100 Favorite Houston Dishes 2015, No. 25: Morning Thali at Pondicheri

Morning Thali at Pondicheri. Clockwise starting from the right: Carrot Paratha with an egg on top, cilantro chutney, curried potatoes, lamb keema, cauliflower and green pea upma and saffron yogurt with strawberries and blueberries.
Morning Thali at Pondicheri. Clockwise starting from the right: Carrot Paratha with an egg on top, cilantro chutney, curried potatoes, lamb keema, cauliflower and green pea upma and saffron yogurt with strawberries and blueberries.
Photo by Phaedra Cook

Phaedra Cook is eating her way through Houston and counting down her 100 favorite dishes of 2015. It's a collection of personal favorites that is also indicative of Houston dining. It's a scene where a vast range of dishes coexist: highbrow and lowbrow; local and international; cheap and expensive; modern cuisine and beloved tenets — and everything in between.

“This lamb keema is legit!” my dining companion exclaimed as he dug into his Morning Thali at Pondicheri on a Sunday morning. Indeed, the cooked ground lamb with a substantial seasoning mix that included cumin, coriander and garam masala was both memorable and meaty. 

It is just one of several dishes that come on the Morning Thali at Pondicheri in West Ave. A “thali” is an Indian combination platter that can be served any time of the day with just some adjustments in which dishes are included. Each item is in its own neat little compartment, so the format is usually a tray with a bunch of little metal bowls.

The Morning Thali at Pondicheri
The Morning Thali at Pondicheri
Photo by Phaedra Cook

A thali is delightful any time, but it seems especially fun at breakfast. It’s like having a tiny personal buffet except you don’t have to share with anyone else.

The savory vegetable upma is another great dish on the tray. Pondicheri's upma is a creamy mix of warm semolina (wheat cereal), cauliflower and peas with a mild curry seasoning. It’s the kind of dish that you didn’t even know you wanted for breakfast, but once you’ve had it, you’ll wonder why it’s not a regular thing everywhere.

Rounding out the thali are little dishes of potato curry, saffron yogurt with strawberries and blueberries, and carrot paratha with a fried egg on top.

On weekend mornings, be prepared to exercise a little patience. Pondicheri has plenty of fans and there may be a bit of a wait for a table.

The List of Top 100 Dishes of 2015 So Far:

No. 26, Pho Ga Dac Biet at Pho Ga Dakao
No. 27, Veruca Salt Cake at Fluff Bake Bar
No. 28, Seafood Demi-Tower at Julep
No. 29, Shrimp & Pork Dumplings at Fung's Kitchen
No. 30, Fried Chicken & Waffle at The Breakfast Klub
No. 31, Risotto with Veal and Parmesean at Mascalzone
No. 32, Burnt Ends at Southern Goods
No. 33, Tom Kha Gai at Kanomwan
No. 34, Jumbo Lump Crab Cake at Vic & Anthony's
No. 35, Pozole at El Big Bad
No. 36, Bacon Mochi at Izakaya
No. 37, Nasi Lemak at Banana Leaf
No. 38, Make Your Own Gyro at Helen Greek Food & Wine
No. 39, Spicy Blue Cheese Burger at Alamo Drafthouse
No. 40, Pizza at Dolce Vita
No. 41, Grilled Shrimp at La Grange
No. 42, Duck With Two Moles at Arnaldo Richards' Picos
No. 43, Stuffed Pepperoncini at Anvil Bar & Refuge
No. 44, LH Gumbo at Holley's Seafood Kitchen & Oyster Bar
No. 45, KG's Double-Brined Cast Iron Chicken at Harold's
No. 46, Ceviche Mixto at Andes Café 
No. 47, Sunday Gravy at Liberty Kitchen & BRC
No. 48, Tonkotsu Ramen at Tiger Den
No. 49, Charcuterie at Kris Bistro
No. 50, Cauliflower Steak at Backstreet Cafe
No. 51, Telur Balado at Rice Bowl II
No. 52, Green Curry at Asia Market Restaurant
No. 53, Foie Gras Breakfast at Triniti
No. 54, Korean Fried Chicken at ToreOre at Super H Mart
No. 55, Bulgogi Bibimbap at BiBiJo Express at Super H Mart
No. 56, Vegetable Plate at Hugo's
No. 57, The Cured Plate at Revival Market
No. 58, Simply Grilled Fish at Ibiza
No. 59, Tonkotsu Black Ramen at JINYA Houston
No. 60, The Rancor Burger at The Petrol Station
No. 61, Heritage Sampler Platter at Rudi Lechner's
No. 62, Oxtails at Le' Pam's House Of Creole
No. 63, The 420 Slice at Pi Pizza Truck
No. 64, Frenchy's Fried Chicken On Scott Street
No. 65, 3 Pig Mac & Cheese at Urban Eats
No. 66, Pucchia Pugliese Foggia at Sud Italia
No. 67, Triple-Smoked Pastrami On Rye At Kenny & Ziggy's
No. 68, Fume Pizza at Pizaro's Pizza Napoletana
No. 69, Banh Mi Thap Cam at Café TH
No. 70, Caramelized Onion Soup at Mockingbird Bistro
No. 71, Milk Chocolate Stout Malt at Fat Cat Creamery
No. 72, Pork Ribs at Roegels Barbecue Co. 
No. 73, Carrot Pizza at Weights + Measures
No. 74, Jalisco Wings at El Big Bad
No. 75, Mussels at Cafe Brussels
No. 76, Cresta di Gallo at The Pass & Provisions
No. 77, Beef Fajitas at El Real Tex-Mex 
No. 78, Chicken Tikka Masala from the Tandoori Nite truck
No. 79, Chocolates at Cacao & Cardamom
No, 80, Hummus Supreme at Al's Quick Stop
No. 81, Red Oil Dumplings at Mala Sichuan
No. 82, Tex-Cajun Fries at BB's Café
No. 83, Mac & Cheese at The Oceanaire Seafood Room
No. 84, The Principal Burger at Bernie's Burger Bus
No. 85, Hunter's Honey-Roasted Duck at Brennan's Of Houston
No. 86, Fish & Chips at Good Dog Houston
No. 87, Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuit at Blacksmith
No. 88, "Saucy Balls" At Brooklyn Meatball Company
No. 89, Perry's Steakhouse/Perry & Sons Pork Chop
No. 90, General Tso's Chicken from The Rice Box
No. 91, Eggs, Refried Beans, Hash Browns and Hugo's Sauce at 59 Diner
No. 92, Shipley Do-Nuts Plain Glazed 
No. 93, Housemade Bologney at Public Services Wine & Whisky
No. 94, Bo Luc Lac at Cheno's (formerly Chino's) Fast Food
No. 95, Combo #5 at Soto's Cantina
No. 96, Carnitas Salad At Chipotle
No. 97, Pickled Shrimp At Punk's Simple Southern Food
No. 98, Lobster Roll At Maine-Ly Sandwiches
No. 99, Chili-Cheese Coneys At JCI Grill
No. 100, Corned Beef Hash And Eggs At House Of Pies

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