Cajun fried catfish goes great with hot-out-of-the-oven garlic naan and a small bowl of haleem, I discovered last Saturday at King's Chicken on Beechnut. The catfish was crispy, and the Cajun fries were battered for extra crunch. Haleem is a delicious, slow-cooked stew made with lentils, barley, wheat, and meat. In Pakistan, the meat is usually goat, the head-scarf-covered cashier told me. But in Houston, haleem is made with beef.
I usually visit King's Chicken in the morning for the fabulous Pakistani breakfasts. Scrambled eggs and paratha bread with garbanzo bean curry tastes a lot like a breakfast taco with stiff tortillas and really spicy refried beans. And the flatbreads at King's Chicken have always been among the city's best.
But when I drove by last weekend, I was shocked to see the words "Cajun Seafood" had been added to the restaurant's sign. I turned the car around, pulled into the lot and parked in front of a wall that advertised both biryani and gumbo.
King's Chicken may be the most disorganized restaurant in Houston—no one seems to be in charge. Good luck getting your water glass refilled. But after a few visits, you realize the employees have been left to their own devices by the absentee management. And while they may not be very efficient, their hearts are in the right place. The food is served in polystyrene, but it is always surprisingly good.
I was relieved to find that fried chicken is still the specialty of the house, and that all the kebabs, tikas and rotis were still on the big display menu mounted on the wall behind the cashier. The flatbreads and breakfasts were all still there as well. But a section of Cajun fried fish, fried shrimp, etouffees, and seafood gumbo had been added, along with an assortment of poor boys.
Is Pakistani-Cajun an unlikely combination? Not in Houston.