100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 18, Phat Ass Ham Hock at Goro & Gun
This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.
Photo courtesy Goro & Gun Revel in the phatness of that hock, baby.
When Goro & Gun first opened, it was advertised as a ramen restaurant, and as Houston didn't have a dedicated ramen spot at the time, it was a pretty big deal. Until ramen purists got their first bowl and realized that, while the ramen ain't bad, it also ain't really ramen. Since then, many people have come to the same realization about Goro & Gun that I have: It's not a ramen restaurant.
Part of the reason I've come to love Goro & Gun in spite of its initial mislabeling is one big piece of meat--the Phat Ass Ham Hock to be more precise. It's a $14 hunk of ham with char siu crunchiness on the outside and tender, juicy meat on the inside. Chef JD Woodward gives the hock a bath in a big pot to create the ramen broth, then flash-fries the meat for an unparalleled texture.
The ham hock, possessing a wonderful, sweet glaze on top of the pork-crackling skin, is served with bao buns and a side of pickled veggies as sort of a DIY bao plate. The combination of everything on the plate packed into a puffy steamed bun is an amazing array of textures and flavors.
There's the crunchy meat; the soft, buttery meat; bright pickled cucumbers; funky pickled mushrooms; and hot, pillowy bao wiping the palate clean between each bite. If you want more cucumber for your little sandwiches, ask. More bao? They'll do that, too.
The only thing you definitely won't need more of is the ham. It's big enough for two people to share (with a side of Hustle Sprouts, of course). Once my dining companions and I have finished pulling the meat off the bone, we always find ourselves with little slivers of charred skin to crunch on until we can't possibly eat any more pork. Until the next time, of course.
It's not a complicated dish--far less complicated than the multi-ingredient ramen--but it's definitely Goro & Gun's best. Now if they could only figure out how to serve it from the new food truck...
See the full list of favorites on the next page.