Around the World in Houston: Discover India

around-the-world-in-houston-india
Houston Diwali Mela | Photo courtesy of Masala Radio Houston

With a labyrinth of cultures represented in every nook and cranny of town, Houston is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in America. To celebrate this world-class melting pot, we’ll be exploring a new region of the globe through a Houston lens each week, from annual festivals and museums to restaurants and cultural experiences. Join the journey with our Around the World in Houston series.

From traditional festivals, art exhibitions, and Bollywood dancing to a vibrant shopping and restaurant district offering chaat, biryani, and curries, experience Indian culture without leaving the city.

Annual Festivals & Cultural Events

  • Festivals of IndiaThe India Culture Center presents this all-encompassing festival, which showcases the various festivals of India—from Holi and Kite Flying to Raksha Bandhan and Rangoli—through traditional costume, cultural music and dance, and authentic food and drink. The 2018 festival will be held Saturday, March 10 at Jones Plaza.
  • Diwali FestivalHeld in October, this festival of lights offers traditional candle ceremonies, Rangoli art, henna, a bazaar, Indian food court, folk and Bollywood dancing, live music, and a fireworks finale.
  • Houston Holi Festival of Colors –  This culture fest celebrates the Holi, the Hindu festival of spring, by bringing together color, music, dance, Bollywood, yoga, bonfires, and plenty of Indian street foods from local restaurants. The 2018 festival will be held on Saturday, March 24.
  • Houston Rath Yatra Festival Also known as the Hindu Festival of Chariots, the Rath Yatra Festival is a free family event, complete with a chariot procession, dance and music, arts, culture, fashion, yoga, and traditional cuisine, held in June or July.
  • FotoFest 2018 Biennial – The 2018 FotoFest will focus on the theme of India: Contemporary Photography and New Media Art, taking place from March 10 through July 29. Click here for a list of participating spaces.

Museums & Cultural Organizations

  • India Culture Center Founded in 1973, this non-profit and secular organization serves as a link for all major Indian organizations and individuals of Indian origin living in the Greater Houston area. Look out for a lineup of festivals celebrating culture, traditional music and dance, and food and drink.
  • India House Houston This non-profit community center caters to the cultural needs of the Indo-American community of Houston, offering urban youth and after-school programs, summer camps, wellness programs with free yoga and meditation, dance classes, language courses, and cricket matches.
  • Indo-American Association Houston Founded in 1993, this nonprofit promotes the cultural arts of the Indian subcontinent, with music, dance, and arts performances targeted at multi-cultural audiences.
  • Arts of Asia at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston The Arts of Asia collection at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston hosts the Nidhika and Pershant Mehta Arts of India Gallery, including outstanding examples of painting, sculpture, and photography. In March of 2018, the groundbreaking “Peacock in the Desert: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India” exhibition will bring centuries of royal treasures from Jodhpur, India, to the U.S. for the first time.
  • Asia Society Texas Center With 12 locations throughout the world, the Asia Society seeks to promote mutual understanding and strengthen partnerships among the peoples, leaders, and institutions of Asia and the west. Locally, the Museum District center enriches and engages the vast diversity of Houston through innovative programs in arts and culture, business and policy, education, and community outreach. Look out for a rotating selection of programs and activities, from family days and culture camps for kids to film festivals and special artist exhibitions.

