By Christina Autry
You know that you’ve arrived at what is hailed by many as the “best Desi restaurant in Houston” when you see the famous, unmarked orange and red restaurant at the corner of Bissonnet and Kirkwood. Reminiscent of a repurposed Waffle House, Bundu Khan’s popularity stems much more from its word-of-mouth reputation than obvious signage.
But what does “Bundu Khan” mean? Bundu Khan was a musician who lived in India and Pakistan in the early 1900’s. Renowned for his mastery of the fiddle-like sarangi instrument, he was broadcasted on radio stations in both countries until his death. He is remembered as one of the most renowned Hindustani musicians in the 20th century.
Knowing its namesake, while sampling a true taste of Pakistani-style grilled meat only makes the experience richer. For now, though, enjoying this cuisine means ordering takeout. All meat served is halal, and the restaurant offers chicken as an option even for dishes which are typically made with beef, to give those practicing Hindu food traditions access to the menu.
Bundu Khan’s reputation is most often associated with its Bihari Kabab, an item that you should make sure to order. These slices of beef are marinated in spices such as cumin, coriander, ginger, and a generous amount of chili powder, before being perfected on the charcoal grill. One ingredient in the marinade sets it apart from other types of kabobs even further: papaya. After the infusion of all of these flavors into the tender meat, those who are accustomed to the plentiful use of spices in Pakistani cuisine can still be caught off-guard by the intensity of these Bihari Kabobs.
Though the kabobs are an experience that should not be missed, the sides that accompany it help to tone down what could be overwhelming flavors. A deliciously cool and refreshing yogurt-cucumber sauce will be your new best friend. Buttery, flaky paratha bread (ordered separately) gives a mild contrast to the meat, and can be used as a kind of tortilla for the meat, cucumbers, onions, and yogurt sauce.
The highly recommended Halwa Puri, the Lamb Chops, or the Chicken Kabob wrapped in paratha are among your other options with less spice than the Bihari. No matter what you get, the paratha should be on your list. This flatbread is cooked on a griddle, and fried in ghee to give it that oily, crispy, but still doughy quality that makes it so loveable.
As you walk in to pick up your order that you’ve placed over the phone, signs on the doors make it clear that masks are required to enter. Though the Covid-19 pandemic has decreased business for restaurants across the board, Bundu Khan has persevered through the period of dining room closures, as many customers were already accustomed to ordering takeout from this small restaurant.
The refrigerated glass case laden with meat selections sits in front of the flaming charcoal grill. The man behind the cash register efficiently rings up your order and hands you what should be a very large bag of to-go boxes, if you’re doing things right.
Make sure to eat as soon as possible, since the flavors and textures are best when hot and fresh off the grill. If you’ve let your paratha sit too long, re-heat it on a skillet to regain its soft consistency. As you enjoy a meal that has made its way to Houston from Bihar, an Indian state roughly 8,600 miles away, take a moment to appreciate how lucky we are to get a taste of the world’s cuisine right here in the Bayou City.
11887 Bissonnet St
Houston, TX 77099