December 29, 2013

Texans go to battle over official state dishAs food aficionados around Texas gear up to battle it out over whether chili or barbecue should be the state dish, restaurants around Austin are offering interesting twists on both traditions, along with other ways to warm yourself throughout the winter months.

A recent debate was started when Texas Monthly magazine began campaigning to have the official state dish switched from the classic “bowl of red” Texas chili to barbecue. How that effort will play out is yet to be determined, but what isn’t up in the air is the ability of talented chefs all around Austin to come up with modern variations of both of those Texas traditions.

Chili versus barbecue
Advocates on both sides of the chili v. barbecue debate have been especially vociferous since it started becoming part of the public debate not too long ago. Both foods have a long history in the Lone Star State, which means people in both camps are entrenched in their position.

Paul Barka, a political writer at Texas Monthly, describes the state’s current official dish as the “bowl of dread.” But if you ask the cowboys who lined up for chili and eggs early one morning at the recent Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, they would probably tell you that there’s no need for a change.

It is, of course, a relatively minor disagreement in the grand scheme of things, but in a state that takes so much pride in its distinct identity, issues like this take on a little more importance than they might elsewhere. And anyone who’s taken Texas cooking courses is sure to have a strong opinion either way.

Chili versus barbecue, part 2 – winter comfort food
Of course, both dishes make for perfect comfort food during the colder months. Their hot temperature and generally high level of spiciness are perfect for getting through the harsh winter, and since they’re already local staples, chefs love to add their own variations to these classic comfort foods.

Chosun Galbi, in Austin, mixes classic Texas barbecue with South Korean spices – while letting you grill your own meat – to give diners a new take on one of their favorite cuisines. The Texas Chili Parlor, located downtown, gives locals their choice of a huge variety of different takes on the state dish. And those are just two choices on either side of the debate. With so many others at their disposal, Austinites will be able to carry on the chili versus barbecue debate for years to come.