Drive around Houston and you may see a Korean restaurant right next to a taco joint, or a Halal restaurant neighboring an eatery selling Salvadoran pupusas. Look at local menus and you may find Southern cooking mixed with cooking from Korea or Vietnam. Houston’s rich cultural influences are easily seen in its food, and that’s what Houston Eats! – a two day conference at the University of Houston – will explore this coming Feb. 2 and 3.

“The conference is a unique opportunity to really learn some more about what has made the city what it is,” said David Leftwich, one of the conference organizers. “If you’re interested in the history and culture of Houston, it’s a good way to learn about the city through the lens of food.”

Organized by the Gulf Coast Project and Foodways Texas, the conference kicks off on Friday, Feb. 2 with a keynote by Tyina L. Steptoe, associate professor of history at the University of Arizona and author of “Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City.” It continues with a program filled with interesting discussions covering topics such as Asian supermarkets,  Jewish cookbooks, barbecue, and urban farms.

Some panels we wouldn’t want to miss include:

  • Feasting on Culture: Asian Platiality through Supermarkets and Food Practices - February 2, 10-11 a.m.
  • In the Land of the Links: Tracing Houston Barbecue Traditions from Cajun Country to Beaumont - February 2, 1:30 to 2:00 p.m.
  • Uncle Ben’s Converted Rice and World War II: A Houston Story - Saturday, Feb. 3, 10-10:45 a.m.
  • Home Is Where the Food Is: How one Syrian refugee teaches the ways of her homeland through food and friendship - Saturday, Feb. 3, 11-11:30 a.m.
  • ‘I Heard the Earth Singing Beneath the Street': The Challenges of Farming in the Most Diverse City in the Country - Saturday, Feb. 3, 12:30-2 p.m.
  • Selling Mexican Culture in Houston: A History of La Nacional Tortilla Factory and La Consentida Cafe - Saturday, Feb. 3, 2-2:30 p.m.

To close the conference on Saturday, Houston Chronicle food critic Alison Cook will interview Sylvia Casares of Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen and Kaiser Lashkari of Himalaya Restaurant.

Houston Eats! is free and open to the public but those wishing to attend must register. For more information, visit the Houston Eats! Facebook page.