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Puri Bliss

Feasting at Sweet n Namkin and Salaam Namaste.

On Sundays, the shop serves that Pakistani and Northern Indian favorite: halwa puri, an odd but tasty dish of sweet halva (here, a sweet spread made with semolina, ghee and sugar) and spicy potatoes and chickpeas, with a side of bread to sop it all up. Traditionally a breakfast item, halwa puri has grown in popularity in Pakistan to the point where it's eaten at any time of day. Sweet n Namkin manager Amy told me that "people come in for it starting at 10 o'clock and want it all day long."

The wonderfully effusive and colorful Amy is the queen of the upsell, and you'll quickly find yourself taken in by her fervent descriptions of mixed vegetable pakora, sticky-sweet balls of gulab jamun, shiny silver plates of thali. Like another notoriously brilliant front-of-house personality, John Katsimikis of One's a Meal, she is quite gifted at guessing what you would like and coercing you into eating it. She's not shy about her interactions, either.

"Here's your fresh apple juice, with lots of iron to make you strong!" she sang out to one woman. "Come here, sweetie! I have your mango lassi ready to go," she called out a few minutes later. "She makes this entire place," whispered one dining companion as he watched her call out orders to customers, smiling at each one like they were her own flesh and blood.

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Warm and cold, crunchy and soft, sweet and spicy, thick and runny: dahi puri.
Troy Fields
Warm and cold, crunchy and soft, sweet and spicy, thick and runny: dahi puri.

Location Info

Map

Sweet n Namkin

10736 W. Bellfort St.
Houston, TX 77099

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Salaam Namaste

10732 W. Bellfort St.
Houston, TX 77099

Category: Restaurant > Indian

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Details

Hours: 9 a.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays; 9 a.m. to midnight Sundays.

Dahi puri: $3.99

Bhel puri: $3.99

Gujrati thali: $4.99

Halwa puri: $4.99

Mango lassi: $3.99

Goat keema: $7.99

Masala bindi: $6.90

Paratha: $1.69

Naan bread: $0.99

Sweet n Namkin / Salaam Namaste

10736 W. Bellfort, 281-988-9598 and 10732 W. Bellfort, 281-530-4263.

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"It's so rare to find good North Indian food in Houston," sighed my dining companion, Nishta Mehra, over a table full of food one night. Goat keema, masala bindi, several types of puri and a heap of fluffy naan were scattered like puzzle pieces that we were working to ­assemble. A sip of cucumber raita here, a dunk into some dark-red chutney there, a swipe into the bowl of goat keema and one bountiful bite was ready to go. Repeat as necessary.

She drank the last of her raita from the bowl and contemplated the keema. "This is amazing," she said with a huge smile. Mehra's family settled in Memphis but are originally from Punjab. The glut of South Indian restaurants in our city means that she often has a hard time finding food that reminds her of home. That didn't seem to be a problem at Sweet n Namkin.

"Of course, a lot of it is because Salaam Namaste is Pakistani," she explained. Like its neighbor, the restaurant serves both Indian and Pakistani food, although there's more emphasis on the latter. "That's why there's also beef on the menu there. But Pakistanis and Northern Indians eat so much of the same food," she continued, "that it's all good."

We dawdled over yet another plate of dahi puri, then turned our attention to ordering food to take home. I grabbed a pair of paratha to go, which made a spectacular breakfast the next morning, warmed up on the skillet until the ghee-saturated flatbread became slightly crispy on the outside. Dipped into the container of thin, tart yogurt that accompanied it, the paratha lost a fair amount of its inherent spiciness, much to the appreciation of my still sleepy stomach, but still packed enough to wake me up with plenty of force. Pakistanis can keep halwa puri as their breakfast go-to; as wonderful as it is, I'll take some toasty paratha any morning.

As we went up to the register to pay, Amy was sure to tell us about the week's upcoming specials. There's a new chef at Sweet n Namkin, she said, who's introducing more than just chaat to the menu. "We'll have sarson ka saag soon," she said. "Served with makki ki roti!" Mehra's eyes widened with excitement as she listened to the rest of Amy's pitch: "It's a traditional Punjab meal," she continued.

"Oh, I know!" answered Mehra. She turned to me: "It's like the Indian equivalent of greens and cornbread," she laughed, her Memphis roots showing.

"You girls come back and try some," Amy called after us as we walked out.

"Don't worry," we replied at the same time. "We'll be back!"

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