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Bieber fever dominates Toyota Center

(12/01/15 4:55pm)

Bieber fever is real. I experienced it firsthand at the album release show he hosted in Houston on Nov. 19, an event where he attempted to have a heart-to-heart with thousands of screaming girls at the Toyota Center. I had made a rather impulsive decision by buying a ticket to see him, but in my defense, I believed that he has matured immensely since his days of long, shaggy hair and high-pitched vocals, and I just wanted to see this transformation myself.I would call myself a fan of Bieber’s music, but I’m sure I looked tame in comparison to the other girls who were climbing out of their seats at the Toyota Center. There was so much estrogen.  The shrieking terrified me the most. Bieber hadn’t even come out yet and girls were already hollering his name. The path to the stage was like a watering hole, and females swarmed around it with signs and phones at the ready. Some seemed just about to topple headfirst over the rails, while others stood on chairs in a desperate effort to catch a glimpse of the star. It died down when he failed to appear, then surged again in a raucous cry when his voice came over the intercom explaining that there would be a delay.  He finally emerged from backstage on a skateboard 40 minutes later, lazily boarding along while fans reached for him, wearing a maroon beanie hat and a long-sleeved black shirt underneath another black T-shirt, which perplexed me. Bieber sat down and the live Q&A began. He spoke in a clear, deep voice tinged with hints of swagger and confidence. When asked about his current life outlook, he replied that he believes in moving forward.“It’s about what you are, but you also can’t stay there. You gotta focus on how there are better days ahead.” More screaming ensued.However, the tone of the conversation changed when a fan used her one chance to lobby a question to him by asking if he would have her babies.“We’d have to get married first,” Bieber said. I think the audience groaned a little. To be honest, I think marriage to Bieber would be stressful.He moved on to perform a large number of his songs, all acoustic versions that his trusty guitarist deftly tackled. He sang his current popular hits like “I’ll Show You,” “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean?” then graced the audience with a couple of throwback hits like “Boyfriend” and “As Long As You Love Me.” He even serenaded a teary-eyed girl with “One Less Lonely Girl.” When he kissed her forehead at the end, I knew she wouldn’t be washing that piece of skin for a while.It was rather strange, actually, to be at a Justin Bieber concert as a college student. I felt like I had to be more mature. Or maintain some of my dignity. At first, I felt a twinge of sheepishness because I didn’t embrace Bieber with the same obsession of groupies clamoring for his attention. Everyone seemed to be on a sort of high, and I felt myself being pulled along to experience the same euphoria. But then I realized that maybe it was because I’m older and more jaded about people. Bieber is a human, a regular man. Yet when he took a swig of water, the audience erupted into shrieks. When he rolled up a sleeve and shook out his hair, I swear that some girls started sobbing. It made me wonder how it could be possible to idolize someone that much. However, I wouldn’t say that Bieber gives me purpose. That day, I was just a college student trying to escape the realities of the world for a while by going to his concert for some musical entertainment. He sounded brilliant live, and he did sing about some truths that resonated with me and probably many other Rice students. During “I’ll Show You,” Bieber sang these words: “Sometimes it’s hard to do the right thing / When the pressure’s coming down like lightning / It’s like they want me to be perfect.” I was surprised that these lyrics jumped out at me. Who knew that Rice students and Justin Bieber somehow have a connection, and it shows that he’s not an idol, but a man. He’s one of us — although no one applauds me after I take a drink of water.


Sid Richardson junior leads part-time career as runway model

(11/18/15 9:42am)

Julie Ren leads an extraordinary double life as a pre-med biochemistry major and an aspiring fashion model. Her fledgling interest in modeling evolved into a passion and now Ren, a Sid Richardson College junior walks the runways sporting fashion by the most notable designers in Houston. She recently debuted an edgy, sleek bob as a hair model at a hair show called “World’s Fair,” and sauntered down the runway for various designers during Houston Fashion Week.The hair show in particular involved a flurry of activities, since Ren was featured as a primary display model and needed to be present for the entire weekend. Call times were early, around 6 or 7 a.m., and the company asked her at her auditions if they could do whatever they wanted with her hair. She agreed with admirable fearlessness. “There was certainly a lot of trust involved in the prep,” Ren said. “They cut my hair short because they thought the look would frame my cheekbones well, and then they added pink and orange streaks because those colors went with my skin tone.”To Ren’s surprise, Houston Fashion Week was much more relaxed. She did not even need to audition — the director found her on Facebook and asked her to walk at pre-show. Her execution earned her another invite for Houston’s actual Fashion Week, where she modeled clothing that ranged in style from wedding gowns to chic black outfits.Walking down the runway came naturally to Ren, who said the art was never formally taught to her. “I’ve actually never learned how to walk,” Ren said. “I’ve never really practiced, either. I just focus on being confident in myself. The goal is to make the clothing stand out, not so much the walk.”During Houston Fashion Week, Ren stunned in a dress from wedding dress designer Alexandria Lee and pulled off the look of an elegant bride walking down the runway on the arm of a male model — all while wearing dangerously high nude pumps. While modeling for designer Tony Rio, Ren donned a neon purple evening gown and, to her relief, was allowed to wear her own shoes. For someone who has never learned how to “walk,” Ren is certainly making her way in the fashion world.However, Ren also said working in the fashion world has opened her eyes to misunderstandings about the industry. She said that at the shows she worked at, most agencies aim for diversity as well as a general body type and height.  Models are 5-foot-10 and fairly skinny. Ren said she believes there is a distorted public perception that models strive to stay a certain size to meet a specific standard of beauty, but in reality, designers just make clothes in a standard size and choose models who will fit into them. “Models are not at fault,” Ren said. “The designers create clothing based on a certain size and expect models to fit into that.”Ren said she has continued to pursue modeling because she views it as a hobby and creative outlet that has helped her find balance outside of her studies at Rice. She cultivated an interest in modeling through finding odd jobs in high school and the start of college, and soon enough a photographer recommended that she should find an agency. Modeling is manageable as a part-time endeavor because she can determine her own schedule and decide which photo shoots and events she wants to do. “It’s one of the easier jobs to balance here,” Ren said. “Right now I enjoy it as an extracurricular, but if I want to continue on, I would have to re-sign with an agency that requires more time commitment, and I’m not sure if I am able to do that yet.”Although Ren prioritizes her Rice education, she said she appreciates how modeling has influenced her perspective on fashion. She currently gravitates toward classy, sophisticated designs and has learned to see fashion as a true art form.“I think that dressing well also really helps me to be motivated to do work,” Ren said. “I used to just wear whatever I thought looked nice, but now I’m more open to trying different designs and branching out my style.”Ren’s pursuit of both a fashion career and a STEM major demonstrates that there is no “standard” Rice student, and there is a way to balance academics and other passions. 


Ice cream rolls create a dessert sensation

(10/20/15 9:17pm)

Dessert trends are sweeping across the country, igniting in places like New York City where tourists and natives pour into restaurants serving innovative yet simple sweets. I was curious to understand what keeps these fads alive, and my point of interest was ice cream rolls. Before I went to New York City for midterm recess, I had heard through Buzzfeed and word of mouth about this newfangled dessert. Would it be better than the famed cronut? Or would it fail to live up to its hype?When Dominique Ansel unveiled the cronut (the love child of croissants and donuts), people went wild. This novelty of a pastry combines two of the most popular carbs in the world and it needs to be pre-ordered weeks in advance to avoid winding lines outside Dominique Ansel’s bakery. I have tried the famous cronut before, but it simply tastes like a flaky fritter with a crispy, thick edge encrusted with sugar. Its aesthetic beauty is what captured my attention. Yet while a wait of two hours might not be worth it, the bakery is still clogged with people longing for a taste of His Majesty the cronut. Similarly, tourists and New York natives alike are shuffling for space inside little restaurants to savor ice cream rolls.These frozen treats are actually a staple of Thai street food, and places all over New York are offering inspired versions of the confection. It certainly looks more unique than a typical scoop of Ben & Jerry’s; ice cream rolls resemble a cross between short scrolls and delicate roses, all stuffed into a frozen yogurt cup and adorned with various toppings. And the other fascinating part about this dessert is the fact that customers can watch it being made before their very eyes. It is like people are allowed to witness a secret process and understand the mystery behind the dessert. After all, who really knows how cronuts are made? But ice cream rolls are open to the public — perhaps that is one reason this concoction is surrounded by a flurry of adoration.So I sampled ice cream rolls in NYC to wrangle out possible reasons this dessert has gained an avid fanbase. I scoured Yelp for the best place and decided on I-CE NY, which claims to be the “original Thai ice cream roll destination.” It was a tiny space with a glass case in the wall, lined with plastic examples of ice cream roll flavors and toppings. When I asked the young employee who took my order how these ice cream rolls have gained such renown, he simply shrugged and mumbled that he didn’t know.I stood there, flabbergasted. But then I realized that perhaps he had a point — maybe he was disillusioned after working with foodies clamoring for pictures of the dessert. Or maybe he just thought that ice cream rolls were not really that much different from Haagan-Daaz besides the presentation. It was time to discover the truth. The process of ordering involved four parts: choosing an ice cream base, a filling, a topping and a drizzle. The Thai tea base sounded delicious, and I chose to pair it with lychee morsels, followed by a topping of mochi and a final drizzle of condensed milk.Watching the poor girl who had the pleasant job of making all the rolls evoked a combination of pain and intrigue. Each batch took about four minutes, which would probably make any hungry customer start tapping their feet in impatience. The process was quite an undertaking. First, the girl poured out the measurement of creme anglaise, a sort of cream tinted light orange due to the Thai tea. It spilled out into a rectangular sheet. She dumped in the lychee and proceeded to chop it all into the cream over and over, until it resembled a gloopy mound that she flattened on the sheet. No doubt she had serious biceps after all that mincing. The sheet must have been extremely cold as well because once she started scraping the ice cream’s edge and rolling strips off of it like cutting fondant, they all came out into nice, frosty curls. Then she placed them all carefully into a cup and added the toppings.Honestly, my dessert didn’t look the most aesthetically pleasing. Mochi was falling off the rolls and the entire cup wasn’t as full as I would hope. Digging my spoon into a roll also proved to be a bit difficult. I figured the ice cream would need to be pliable yet stiff enough to be rolled, so chipping off a piece was as hard as attempting to scoop ice cream from a tub that has been in the freezer for a while. The cream tasted light with the right amount of sweetness; I could pinpoint all the delicate flavors and had no trouble scarfing it down.I paid $6 for this dessert, and I think it was that expensive due to all the effort in crafting it. I would recommend it for a unique dessert or to curb a craving for ice cream but, in the end, ice cream rolls are just made of basic, humble flavors. No doubt the quality is stellar, but is it worth it to fly to New York for a taste? Probably not. If you handed me an ice cream cone instead of these, I would be just as delighted. Yet I think that these rolls have become so noteworthy because people can watch their desserts being made, and the idea is simple — change the generic ice cream scoop into a work of art. Ice cream rolls and cronuts both make people stop in their tracks and marvel at the brilliance of the idea. And everyone wants to be able to say that they’ve tried it. No wonder Instagram is littered with photos of these desserts. What other proof do people need?


12 hours in a coffee shop inspires reflection

(10/07/15 4:20am)

