At the intersection of Hillcroft Ave and U.S. 59, is a small shopping center housing several of Houston’s ethnic treasures. This center is located at the edge of the Mahatma Gandhi District, officially named in 2010. The area is filled with Indian and Pakistani establishments — mainly clothing and jewelry stores, restaurants and bakeries, and grocers.
Recently, we’ve made several visits to Himalaya Restaurant, which features some of the best Indian and Pakistani cuisine in Houston (Anthony Bourdain dined there on his visit to Houston this month).
Chef/owner Kaiser Lashkari is usually visible, chatting with diners, offering menu suggestions, and boasting (rightfully) about his food:
Our favorite dishes at Himalaya are rich and complex, full of spice and heat. Among those we enjoyed are Aloo Chana Masala (chickpeas and potatoes simmered in curry sauce):
Paneer Hara Masala (the restaurant’s “signature vegetarian dish”):
The Chicken Kabab Platter, which has 2 skewers of Chicken Seekh Kebab and 4 pieces of Chicken Tikka Boti Kebab (our favorite of the two):
And the Spicy Rocket Nan (be prepared to fight over the last piece of this):
Other dishes we liked included Chicken Tikka Masala (my son’s favorite):
An appetizer of Vegetable Samosas:
And Baigan Bharta, a vegetarian dish made with eggplant:
We also tried the popular Hunter’s Beef, a Pakistani-style beef pastrami, which was chopped, sauteed in butter and spices, and served with chopped tomatoes and magic mustard sauce, which was interesting:
In addition to the great food, another plus is that the restaurant is BYOB (provided each diner orders an entree and a nan).
On a recent visit, we waddled out of the restaurant, bellies full and mouths on fire, over to Subhlaxmi Grocers, located in the same center.
I’d been wanting to go there for some time to see if they had the Indian or Persian basmati rice I’ve been searching for, which of course, they did:
This is unlike the basmati rice commonly available at grocery stores. Indian and Pakistani basmati rice, I’ve learned, is aged at least a year. The aging process dehydrates the rice, and when the rice is cooked, it expands much more than rice that hasn’t been aged. If you’ve eaten in Persian or Indian restaurants, you’ve no doubt noticed the extra-long rice (like in the Chicken Biryani pictured above).
The store was filled with all kinds of things — produce, spices, beans, condiments, sweets — many of which I’d never seen before, such as:
I came home with lots of bottles and packages of new things to try — white poppy seeds, dried limes, pickled cut mango — and stocked up on spices, and that aged Basmati rice. My mind is racing thinking of the Indian and Pakistani specialties I can try my hand at, although I’m pretty sure I don’t have to worry about Anthony Bourdain dropping in for dinner. I’m looking forward to exploring other establishments in the Mahatma Gandhi District, especially some of the bakeries.