Dining In

Urban Tiffin Brings Indian Lunches to Your Door

The tiffin wallah concept finally hits Houston.

By Alice Levitt June 5, 2017

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Your tiffin wallah is ready.

Image: Alice Levitt

When I moved to Houston, the city had practically everything I could think to hope for culinarily. A Polish place authentic enough that it starts its meals with the spreadable lard known as smalec? Check. Perfect mantu, the yoghurt-and-mint-covered Afghan dumplings? Yep. But one of my more exotic dreams was that, with a substantial Indian population, a tiffin wallah (also called dabbawala) might deliver me Indian lunches at work.

In India, the delivery service usually involves bringing food made at home to workers for lunch. Others bring meals cooked by women for whom it's a business. I was hoping for the latter, and I've finally found it. Last week, Urban Tiffin began delivering four days a week (up from just two), feeding office denizens fresh, simple Indian meals.

Owner Sonal Patel may be a familiar face to some from the City Hall Farmers Market, where her chicken curry, daal makhani and kathi rolls have won fans. She now delivers lunches from Monday through Thursday, both herself (for a $3 delivery fee) and through DoorDash and Grub Hub.

The meal Patel brought to the Houstonia office was unapologetic home-cooking. The paneer kathi roll made with whole wheat roti was soft enough to fuse with the spicy filling of bouncy cheese cubes, peppers, onions and kidney beans. Think of the burrito mom would make you if she was making sure to pay homage to her Indian heritage.

The maa ki daal was more than a container filled with basmati rice and black lentils. The stew was dotted with onions and tomatoes, but got its personality from a liberal dose of cumin, along with ginger, garlic and fenugreek along with a slew of other spices.

The best part? You don't have to go anywhere to chow down.

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