The goal was to spend 12 hours in a coffee shop, an idea inspired by a man who spent a whopping 24 hours in Portland’s Southeast Grind. I sat in Montrose’s Siphon Coffee to observe my surroundings — the people, the atmosphere, conversations, my own dwindling attention span — for the sake of understanding why these places are so popular and what a coffee shop’s day looks like. So, here’s a play-by-play review of my enlightening experience:8:07 a.m. I am a grouchy zombie. At least I have a cranberry scone and a caramel latte to kick off the siege — I figured I’d indulge at least once that day. (And Siphon doesn’t charge extra for soy milk? Hallelujah.) So far, the only people in here are a man staring intently at his laptop, an elderly gentleman perusing the newspaper with a cup of drip and myself. Baristas with their Herschel backpacks and cute, bobbed haircuts are streaming in. An athletic grandma briskly powers through the door.8:45 a.m. Lots more people are sauntering in. Orange Headband Guy, women in Lululemon, couples in their own workout gear, men in their twenties wearing V-necks. Is it a thing to drink coffee before or after working out? Or do we just wear workout clothes to look like we’re productive? I’m rationing my scone and my latte art has transformed into blurry leaves. All the people working on laptops have rather grim expressions. Two women are chatting and I want to steal Cortado Lady’s classy white blouse.9:08 a.m. A line’s forming — the morning rush has officially begun. A barista’s explaining the siphon method of coffee brewing to a starry-eyed couple. Med students are arriving to camp out for the day, scrolling through PowerPoints cluttered with a thousand body diagrams. The latte has transformed my veins into electrified wires. Thank goodness, friends from out of town have come to keep me company after I voiced a plea for human interaction. 10:04 a.m. I’ve finally started working on homework, blasting mandopop music and jamming to the espresso machine’s rhythmic prattle. A female med student parks next to me with a thick test prep book. Godspeed. Also, this is sort of awkward because she can probably see what I’m typing. Now she’s powwowing with the other med student guy down the counter and they’re conversing about Ryan Adams’ cover album of Taylor Swift’s “1989.” Hipster med students?12:05 p.m. Just saw a couple making out. The woman was intently reading “To Kill a Mockingbird,” then I looked over again and she certainly wasn’t reading the book anymore. On a happier note, I just saw two guys wearing almost matching plaid shirts and it was adorkable. And there’s a guy that’s been literally hugging his laptop for a while.12:46 p.m. I just saw the largest Louis Vuitton bag I’ve ever seen. You could put a child in there. Med students are still cranking away, and I’ve never seen so many Macs in one place. (Real hipsters have PCs though.) Now I’m devouring an overpriced but delicious caprese panini as Hugger Guy finally gives his laptop personal space again.1:54 p.m. I’ve seen only one family since I arrived. The kids are savoring milk and cookies (probably vegan and gluten-free because that’s what coffee shops are raving about) while I’m guessing the dad’s sipping a cappuccino. What’s a typical dad type of coffee drink? Straight up black? Wait, I’m already halfway through?2:27 p.m. Siphon is abuzz with noise, and I have developed a magnificent headache. I’ve also been looping four songs on repeat the whole time I’ve been here. There’s a guy poring over a book called “How to Make Money in Stocks.” More PDA from another couple. Why.3:05 p.m. I’ve finally finished a paper draft and am wondering if I should treat myself to a snack. I also need an outlet (the perpetual struggle). The man sitting across from me is drinking his macchiato index finger up, and I just noticed an influx of muscled men in bro tanks.3:19 p.m. I FOUND AN OUTLET. This rarely happens this fast. I also caved and bought a vanilla latte and lemon tart (I scream basic), then proceeded to successfully spray crumbs all over my poor neighbor.4:06 p.m. I’m alarmingly hyper-jacked on caffeine. And craving Chipotle. I probably need to start on my other paper.4:33 p.m. The place still feels crowded but the counters are starting to free up. The med students went home, bless them. And the barista finally unearthed the bathroom key, thank goodness. But the caffeine and sugar (caffegar?) crash is looming upon me.5:33 p.m. I finally polished off my lemon tart. Siphon’s vibes have definitely mellowed; the espresso machine’s whirring less. I think everyone’s about that drip coffee at this time of the day. I keep staring at a breathtaking view of the parking lot.6:21 p.m. I’m slowly dying. My mom just called me and I explained this project to her. She was horror-struck at first because why on earth would anyone spend a beautiful Saturday living a coffee hermit life? But talking to her has somewhat revived me. I’m starving for human interaction again.6:38 p.m. I’m bored but restless; Macklemore’s new song “Downtown” is playing in my head. Tiramisu, tiramisu. I’m so ready to leave. This level of noise is optimal though — a bit of a hum, occasional clinks and clatters. A sweet couple asked me to move down one chair and I wonder if the woman feels apprehensive about sitting on a pre-warmed seat. 7:00 p.m. It’s a tundra in here. My fingers are gradually numbing. I even put on a fleece jacket. Word to the wise, always bring a sweater or jacket to a coffee shop.7:30 p.m. The sky is dimming as Siphon’s lights grow brighter. My hand feels like a dementor’s. The couple next to me really needs to stop kissing. What is it about coffee shops and PDA?7:40 p.m. Ed Sheeran is playing in Siphon? Time to rejoice. But everyone’s brows here are furrowed in focus, headphones plugged in. Also my phone is miraculously still alive.7:45 p.m. Oh heavens, finally. It’s time to bounce. This rounds up to 12 hours, right? I’m off to Chipotle.  Some final thoughts:Coffee shops somehow create a need for PDA.You can drink only so much coffee in one day before you crash and burn.Outlets are guarded like the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London.Workout gear makes you look instantly impressive.There are baristas who can spell your name correctly.Lots of people will not budge from their seats.No one wants to sit next to each other unless it’s a last resort.Coffee shop ambiance is like music with lots of crescendoes — peak crowds occur after optimal mealtimes and gradually die down just to increase again. Leave at some point.


