Eat This!

Tuesday Night Special: Fried Chicken at Pondicheri

It ain't Frenchy's, but it's good.

By Katharine Shilcutt April 10, 2014

Houston loves its fried chicken, a fact we recently covered in the March issue of Houstonia. Most importantly, we love our classic fried chicken: hot and fresh from Frenchy's—just like Beyoncé reps in Bow Down—or served with an upscale twist at places like Max's Wine Dive and The Federal Grill. And increasingly, Houstonians are enjoying fried chicken that crosses culinary boundaries. Noted Robb Walsh back in March:

Meanwhile, cross-cultural variations also have their loyalists. The za’atar-sprinkled Palestinian fried chicken at Al Aseel on Richmond is top-notch, and so is the crunchy version piled with dried peppers at Mala Sichuan on Bellaire. Meanwhile, the citrus-marinated fried chicken at the Pollo Campero chain is still the favorite of Houston’s Central American community.

One cross-cultural variation that didn't get a mention was the Indian version of fried chicken found at Pondicheri on Tuesday nights. Here, chef/owner Anita Jaisinghani continues to expand on her unique brand of Gulf Coast Indian cuisine that's been responsible for such instant classics like Texas shrimp chaat studded with avocado and roasted corn—a dish that brings to mind guacamole, elote, and a classic shrimp boil through an Indian lens—and a Kerala seafood stew that sports Louisiana crawfish.

The fried chicken may not be among those classic dishes quite yet, but it still bears mentioning alongside some of the city's most thoughtful chicken creations—and not only because it's gluten-free. Jaisinghani batters her fried chicken with chickpea flour, meaning it's perfectly suited for those with a gluten intolerance, but the batter isn't what's so alluring here.

In fact, I found myself removing the somewhat dry batter this past Tuesday night to get to the tender meat, which Pondicheri marinates in acidic yogurt blended together with cumin, ginger, turmeric, and garam masala among other Indian spices. Even when the chicken is over-fried (as it was this past Tuesday), the Bryant Farms-sourced meat is still juicy and flavorful thanks to that two-day-long treatment.

The Tuesday special, which is served starting at 11 a.m., is meant to serve two people and comes along with an assortment of other sides for $25. I could take or leave the curried potatoes that come with the meal, but ate every shred of greens in the accompanying arugula and blueberry salad, and used the toasted pumpkin bread (which functions here in lieu of buttermilk biscuits) to scoop up every last lick of yogurt chutney. 

It may not be on Frenchy's level, but it's good. And should you find yourself still hungry after dinner, you can indulge in one of the desserts Jaisinghani is equally famous for (after all, she rose to prominence as the pastry chef at Cafe Annie before opening Indika, and later Pondicheri). I'm pretty sure Frenchy's doesn't have chocolate oatmeal chili cookies.


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