CULINARY THRILL SEEKING: Shop the flavors of Rice Village

Published 3:51 pm Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My husband dropped me off in Houston’s Rice Village so he could meet a friend for lunch. So I had to enjoy a Miss Saigon meal of caramelized lemongrass shrimp all by myself. Delicious “me” time.

Then I got to stroll around shops tempting with everything from coral beads to Tibetan singing bowls. Here’s a taste of what I hit:

Savory Spice

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Aroma hits you when you open the door. I wanted to dash all the way in to the back wall and explore back to the checkout, but I was distracted by a sample station for fruity hot sauces. Another stand of peppercorns featured long pepper, which must be grated.

The sales woman told me to look for jars marked with red stickers. From those I was welcome to shake spices into my palm to lick. If I had shaken too much, I would be allowed to simply shake off the excess onto the floor. That concept seemed a bit whacky to me, but of course I had to try some Vietnamese and curry blends. I walked out with a simple cayenne and a can of peppers in adobo sauce.

What I’d like to have tried was reaper and ghost pepper concoctions. The reaper was $21 for a little bitty bottle. No tasting sticker on that one.

British Isles

Visit this shop of God Save the Queen tea sets, jams and lotions for just a few minutes and you’ll feel like you’re in the crew to a travel show. Silent observers can hear shoppers tell the managers about living in or visiting England as they browse the wares and sample fudge.

My favorite is the tea aisle, featuring serious teas and others packaged more whimsically. There’s a tin of “Afternoon Tea” that looks like a double-decker bus.

Rice Village always features an experience no matter where you get dropped off. You could spend an hour there without leaving the big Half Price Books store.