Ramen goes gourmet

(09/23/15 5:30am)

It’s 2 a.m., my eyes are fatigued after staring at hydrocarbon structures for the past 12 hours and my stomach whines in hunger. What rises to the occasion? Beloved Shin ramen. Nothing is more blissful than the crinkling sound right before the iconic red package bursts open. Ever since it evolved from the traditional East Asian noodle dish to the widely available product sold today, Shin has become quite the collegiate favorite. College students adore Shin because it’s a comfort food staple that is simple, easy and delicious. It consistently delivers quality and quantity. But what about the newfangled rise of gourmet ramen? Restaurants are popping up all over America and serving a taste of Japan’s famous noodles. Customers can enjoy steaming, large bowls of handcrafted ramen in sleek, vibrant nooks that defi nitely surpass eating instant Shin in a dingy dorm room. However, classy ramen usually costs around $11 to $12 while a pack of Shin is cheaper than a dollar — yet people are still fl ocking to these noodle destinations in droves. What makes gourmet ramen so popular? I recall the very fi rst moment I faced o with a fancy bowl of ramen. It looked stunning, with thin noodles bobbing amid a light pork broth with pork belly, bean sprouts and green onion adorning the top. It was a scrumptious, hearty meal created with plenty of meticulous detail. Since then, I have scarfed down many more bowls and come to believe that ramen has gained such a delectable reputation because it manages to blend versatility with simplicity. The dish basically consists of noodles in a soup or broth, which are topped with a couple slices of meat and a sprinkle of vegetables. Yet there are multiple kinds of broths, noodles, meats and toppings, like the infamous soft boiled egg. The possibilities are endless. More components can be added and some can be removed. I’ve been to numerous ramen restaurants and come to expect staring contests with the menu. Will it be spicy miso or low-sodium chicken? Braised pork or seafood? With the horde of options, ramen manages to cater to every customer’s taste. Gourmet ramen doesn’t just stick to the curly, wavy noodles like Shin does; there are thick noodles, thin noodles and even ones that resemble spaghetti. Noodle style changes from restaurant to restaurant, and many places boast ornate noodle-making machines. There are ramen bars in Japan that serve noodles almost the size of udon while the noodles at Jinya Ramen Bar here in Houston are vermicelli-thin. Broths, on the other hand, are judged based on their degrees of savoriness and spiciness, hints of dashi (the base for miso) and thickness. Some ramen spots serve soups with a disconcerting fi lm of oil on top, but Kukai Izakaya in Portland presents a sublime concoction that is tinged with the right amount of salt and tonkotsu richness. To be honest, I always leave a ramen restaurant satisfi ed even if I do not end up loving that particular place, because certain components of the meal are still stellar if others fall fl at. That’s the beauty of ramen. Since every restaurant’s take on these noodles di ers, a wide audience can be reached. Japan may look at ramen as a common staple, like how Americans view hamburgers, but America is catching on to ramen’s marvelous versatility and ability to please many people’s palates. Check out some of Houston’s popular ramen places, such as Tiger Den, Ninja Ramen, Samurai Noodle and the aforementioned Jinya to dis


The mystery behind the boba tea craze

(03/18/15 5:44am)

When Kung Fu Tea opened a new location in Montrose, the people rejoiced. It’s no question boba is beloved among Rice University students, but it hasn’t always been so easy to find. There are stellar options in the heart of Chinatown, but not everyone can just drive there for a late-night run. Teahouse is close, but exceedingly average in comparison. Until Kung Fu’s arrival, most students had to turn to boba sales that occur in the Rice Memorial Center to satisfy cravings.It has always struck me how popular boba has become. The craze is not confined to Rice’s campus, either, but has spread almost worldwide. Hordes clamor for the tea mixed with a scoop of tapioca bobbing at the bottom, which hails from Taiwan. The original flavor is milk tea (black tea with non-dairy creamer), a staple for all first-timers. To the unfamiliar, even this basic flavor may seem a little bizarre, even unappealing. And depending on your order, the drink can cost $4 to $5, a relatively expensive sum for a beverage that doesn’t require much skill to make on the spot. Most shops just fill the plastic cup with tea, add some powder to supply a fruit flavor if so desired and plop in some tapioca. One could purchase a smooth, creamy latte decorated with foamy art from an upscale coffee shop for the same price.Perhaps boba’s fame can be attributed to its reputation for variety. Boba shops always offer tea with tapioca, but most also allow you to substitute tea with smoothies, slushies and coffee. Many have massive menus sporting choices for just about every fruit and tea on the planet. In addition to tapioca, there are jellies available to put in drinks, ranging from apple to lychee. Chunks of egg custard pudding are perhaps a bit more daring, but a good alternative for people looking for a twist. Get your beloved 7-Eleven slushie as a boba drink, or go for an iced coffee option instead. There’s green tea and cookies and cream, passion fruit and Thai tea. Boba has also become a part of popular culture. Even the term “boba” is ambiguous — it refers both to tapioca and the drink itself. If you tell a friend that you want to buy boba, you mean that you’re hankering for the drink. If you’re talking to the polite employee behind the cash register at the boba shop and ask for boba, it’s a request for tapioca in your beverage. One can’t underestimate the process — ordering boba is an art.   Furthermore, boba doesn’t taste the same everywhere. The ratio of milk to tea is different at every place, and consistent tapioca texture is crucial and can be a sign of a good vendor. Nothing is less appealing than chewing hard, stringy tapioca, and it takes time and good advice to find a suitable go-to place. One option is to try the same flavor at every place and compare taste and tapioca texture. I did this once, trying the original milk tea boba at various places around Chinatown.  Enjoy exploring, but be careful — this drink is strangely addicting. 


