From Old Delhi and Karachi to Houston

India and Pakistan come together at Houston's Himalaya, as Kaiser and Azra Lashkari cook up Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern-approved dishes.

Meghna Rao

October 2, 2019

From Old Delhi and Karachi to Houston
Kaiser Lashkari and Azra started Himalaya in 2004. (Snigdha Sur)

I had only eaten chicken korma similar to that of Himalaya in Houston’s Mahatma Gandhi District once before. It was on a small street in Old Delhi, above a temple, as the late evening azaan was set to go off. The korma was laden with cinnamon and cloves, remnants from centuries of Mughal rule, served on an undeniably Hindu stainless steel plate.

Kaiser Lashkari, who started Himalaya with his wife Azra, has this syncretism in his blood. Though Lashkari was born in Karachi, he was raised between Mumbai and Karachi and spent his childhood jet setting between the two. “I have 28 stamps for each time I entered Mumbai,” he laughed. It was a filmy love story: his father, on vacation from Karachi in Mumbai, fell in love with his mother. Soon after, they got married.

Lashkari presents many other South Asian tropes. When it came time to choose a profession, he toyed with entering medical school — but soon decided it wasn’t for him. 

“I told my parents, ‘My heart isn’t in it, and I want to be a chef.’ “They tried to dissuade me. I said, ‘No, I want to do this.’” There’s no regret in Lashkari’s decision. When Anthony Bourdain visited Himalaya in 2016, he called Lashkari to his table. “He said, ‘I’m glad you didn’t become a doctor,’” Lashkari smiled.