Gulshan Mithai and Snacks - Houston

This was the original location of Dilpasand Mithai @ 6121 Hillcroft, s. of 59. That business shuttered more than a year ago, I think (the other two locations are still open as far as i know; they’re independently owned). Gulshan-e-Iqbal Grocery, next door, took over the space and opened their own mithai and snack shop. The room has been very nicely redone and upgraded, with new furniture and paint job, and there’s a more impressive variety of mithai in the display cases than I remember at this Dilpasand location.

There is a small snack menu, of course. I tried the Dahi Barey, a first for me. this is basically a lentil dumpling, smothered in yogurt and tamarind chutney. I was asked if I wanted it spicy and I replied enthusiastically ‘Yes!’. Then, after a generous application of masala, I was asked if I wanted it ‘spicy-spicy.’ Well, you know the answer to that. Spicy-spicy it was. I was a little grateful for the cooling properties of the yogurt. Don’t know why the picture is so garish.

I found this kind of boring. It’s a similar batter to mehdu vada but unlike that (and all the recipes I glanced at), the dumpling seemed to me to be baked, not fried, and crumbled rather easily. I understand this is a very popular snack for Iftar during Ramadan.

The samosa aloo was smaller than my favs at Savoy on Wilcrest, not as spicy or complexly spiced, but did have the chunks of potato and whole peas, a texture I prefer over samosas with a mush filling. It was served fresh out of the fryer and very good. They also have a samosa keema which I will try next time.

Well I guess you’re supposed to buy a couple of pounds of mithai when you go to one of these shops, eh? That’s what some other customers did but I have found that a very dangerous thing for me - it would all be gone by bedtime. Fortunately they have these small boxes so I didn’t feel like quite the shirker for getting only 3 pieces - from the top left, a qalaqand (milk cake), barfee (milk fudge) and a moist and delicious ladoo, one of the best I’ve ever had. They had several varieties I’ve never seen before. This was all gone before bedtime.

They have halal gyros and burgers and a bun kabob which I will be going back to try (a minor obsession of mine). There are pictures of the menu under Photos on the Facebook page. This is a very nice improvement to the strip center. I understand the grocery store next door has gotten a new owner since I was there a few years ago and also been upgraded and expanded.

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I don’t know any of the words in this post.

Maybe we should do a … a… whatever this is instead of dim sum!

OK, I know some of the words. These are the ones I don’t:

mithai
Dahi Barey
mehdu vada
samosa keema
qalaqand
barfee
ladoo

Yes it a language I don’t know! This is why we need food guides,

Is there good Indian food in Houston? I’ve only ever flown through, but my future son-in-law is from there.

Simply put - yes, and lots of it.

There is a huge Indo-Pak expat community here, much of it drawn by NASA, the Texas Medical Center, technology firms, the petro-chemical industry and universities.

There are undoubtedly well over a hundred restaurants, scattered around but with some concentrations. The place I am reporting on is on the southern edge of a district tagged the Mahatma Gandhi district. The name was selected by business men in the area (it was previously dubbed Little India). There is a concentration of Indian and Pakistani places - restaurants, coffee shops, snack shops, grocery stores, sari places, etc. There are also some Persian and Afghan restaurants in the area and quite a few Middle Eastern.

Another concentration is in Fort Bend County to the SW, especially the suburbs of Sugar Land, Stafford and Missouri City.

Several chain restaurants based in India have locations here.

And one thing you should be aware of if you plan to visit, Texans like their food spicy and Indian restauranteurs say they like doing business here because they don’t have to tone down their recipes as much as in some other parts of the country.

Your future son-in-law surely must be aware of this unless he just doesn’t go out.

Yeah I spend a lot of time looking things up. It’s confounding because different parts of the country/ies may use different terms.

Mithai means sweets. Not sure if it’s just Pakistani or if the word is also used in India. I’ve only encountered it on Pakistani places but there is the famous Bombay Sweets and a couple of Bangladeshi sweets places that don’t use the word that I know of.

Dahi is a common word for yogurt so when you see that word the dish will have yogurt, usually as a topping of some sort rather than a background ingredient. Barey is just the name this particular dish/ingredient - I’ve never encountered this one before - a dumpling made from a flour made from black lentils.

Vada is a fried snack. Mehdu vada is a donut made from fermented lentils, a savory, not sweet, donut, obviously.

Keema is minced meat, so a samosa keema is a samosa with a filling of some kind of minced meat curry.

Qalaqand, also spelled Kalakand, is a sweet made of a ‘milk cake.’ Think a Pakistani version of Tres Leches. I’d never encountered this one before, either.

Barfee, also burfi, barfi, is a fudge like sweet made from sweetened condensed milk and flavored with things like pistachio, almond, coconut, carrot, etc.

Ladoo is harder for me to define, I’ve had so many different varieties, but they’re (almost always) round!

I don’t know how many places there are that are sweets shops like this. I generally avoid them. They’re dangerously addictive.

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Including Saravana Bhavan, whose owner was profiled by New York Times here. Very colorful profile indeed.

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My head was spinning before I got all the way thru that. Well, we’ve had some ‘colorful’ characters in the restaurant biz here, too, including a lovers spat between chef and owner which resulted in the owner getting shot.

Of all the cuisines we have available here, the cuisines of the Subcontinent have been my favorites to explore over the past few years, and I’m particularly partial to Southern Indian vegetarian, but I’ve never been to that one.

I had to think about it but I remember reading about it when it opened. I looked at the menu and thought there wasn’t anything particularly interesting to me that I couldn’t already find at Shiv Sagar or Shri Balaji Bhavan, which are not chains and are much closer to me, so I never got around to going. Oh dear, now I’ve made another Houston restauranteur sad by deciding not to go to a restaurant without giving him some of my money first. But if a chain restaurant can turn out a better masala dosa than Shri Balaji, I’ll be quite amazed.

One thing I have noticed about the chain operations is they tend to be pricier than the little mom and pop shops, if that’s an appropriate term. The setting and presentation may be a bit nicer and the food can be pretty good. I’ve formed an impression that expectations for ‘chain restaurants’ are higher in India than in the US.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold