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CULINARY THRILL SEEKING: Can banana leaves and apple cider top pumpkin?

Banana leaves used for steaming and flavoring are catching my eye on menus as much as the pumpkin everything we’ve been seeing for a few years.

San Antonio Magazine featured a map on “Houston’s thriving Asian-infused culinary district” that I’ll keep in my files until I’ve tried every one.

I went to a section of Bellaire that seemed to feature endless restaurants, tea houses, bakeries and markets. I love shopping for little cans and jars of spices and sauces to try. I love the ducks hanging up and the crab in tanks and the vegetables that I wouldn’t even know how to get into.

The magazine mentioned Indika on Westheimer for goat brains sautéed in a chickpea crepe and saffron yogurt. But I asked the hostess her favorite and she steered me to Patra fish. It was steamed in banana leaf with cilantro mint and coconut chutney with tomato brith, karela stuffed with corn peanut masala. I meant to ask if the brith on the menu was a typo from broth, but got distracted by this great dish. I fiddled about when the cardamom cookies came until my husband suggested I get them while they were still warm. They were warm? I hadn’t realized. Similar to Mexican wedding cookies, the sandy texture melted in my mouth.

Pumpkin update

For the third year, readers and I are pumpkin spotting as this flavor and sent is showing up everywhere. I just saw pumpkin as a hair coloring. Not kidding. I think apple cider may be trying to creep up on pumpkin. I saw several candles out for fall. One in a copper mug could be used for a Moscow Mule after the scent is gone.

Readers, keep us posted by e-mailing me at

darraghcastillo@icloud.com