Category Archives: Indian

Biryani Pot

The moment I start thinking I’ve tried every Indian restaurant in Houston my Indian friends introduce me to yet another. They were excited to take me to Biryani Pot, a place specializing in its namesake, biryani, a spicy rice dish typically made with mutton or goat. They explained along the way that this would be a Hyderabadi biryani, which apparently is different in terms of the spices and cooking method. I smiled and nodded since I had no basis, not having tasted a biryani before, more hot pepper is all a remembered and that was enough to sell me.

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Atmosphere
The manager explained that Biryani Pot is a small chain; its 6 locations are in Texas and New Jersey. The location in Houston, and apparently all the others, are known for being located in high-traffic strip malls and for being ‘bare bones’ in atmosphere. Its definitely casual, comfortable, small and insanely busy. There will be a line. I’ve been twice for lunch, once mid-week, another time Friday. On Friday there were 20 people waiting for a table. Luckily it went quickly, 15 minutes; they are geared up for high turnaround.

Food
Biryani is a rice dish but the rice seemed more like vermicelli both visually and in texture. Soft, almost melt in your mouth but loaded with flavour. Hot chili is the dominant spice but traces of turmeric, cumin and curry leaves were detectable.

For lunch you can get biryani on its own or as part of a lunch special with several other items; the lunch special is ordered either veg or non-veg. I went non-veg and enjoyed chicken biryani (whole pieces), chicken korma, tandoori chicken, chili moong dal and salad. All were excellent and you have to love the old school lunch tray delivery.

On a second trip I tried my favorite Indian dish, Vindaloo. I learned from the manager  that Vindaloo is derived from a Portuguese dish, which is apparently often the case for dishes hailing from the Indian state of Goa. Whatever its roots, the Vindaloo here tops all others I’ve had, its hot chili, vinegar and garlic-ginger flavours command high attention; the chicken was fall apart tender and juicy.

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Service
They are almost always at capacity with a line but surprisingly the service here is fast. For lunch the order and out cycle can be as fast as 30 minutes. They are a friendly lot but don’t expect them to linger, dote or engage. Its a high-volume model. Pay at the counter on your way out.

Price
Lunch Special $12. Almost all the non-special lunch were $12 and under. Reasonable.

Next door to Biryani Pot is Hyderabad House which, to a novice like me, serves almost the same menu. I’ll try it at some point despite my Indian friends casually trying to dissuade me from such. I get the psychology, loyalty is paramount in Indian culture and they know the owners of Biryani Pot. Me, I don’t know either owners, I’m simply interested in what they put on my plate and how much I enjoy it.

Lunch: May 2015

Biryani Pot | 6509 Westheimer | HTX 77057

Dehydrated Curried Tomatoes

Back story. I’m planning a multi-day hike across New Zealand later in the year. Going on a hike isn’t new for me but typically I do one day hikes. Multi-day hikes, particularly in regions where all the food you need must be packed beforehand, requires different gear. And a different mindset. You have to be conscious of what you bring since you’ll be toting everything on your back for many hours a day.

When talking with friends who routinely do multi-week hikes, they mentioned that dehydrating your favorite foods beforehand can keep prevent what some people refer to as GORP overload. GORP = good ol’ raisins and peanuts. Its a good hiking standby but not good enough 24 hours a day for 4 to 5 days.

I liked the idea of dehydrating. Removing the water makes everything much lighter which is a serious consideration when you’re already looking at lugging around 30 pounds. You can dehydrate food in the oven but I decided to give a dehydrator a try. Besides, you can never have too many kitchen gadgets. American Harvest Snack Master was the one I purchased, since the hiker set seem to use this one the most. I liked that the temperature range went from 100-160 degrees and the trays are stackable so you can purchase more (comes with 4) should you become obsessed with experimenting with your new toy. Not that I would know about that, nope.

I hit the farmers market and bought a butt load of tomatoes. Then I decided to season them up Indian style.

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  • 1 Buttload Tomatoes (4-5 pounds)
  • 1 T Sweet Curry
  • 1 t Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1 t Black Pepper
  • 1 t Garlic Powder

Cut the tomatoes into 1/4-1/2 ” slices. Mix spices then sprinkle on top of tomato slices. Load up the trays in the dehydrator then set on 135 degrees for 9 hours.

Notes

Goooood flavour, however some testers claimed a little too heavy on the curry. Boo hoo hoo hoo.

I wanted more of a tomato crisp but ran out of time. 9 hours at 135 will buy you a significantly dried tomato but its going to be more like a sun-dried tomato; a little chewy. Next batch I will try 140 for 12 hours.

I was impressed with how quiet this machine was in operation. There is a slight fan sound but nothing compared to other kitchen equipment.

The racks are fairly easy to clean. A sponge, soapy water and about 2 minutes for the lot.

The base has a small lip around the perimeter to contain anything that might drip. This did occur with the tomatoes but not to any significant volume.

I did refrigerate these tomatoes since they were still a little juicy, however they still taste fresh after almost 3 weeks!

I’ve dehydrated bananas, strawberries, kiwis, apples, carrots, mint, basil, lemons and cantaloupe. So far, so good. Next time I will write down the recipes and post.

 

Fusion Taco

IMG_3231_FotorTaco wars are constant and usually heated in Houston. Some Houstonians are purists wanting their tacos with specific ingredients and from specific family-owned venues located in Hispanic communities. Others are more adventurous, leaning toward the fusion fare originating in the food truck arena now infiltrating every neighbourhood. Some people may still be surprised to find tacos with a Korean bent, filled with bulgogi, kimchi, cilantro, queso fresco and gochujang, but locally these have been around for decades and there are dozens of vendors dishing them up daily.

I stumbled across a new fusion bent on tacos at a venue near downtown’s Market Square, aptly named, Fusion Taco. I was surprised by the combinations; mostly Indian, Japanese and Lebanese. However, I was not surprised they started out as a food truck not too long ago.

Atmosphere
Casual, open, lively. The floor-to-ceiling glass front facing Market Square makes for good people watching. Weekdays the crowd tend to be suits from the oil biz, weekends it tends towards those gathering for events at Toyota Center, Minute Maid or the Theatre District.

Food

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Mostly wins. The Chicken Tikka Masala taco, which is an open face naan ‘taco’ topped with a dollop of spicy, creamy tikka masala sauce and ridiculously tender chicken, was a win. The Chicken Tikka taco is a ‘special’ taco which are larger and quite filling. For vegetarians, there is also a Tofu Tikka Masala taco.

The Agedashi Tofu taco was also a win, several panko-fried tofu cubes topped with a cabbage mixture tossed in a sweet soy, ginger and garlic sauce. A good texture play – soft tortillas, crunchy cabbage, toothy tofu.

The short-rib taco, not so good. The meat was stringy, overcooked and lacked flavour.

Service
Counter-order, table delivery. I’ve been three times, mostly for lunch rush, order to delivery times are 10-15 minutes. Everyone is very friendly and helpful. The only downside is at lunch rush you might have to bus an empty table yourself, since the patron turnover is quick and their staff sometimes cannot keep up.

Price
Regular tacos are $2-3. ‘Specials’, $5. At lunch they have a special meal deal – 2 tacos, one side, one drink, $11.

Lunch: March 2015

Fusion Taco | 801 Congress | HTX 77002

 

Curried Garlic Fries | Curry Catsup, Raita

Originally I started out making Curry Catsup for Curry Garlic Fries but that was delayed. Luckily the catsup lasts a couple of weeks in the fridge and I managed to save a little for this experiment.

I can’t comment on a national trend but curry fries are popping up all over the place in Houston as bar food and even as appetizers in shmancier venues. If they pop up in your neck of the woods, I recommend giving them a go; even better you can try this rendition at home.

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Ingredients

  • 2 Large Potatoes, about 2 lb
  • 2T Curry Powder
  • 2 T Olive Oil
  • 1 T Garlic, microplaned
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1 t Ground Black Pepper
  • Ice Bath

Prepare
Cut the potatoes into strips, about 1/2″ thick and about 3/4″ wide. You could also do wedges or cubes. Boil up a big pot of salted water, add potatoes and cook for a about 3-4 minutes. Remove potatoes and immediately plunge into an ice bath (big bowl of water half filled with ice). This will stop the potatoes from cooking further. Remove potatoes from ice bath onto a kitchen towel covered with paper towels.You want them to dry out a little but not completely.

In a small bowl mix the curry, salt, pepper garlic and oil into a paste. With a paper towel, pat dry the potatoes then take them one at a time and rub with the curry paste, wiping most of the paste off but leaving bits here and there. Place the curried potatoes on a roasting pan in a single layer, then bake  at 425 for 10 minutes on each side, more if you want them crunchier. You could also crank the oven up to broil for another minute or two to create a crust.

Deliver
Endless possibilities here but I served them up with some Curry Catsup and Raita.

Tasting Post Mortem
I loved these. I tried them without any sauce and they were good, the garlic dominating the flavour but the curry coming in to add an appealing depth and colour. The Curry Catsup adds even more depth to the flavour with its fiery heat and vinegary overtones. The Raita soothed the heat from the Curry Catsup and added a distinct richness. Definitely not your typical fries and catsup experience but this was exactly what I wanted.

This week I’ve been doing vegetarian lunches and these have been a great pairing with cardamom carrots, chili roasted green beans and cumin-coriander chickpeas.

 

Curry Catsup

Its a shame they call this catsup since the flavour is so much better, almost like a chutney but not quite so vinegary. I originally wanted to try this with curried garlic fries but then I tried with a chicken dish and liked, so the fry recipe, while coming, has been delayed.

Don’t worry about the amount it makes or whether is freezes well. Its a good question but its also moot since its very likely this condiment will be used on everything.

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Ingredients

  • 28 oz Crushed Tomatoes
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • 2 T Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 T Tomato Paste
  • 1 Onion, sliced
  • 4 Cloves Garlic, slices
  • 1 Hot Pepper, sliced ( I used Fresno)
  • 1/4 C Coconut Sugar
  • 2 T Sweet Curry Powder
  • 1 t Smoked Paprika
  • 1 t Fenugreek Powder
  • 1 t Red  Chili Flakes
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1/4 t Allspice
  • 1/4 t Clove

Prepare
In a large pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Fry the onions until soft and golden, about 6-7 minutes. Add garlic and peppers, saute another minute. Add tomato paste and all dry spices, saute for another minute. Add vinegar and tomatoes, reduce heat to low, then cook uncovered for 40-50 minutes or until desired consistency.

Remove from heat and cool completely.

Place catsup in a food processor and pulse until its the texture you’d like. Some people like this smooth like Heinz catsup, me, I like mine a little chunkier like a chutney. You could also use a wand mixer but keep in mind tomato and curry is a bitch to get out of clothing should you slop up.

Deliver
Infinite possibilities but here I used it as a dipping sauce with some curried chicken stir fry, carrots and rice with peas.

Tasting Post Mortem
My usual disclosures about heat still apply;  I found it ‘amusingly warm’, therefore people in the middle of the heat tolerance curve should probably cut back on the fresh pepper or chili flakes.

The tiny bit of allspice and clove in the mix shines and pairs extremely well with the carrots and the curried chicken; it adds some dimension to the otherwise dull rice and pea combination. I did add a bit more salt to the mix in this situation but that might not be necessary with something else. Like the fries. Which are coming next.

Curry-Roasted Cauliflower

I’m back from my little summer blogging hiatus and still experimenting with vegetarian food. Well, that is after a stint of eating wild game hot dogs at Moon Tower Inn.

I love cauliflower but I’ve never found a good at-home preparation. Steamed cauliflower? No, I’d rather just eat school paste. A combination of flavours from a roasted brussel sprouts rendition appealed so I tried it on the cauliflower.

  • 1 medium head cauliflower; leaves off, cut the bottom so it stands up on its own.
  • 2 T Butter, softened
  • 2 T Olive oil
  • 1 T Sweet curry powder
  • 1 t Coconut Sugar
  • 1 t Coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • 1 t Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 t Cumin
  • 1 t Onion Powder
  • 1 t Garlic Powder
  • 1 t Salt
  • 1 t Ground black pepper
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Mix the fats and spices together in a small bowl until smooth. Place the cauliflower in a roasting pan then spoon the mixture over the cauliflower. Use your fingers or a basting brush to get the mixture into the crevices. Bake at 350 for 75-80 minutes.

I liked; good flavours and texture, particularly the crust that forms on the bottom. Next time I’m thinking swap out the butter for coconut oil. While I really like the whole cauliflower for presentation, next time I’ll quarter it so there is more surface area for crust. Alas flavour wins out over looks.

 

India’s

The name is lame and redundant but that shouldn’t put you off to trying what is arguably one of the better lunchtime Indian buffets in Houston. I’m not a fan of buffets; typically the offerings do not taste fresh and then there is the value-packing psychology, causing people to overeat in order to reduce their price-per-square-inch metrics.

Price
However, at India’s the $15 lunch buffet is a good value even if you stop at one plate since they offer 6-8 main dishes, several sides, salads, chutneys and desserts – variety and sampling reign supreme.

Atmosphere
India’s is in time-warp, throwing back to the 80’s which is probably when they first opened. Buried way back in a strip center off Richmond west of the Galleria, it a pleasant, functional one-big-open-room environment. Largely the crowd is casual but you will see the wayward Galleria business crowd carbing up for marathon meetings.

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Food
This is where India’s wins. Each time I go the lunch buffet offerings change. There are some staples like my personal favourite, Saag Paneer and Chicken Tikka Masala but this time they had added a Lamb Curry dish that was out of this world good; very large chunks of lamb in a mild curry with potato, carrot and green beans. I’m never going to ask the chefs just how much ghee they use in any of the dishes but considering the flavour bang, I’m going to assume its high. The only disappointing item on the buffet this trip was the vegetable curry; it was just lifeless, like they had mixed some frozen veggies in with a canned curry sauce – I’m hoping this was an anomaly since it has not happened before.

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Service
Can’t speak to ordering off the menu or dinner service but the lunchtime buffet is very well organized. Seating is immediate, water is continually refilled, questions are answered with a smile, checks will appear without prompting. There is never any pressure to hurry here but you can be in and out in 45 minutes if time is scarce.

Lunch: June 2014

India’s | 5704 Richmond | HTX 77057