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Mutt City: Hot Breads and Himalaya Sweets

Anglo-Indian chicken tikka in French pastry. Welcome to Houston.

By guest blogger Katie Walsh

I spent some time in Houston with my dad On A Meat Mission, to learn about meat and how it’s cooked. Over the next several weeks we’ll be sharing recipes and tales from our meaty adventures.

Taking a break from the kitchen and riding along with Dad on various stops around town, I gasped at a familiar sight as we made our way down Hillcroft.

“HOT BREADS!” I said, wiggling my eyebrows up and down at him. He obliged, pulling into the parking lot as I eagerly unbuckled my seatbelt.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly ten years since my sister Julia and I sampled the Euro-Indian fusion fare of this spicy bakery for a story Dad was working on. The “goat doughnuts,” as we’d affectionately dubbed their curry goat croissants, looked just as tasty as ever.

Hot Breads is so dang cool because of the story it tells about fusion food and blending cultures. An Indian marketing professor returned to Madras after living abroad to open this European-style cafe and bakery, but instead of putting pepperoni on the pizza and ham in the croissants, he went with the popular ingredients of Southern India, creating a cross-cuisine hit. Hot Breads franchises became hugely popular on the subcontinent. Then in a baffling turnabout, franchisees took the concept to the NRI (non-resident Indian) community and all over the world. The huge Indian populations in Houston and New Jersey were easy targets.

Which is how we ended up with a Indian-owned, European-inspired bakery in Houston serving Indo-Chinese “chilli chicken puffs.” No wonder John T. Edge labeled Houston “Mutt City.”

Aside from the savory stuff, Hot Breads sells a ton of great cakes and cookies too, including egg-free stuff for the Jain crowd (and the vegans!). My all-time, hands-down, indisputable favorite is the mango gâteau (about halfway down the row in the picture).

Dreamily light and airy, its layers of lady finger and fluffy mousse burst with sweet, tangy fresh mango flavor. All those years ago, it was love at first bite.

“You’re gonna have to share,” Dad warns me as I watch the woman box it up. These days, the baby sibs are just as fond of Hot Breads mango cake.

Himalaya Sweets

Since we were in the neighborhood, we made a quick pit-stop to see our friend Kaiser at his restaurant Himalaya (I say Him-a-LAY-ah, Kaiser says, Him-ALL-ya.)

I first heard about Kaiser in a talk Dad gave at the Southern Foodways Alliance symposium, about the blending of culinary cultures in Houston. The story Kaiser tells about coming to the States from Pakistan and mistaking flour tortillas for chapati bread is now immortalized on the pages of Texas Eats (along with a recipe for his steak tikka, which Dad calls “Pakistani fajitas”).

Kaiser and his wife are not only great restaurateurs, they’re truly wonderful people. It was such a treat to finally get to meet them in person—and to get a sneak peek of their new desserts.

A recent innovation of Kaiser’s, the vanilla ice cream with spiced rum and sesame brittle was simple and fantastic. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy with memories of sesame candy on Passover. Or maybe it was just the rum.

But the real standout was the Grand Marnier-spiked chocolate custard, with a sprinkle of nuts and a cherry on top. Smooth, rich, creamy, with just the tiniest hint of adult beverage.

But that’s where the afternoon munchies ended—we had to save room for the big fancy dinner we had later that night.

 

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