Indian Food & Drink

Restaurants & Bars

  • Biryani PotThis traditional Hyderabadi food house rocks around 100 a la carte items for lunch and dinner, from dum biryani and jeera rice to goat kurma and gulab jamun dessert.
  • Bismillah Blending Indian and Pakistani cuisine, this popular Hillcroft spot boasts both a restaurant and fast-casual cafe. Hit the restaurant side for rich curries and stews; and the cafe for chaat, fresh juice, and samosa.
  • The Bombay BrasserieWith locations in Rice Village and the Galleria, this restaurant and the bar has served authentic Indian cuisine to Houstonians since 1997. Share plates of tandoori shrimp, salmon and scallop in tikka sauce, use freshly baked bread to sop with lamb vindaloo and chana masala, and finish with kheer layered with raspberries and finished with crushed pistachio. And be sure to check out the expansive brunch buffet.
  • Cuisine Of IndiaOver in Clear Lake, this family-owned restaurant offers authentic Indian and Nepalese flavors.
  • Govinda’s Vegetarian CuisineThe Garden Oaks/Oak Forest area has major flavor in the form of this Indian, vegetarian, and vegan restaurant. Hit the buffet to fill up on bhindi masala, dal makhni, saag paneer, vegetable samosas and more.
  • India’s RestaurantThis Galleria-area restaurant spans the cuisine of India, offering a buffet of delicacies from paneer pakora and tandoori prawns to Punjabi samosa and barra kabab.
  • IndikaOne of Houston’s finest restaurants sits on Westheimer in Montrose, rocking Indian-inspired cuisine using local ingredients. Dine on tandoori quail, slow-cooked goat masala, patra fish, and chickpea chilla. And be sure to check out the Sunday feast at brunch.
  • HimalayaThis local gem from Chef Kaiser Lashkari blends Indian and Pakistani cuisine with local flair, with classics like lamb vindaloo and fusion dishes like masala-spiced chicken-fried steak.
  • Kiran’sIn Upper Kirby, Chef Kiran Verma‘s restaurant offers Indian fine dining and afternoon tea. Enjoy Delhi by way of Houston with dishes such as pani poori, aloo tikki chaat, duck tandoori, prawn bhuna, and lamb rhogan josh.
  • London SizzlerAn Indian restaurant and British pub hybrid, London Sizzler draws fans thanks to flavor-packed dishes like kachori chaat, rogan josh, lamb vindaloo, and goat curry.
  • NirvanaThis Energy Corridor spot focuses on Northern Indian cuisine, with lunch and dinner buffets in addition to a la carte dinner items. The establishment is also BYOB.
  • PondicheriThis Houston all-star is popular day and night thanks to its Indian-inspired street foods. Get deliciousness like the morning thali, madras chicken wings, chili shrimp dosa, and chicken frankie; and be sure to hit the upstairs bake lab for sweets kissed with ginger, masala, and cardamom.
  • Surya IndiaThis Rice Military spot offers a contemporary take on Indian comfort food, with dishes from samosa chaat and lamb curries to tandoori seabass and the house favorite chicken mangalorean.
  • Vishala RestaurantThis purely vegetarian spot brings South and North Indian fare to the Sugar Land community, offering lunch and dinner buffets 7 days a week.

Grocery Shops & Bakeries

  • Bombay Sweets Hit this Little India favorite for sweets, snacks, chat, and vegetarian bites.
  • Hot Breads Bakers & ConfectionersThis Hillcroft bake shop offers specialties like pav, Bombay nan, and jeera makhania.
  • Parivar Grocery Store Hit this unassuming joint for fresh produce and Indo-Pak staples, including spices, flours, oils and more.
  • Rani’s World Foods This international grocery store offers a killer selection of South Asian goods. Be sure to check out the premade foods, with hot and fresh naan, curries, chikki (Indian candy) and more.
  • Chandrika MasalaWith locations in Stafford and Hillcroft, Chandrika Masala specializes in different grains, flours, and spices, from barley and soya to turmeric and garam masala.

Language Classes, Education Centers, Groups & Meet-Ups

  • Hindi Language Classes at India House This local nonprofit offers free Hindi language classes on Sundays from 10am to 11:30am.
  • Rice University South Asian Society Rice University’s South Asian Society is a secular, non-partisan student organization dedicated to spreading awareness of the cultures of South Asia through language, song, dance, and service.  Membership is open to the entire student body, and the group holds hold various cultural events and programs to share the South Asian experience within the community, including two large-scale theatrical productions of songs, dance, and drama. Follow along on Facebook for updates.
  • India Student Association at University of Houston – This student organization is one of the fastest growing desi organizations on campus, holding events and socials throughout the year.
  • Indian Culture Meetups Check out local meetups, from Adult Bollywood Dance to Desi in Downtown.
  • Indians in Houston This open community group brings together Indian individuals and local businesses in Houston.
  • Rhythm India Bollywood – This studio offers Bollywood dance training for all levels.
  • Houston Cricket LeagueThis cricket club was organized to further the sport of cricket in Houston and surrounding areas, with activities for both youth and adults.

Other Notables

  • Mahatma Gandhi District – Also dubbed “Little India” and with Hillcroft as the main thoroughfare, this cultural district hosts a number of Indian and Pakistani restaurants and shops.
  • BAPS Shri Swaminarayan MandirA place of worship and prayer for followers of Hinduism, the Mandir draws in visitors of all kinds due to its majestic beauty. The structure is made of two types of stone (Turkish limestone on the exterior and an interior of Italian marble), with over 33,000 individual pieces carved by hand in India and assembled like a giant 3-D puzzle.The public can visit to find peace and tranquility while marveling at the art and discovering the origins of Hinduism and the beliefs behind it.
  • ISKCON of HoustonThis nonprofit educational and cultural institution and temple is a Hare Krishna community dedicated to living the philosophy of Bhakti Yoga.
  • Chatt n Paan With games of chess, snooker, and weekly ping pong tournaments, this Desi hangout invites all to relax, unwind, and enjoy some chaat and paan.
  • Sangeet Radio Sangeet meaning “pleasant melody,” this is the number 1 Desi hit music station in Houston. The station broadcasts 24 hours a day on KBRZ 1460 AM.
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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .