Howdy, Modi

Heralded Houston chef serves up signature meals for visiting Indian prime minister's team

Houston chef serves up special meals for Indian prime minister's team

Kiran Verma Kiran's Modi visit
Kiran Verma spent the week feeding visiting dignitaries.  Courtesy of Kiran's

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Houston kept one local chef very busy. As the only approved Indian food caterer for Tilman Fertitta’s luxurious The Post Oak hotel, Kiran’s chef-owner Kiran Verma has been responsible for feeding properly prepared Indian food to dozens of dignitaries and diplomats who held meetings in Houston ahead of the prime minister’s visit on Sunday, September 22.

Puja Verma, the restaurant’s director of operations and strategy, tells CultureMap that her mother created menus and worked with the hotel to oversee the preparation of breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week’s worth of meals.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have so many business people from India dine with us,” Puja Verma says. “When they found out Modi is coming, they reached out to the Texas India Forum and said Kiran’s would have to do the food.”

Chef Kiran has been dividing her time between the hotel and her restaurant to ensure that both ran smoothly — overseeing everything from ensuring hot naan made it to The Post Oak on time to larger challenges, such as having regional variety in the dishes. No easy feat, considering that many of the visitors who came to Houston for the “Howdy, Modi” event also dined at Kiran’s during their stay.

Unfortunately, Verma can’t say for certain whether Prime Minister Modi ate any of the restaurant’s dishes. The hotel didn’t ask the chef to prepare anything specifically for him — although she knows that he received a pot of the restaurant’s signature chai.

However, if he dined on any of September 21’s dishes, he ate very well. Verma’s menu included cumin-scented cream of broccoli soup, shrimp biryani, chicken korma, laal maas (leg of lamb with red chiles), aloo methi (potatoes with fenugreek), saffron rice, and two desserts — gulab jamun and rasmalai.

Regardless of whether or not the prime minster ate any of the cuisine, the dishes have been well-received by the hotel guests.

“They’re very happy as far as I know,” Verma says. “Someone made the comment to my mom. They thought some Indian chef had to be back there making the food.”

Not just “some” Indian chef, but a woman whose namesake restaurant has been a part of Houston’s dining scene for more than 10 years. Verma’s food helped give the visitors a taste of home during their visit.

“I think she’s excited that she was part of something so big for India, for Houston, and for the Indian-American community,” Puja Verma says. “I don’t know what her source of fuel is. She does not sleep. She just turned 65. She’s incredible with her energy.”