6:17am by Michael Chu
(Filed under: Dining, What I Ate)

Like Confucious, we've eaten at Fu Fu Cafe more than once this year. The first time was actually on the same night that we ate at Confucious the first time (two lobsters with ginger and scallions, jade tofu with king mushroom, and water spinach). After Confucious we stopped in at Cafe Kubo to taste their ramen (no good). Then we went over to Fu Fu Cafe (not to be confused with Fu Fu Restaurant in the same shopping complex) for the third dinner of the night when I ordered their Pork and Chive Dumplings.

Pork Chive Dumplings ($5.99). These were as close to homemade as I've ever had in a restaurant. The value was excellent - we received sixteen dumplings for our $6. Unfortunately, five were ultra slalty, but I still ended up eating all of them (even after just having two dinners back to back). Technically, I ate 13 dumplings, and Tina ate three.
Pork Chive Dumplings

On the strength of those dumplings, we decided to return two days later for lunch to sample more items from the menu.

Chive Pan Cake ($4.50). Jiu cai he or Garlic Chive "Box". We found the crust to be very hard and the filling to contain too much xiapi (small dried shrimp) which became overwhelming.
Chive Pan Cake

Beef with Sesame Pan Cake ($4.99). The shao bing (sesame pancake) was nicely layered but soft (no flakiness) so it tasted like a uniform soft, gummy bread. The beef was very tender but too heavily sauced making the sandwich overly salty.
Beef with Sesame Pan Cake

Hollow Stem Vegetable with Bean Sauce ($8.99). I'm always happy when I get water spinach (which they literally translated word for word as "hollow stem vegetable" from the Chinese kong xin cai or "hollow heart vegetable") and it is tender and flavorful. The dish we were served was very tender and flavorful. It was also on the oily and rich side (which I didn't mind).
Hollow Stem Vegetable with Bean Sauce

Steam Pork Bun ($4.50). These are their xiao long tan bao or Shanghai soup dumplings. The skin was on the thicker side (but not too bad). I found the filling and soup had a hint of ginger and complexity, but still lacking compared to some really good xiao long bao. We felt the filling might be better than E-Tao (at the Galleria mall a few miles away), except for an odd taste we couldn't quite place. The skin of the dumplings at Fu Fu Cafe was inferior to those we tasted at E-Tao.
Steam Pork Bun

Pan Fried Pork Bun ($5.99). These are their Shanghai sheng jian bao. We found these to be relatively large compared to other sheng jian bao we've had. The dough was too thick; there wasn't much soup inside; the filling was on the smaller side; and the bottoms barely crunched. One out of the six we received was broken. Still, not bad. (A lot of places do these completely wrong. At least the ones at Fu Fu Cafe are recognizable as sheng jian bao.)
Pan Fried Pork Bun

Soy Bean / Fried Bread Stick ($1.85/$1.85). The dou jiang (soy milk) and you tiao (Chinese doughnut) were $1.85 each. The soy milk was slightly sweetened and the you tiao had captured the flavor we were looking for but lacked a bit of salt because we both felt it was a little muted.
Soy Bean / Fried Bread Stick

Fast forward a bit over nine months to tonight. We needed a late dinner in Houston (around midnight), so Fu Fu Cafe came to mind (they close at 2am). We dropped in and started ordering. We weren't too worried about over ordering because we had a refrigerator and microwave in our hotel room and I expect we'll need a snack at some point.

Pork Chive Dumplings ($5.99). We found the skin to be a tad doughy but filling was tasty and salty enough to not need additional seasoning (such as soy sauce or vinegar).
Pork Chive Dumplings

Shredded Pork with Mustard Green and Lima Beans ($7.99). This dish is mislabeled as the beans are clearly soy beans and not lima beans. (It is traditionally made with soy beans, so no problem there except for the English translation.) I love the mix of the bland (in a good way in this case) beans, salty and sour mustard greens, and salty and tender pork.
Shredded Pork with Mustard Green and Lima Beans

Steam Pork Bun ($4.50). We gave their xiao long tan bao another chance and it wasn't bad. These seemed much bigger than I remember with one significantly larger than the other three. One of the four had popped but the soup was ample in the three that hadn't. The skins could have been thinner (the top part where the bun is sealed almost seemed like a lump of chewy dough) and flavor could have been a little more savory (perhaps with the inclusion of some seafood ingredients?) but they weren't bad.
Steam Pork Bun

Chicken Fried Rice ($7.99). I wanted a simple fried rice dish and ordered this. I figured that unless the rice came out soggy or it was undersalted, it was hard to screw up chicken fried rice. (As opposed to pork fried rice or yang chow fried rice where the pork components can give an off taste if stale. Chicken is less often stale in Chinese restaurants than pork, so I erred on the side of caution. Please note, there was nothing that made me suspect Fu Fu Cafe would have stale pork… I just didn't feel like potentially going down that path this evening.) We noted that the rice had a tasty hint of char to it which means they use a very hot wok (a good sign). The rice was properly salted and the rice were not clumping together or soggy.
Chicken Fried Rice

Snow Pea Leaves with Garlic Sauce ($9.99). We were considering ordering you cai (the leaves of the rape plant; the rape plant's seeds are what we use to make rapeseed oil, a type of which is canola. Interestingly enough the plant's name in Chinese, you cai, literally means "oil vegetable") but were advised that it had lots of chewy stalks today and the pea leaves were better. We ordered the pea leaves which I though wasn't as tender as ones I've had previously (a tad on the chewy side), but I ate it happily.
Snow Pea Leaves with Garlic Sauce

Soy bean / fried bread stick ($1.85/$1.85). The youtiao (Chinese doughnut) had a pleasantly crisp exterior and chewy interior (think of a smooth skinned salty churro) which was perfect for soaking in the soy milk. Like last time, the youtiao could have been better with a tiny bit of salt to increase the flavor. We also felt the soy milk could have been a tad sweeter. For whatever reason, we think the soy milk caused a minor allergic reaction in both me and Tina. Tina had itchy tingly lips and I had a similar feeling in my throat and was wheezing slightly. We've experienced this once before earlier in the year when we purchased soy milk at MT Market in Austin. After drinking half a cup of soy milk, both Tina and I had similar reactions (tingly and itchy sensations and some coughing and wheezing on my part). Neither of us had ever been allergic to soy milk before so it was surprising. I've since tried soy milk in cans (the Yeo brand) and did not have a problem. I'm going to have to look into this further - may be it's the type of soybeans the milk is produced from (or how the soybeans were handled/heat treated/etc) or maybe it's the temperature and duration at which the products are cooked (I suspect the canned version is ultra-pasteurized and may deactivate some enzyme or hydrolyze some protein which is causing the reaction). Once we felt the tingling, we immediately stopped drinking and the sensation (and our reactions) passed within an hour or two. The moment we felt it, I immediately remembered the soy milk we had earlier in the year and noted that that product had been made and bottled in Houston so it was highly likely that the soy milk used at Fu Fu Cafe was from the same source (since they are also in Houston). Unfortunately, it didn't occur to me until just now that I should have asked them the brand of soy milk they were serving.
Soy Bean / Fried Bread Stick

Fu Fu Cafe
9889 Bellaire Boulevard #105
Houston, TX 77036
(713) 981-8818