Taking Hong Kong one dish at a time

(02/04/15 4:03am)

I visited Hong Kong this past winter break, a bustling hubbub of activity. I would step out into the streets and hear Cantonese chatter everywhere. I dodged red taxis that veered past and surrendered to the mercy of the hordes of people cramming the trains. Nevertheless, if there is anything that stuck with me most, it was the culinary experience — Hong Kong is a true haven of stellar cuisine. Even the McDonald’s boast sleek, sophisticated cafes with latte art and macarons. If you are looking to study abroad in Asia or you just catch a whiff of wanderlust, Hong Kong is a wonderful place to explore some of the finest and most unusual eats in the world. The cooking culture varies from casual, hearty comfort food to exquisite banquet fare that includes suckling pig, roast goose and Alaskan king crab. There are numerous restaurants that serve typical comfort foods, such as variations of fried rice, chow mein and wonton noodles (pork or shrimp dumplings bobbing in a rich broth and mixed with thick egg noodles). Iconic drinks like lemon tea, milk tea and yin yeung (“phoenix and dragon,” a mix of milk tea and coffee) can be added to most meals for less than $1. Hong-Kong-style milk tea also differs from British tea. Instead, people whip out evaporated and condensed milks to concoct a smooth, creamy texture that enhances the notes of black tea.Little food carts hover on many street corners as well. These serve all sorts of steamed snacks like pork intestines, curry fish balls and gelatinous rice crepes dipped in a sweet, dark oyster sauce. My favorite snacks are these egg puffs called “gei dan zai” that taste like waffles but are shaped in honeycomb-like molds with round hollows so that the finished product looks like bubble wrap. I always eat them piping hot, and they never disappoint.Dim sum is another significant part of Hong Kong food culture. It sort of defines leisure dining. Elderly people love to wake up at the crack of dawn and head to restaurants to feast on little plates and metal tins of dumplings and steamed meats. Many people also opt to sit down for dim sum at teatime as well. Some of the most popular options are “siu mai,” “ha gao” and “cheung fun.” “Siu mai” are pork, shrimp and mushroom dumplings often dotted with bright orange crab eggs on top. These are my favorite; I love the rich and savory flavors of the hot meat juices that spill over with the first bite. “Ha gao” features shrimp dumplings where the dough is a soft, opaque-colored rice flour. The dumpling shell has a rather bland flavor, but that allows the salty and strong shrimp taste to shine. “Cheung fun” are gelatinous rice flour crepes stuffed with meats from barbecue pork to shrimp, then doused in soy sauce. The soy sauce adds a slightly sweet and salty flavor to the dish, which is often what makes it so popular. The steamed chicken feet, an interesting alternative, are served in a rich red sauce and have a rather fatty texture. Other iconic items are sticky rice covered in lotus leaves, fried squares of Chinese turnip cakes and steamed barbecue pork buns. For dessert, the bakeries offer rich, mouthwatering treats. The celebrated egg tarts melt in the mouth when fresh out of the oven and are baked in buttery, flaky tart shells with a hint of vanilla. Pair these bites of heaven with a hot milk tea; welcome to the breakfast of champions. Bakery shelves are also loaded with heaps of coconut-stuffed buns and soft breads topped with savory bits of dried pork or baked pineapple crust. They just do not taste the same in Houston’s Chinatown.