In a part of our state known for the King Ranch, one would think country cooking would reign supreme. But when it comes to food in Kingsville, it turns out Indian food is the talk of the town.
“Consistency is really important to me. If it’s not consistent, it’s not going to last,” said owner Zohair Charania. Zohair knows his name is unique, so he’s found a way to make it memorable. “Everybody knows me as Z,” he said with chuckle.
Z started this business at a young age and that’s after he already got his college degree from Texas A&M. “I was 20, 21, I don’t remember. 2014, November,” Z recalled.
Z’s father moved the family to College Station from Pakistan when Zohair was a boy. That change of scenery has been a big blessing, in many ways, to his entire family. “There’s more freedom here. You can do a lot more, whatever you want to do. In Pakistan, I would’ve ended up being a doctor, but a bad doctor. But here, I wanted to be a chef since I was a kid, like three- or four-year-old, working with my mom in the kitchen, this, and that. And then, this, it came true,” Zohair explained.
Cooking truly is Z’s calling and at the Spice Station he gets to do it with his whole family. “There’s a lot of people telling me that, ‘Hey, what are you doing in Kingsville?’ I tell them the story,” Z said. “It’s really diverse here. A lot of people come in, but you got to be diverse and try it. People are like, ‘Nobody will try your food; they don’t like it. They only like salt, pepper on their food.’ That’s true. A lot of people there do not like spicy at all. But whoever does, when they’re coming, they will never go back. We have people coming three times a week.”
“This is a South Texas town. We’re used to a lot of brisket, sausage, fried chicken, basic. I mean, to find Indian food, and authenticate that? Yeah, and it’s a winner,” said customer Chriselda Gonzalez.
Now if you’re not sure if you’ll like Indian food or if you never tried it, not to worry. Z lets you sample whatever you want. That’s how he’s built his business. “It’s a tradition to give you a sample. So, you try it, then you buy it. I don’t want you to get something that you don’t like, and I will not serve anything that I won’t like. So, if I won’t eat it, I won’t serve it,” Z said. “And 99% people love it.”
“Having never had any of it before, it’s a very good move, to make sure you know what you’re going to get or try, and then like,” said customer Eric Bornschlegl.
“First day we opened up, it was all Indians because they know their food already, and then, I start making butter chicken. I started giving out samples of butter chicken. My dad was like, “What are you doing? Why are you giving samples out?” I said, ‘hey, they don’t have money now, but when they have the money, they will come and get it,” recalled Zohair.
“The sampling plate. That’s how he gets you,” joked customer Mac Medina.
Well, Z wanted me to try everything, of course, but we had to narrow it down to his most popular dishes and we started with Herb Fish Stew, under the watchful eye of Z’s mom, Rahila. The dish starts with olive oil, extra virgin, diced yellow onions, cumin seeds, and fenugreek. Then comes ginger garlic paste. Next up tomato paste, ground in house, coriander seeds that roasted and ground in house. Salt and pepper, chili pepper from India, crushed peppers, turmeric, and mom’s secret blend of seasonings. The Alaskan pollack then hits the pan as does heavy cream, fried onions, cilantro, and serranoes. Put it on a bed of rice and viola. It is so incredibly tasty, tender, and delicious. Those flavors are amazing, and the spice is just right. As soon as you swallow it, it just hits you, and then it goes away. Awesome.
Now, I had to try a couple of things off the buffet and Z recommended the green chicken roast, some meatballs, and 65 chicken. He also really wanted to show off his loaded fries. “Really, really popular here. We sell 800 pounds a week,” said Z. “This is our called medium plate, it’s 2.3 pounds. This is life changing, I’m telling you.”
Z starts with fries battered in rice flour and douses it with mango habanero sauce, a chipotle and garlic aioli, tzatziki sauce, throws on some butter chicken and 65 chicken with cheese and tops it with cilantro.
So, we have an assortment of amazing dishes here at the Spice Station. Z made sure we got a little bit of everything. So, we’re going to start with the green chicken roasts with that beautiful color, and it tastes amazing. Tender chicken covered with that cilantro sauce; only three ingredients, so not considered a curry. It’s more of a stew, but it is stupendous.
“Anything that you get is good. I’ve tasted it all. You can’t go wrong,” said customer Chriselda Gonzalez.
The beef and lamb meatball, also known as kofta, has a kick and fantastic flavor.
“Once you go curry, you never have to worry,” joked Zohair.
The 65 chicken is almost like sweet and sour chicken, but with spice, and just tender as can be.
Finally, the loaded fries. That is an explosion of flavors!
Well, if you think the King Ranch casserole is the only thing to come out of Kingsville, you are incorrect, because now, you can find the Spice Station. “If you don’t come by here, you are missing out, I promise you that,” said customer Chriselda Gonzalez.