(upbeat, jazzy music) – So, we’re going to
Raja Sweets in the heart of the Mahatma Gandhi
District here in Houston, but, before that, we’re gonna go check out
this super cool spot. It’s a mandir, the first
one in the country. Thirty-three thousand pieces
that was first assembled in India and then kind of
built like a Lego set right in the middle of Houston. Look at that. That’s no joke, man. Raja Sweets was the first
Indian Restaurant to open here in Houston, back in 1986,
by the Gahunia family. Today, Sharan is keeping
her father’s legacy alive, alongside her mother, by
bringing Indian flavors of their homeland to the people of Texas. – [Sharan] My dad’s motto was
bring the streets of India to Hillcroft, so we make food
the way you would find it in India, you know? You know you’re in
different country for, like, a better life or for work
purpose, but you wanna be able to feel at home and,
when people come here, that’s what they feel. It’s a feeling of, okay, we’re home. My parents migrated from London, landed in the United States. They picked Cleveland. (Sheldon laughs) And too cold there, as well. He was like, oh my God, it
snows and it’s way too cold. So, then, he was like, I’m
just gonna go far south as possible and he
landed in Houston, Texas. – Houston’s pretty far
south as you can get. – Yeah, exactly. Landed in Houston and he realized there’s
not a big gathering place where Indian people can go,
like during Diwali and Ramadan. So, he was like I want a place where the community can get together. We have a sari store and a jewelry store, but no Indian restaurant. You know, there’s no other place here that makes fresh sweets from scratch. Everything’s frozen,
coming in from New York or coming in from India. So, that’s where the idea came up – That’s amazing. – for Raja Sweets. – So, this area is called Hillcroft? – It’s called Little India. The City of Houston gave
us our own proclamation and it officially got named as
the Mahatma Gandhi District. Three business were in
the early 80s Indian and Pakistani businesses. Now, we have over 65. So, jalebi is a very
popular dessert back home. They’re literally like little funnel cake. Flour, a little bit of baking soda. Everything that they make,
they make by hand and fresh. (upbeat, funky music) And then, the sugars in
that are in the syrup. On a daily basis, they make fifty pounds. – A lot of flick of the wrist, ah? Okay, just gather up like this? – Yeah. (Sharan and Sheldon laugh) – I ain’t got the flick
of the wrist like you do. I made those special, just for you. (laughter) – So, ras gulab is like a
cheese- and milk-based dessert. So, they actually boil the milk
and then, once it’s boiled, they take it to get cooled
and they add a little bit of vinegar to it and then
it makes this texture. – [Sheldon] It has the
feeling of, like, ricotta. And then, each one by hand. Unko, yeah, the feeling, ah? – Yeah. – No even need, no – No, no, no.
– No scale? – No, no scale. – That’s for amateurs. – Yeah. (Sharan laughs) – Little India feels like home? – Oh, yeah. – [Sharan] So, wives work in the front. The uncles work in the back. – [Sheldon] Family-operated restaurant. (upbeat, jazzy music) – [Sharan] Raja means king. Raja Sweets is like King Sweets, you know? – King Sweets. Coming to the right spot then. – So these are all made by hand and they’re different flavors. Some have almond. Some have pistachios. This one’s made from
chickpeas flour and sugar. One of my good favorites. Actually tastes like
peanut butter brittle. – Mom, what’s your favorite? – Jooli. – The jooli, yeah. – And this one. – I like the crunchiness of that. You made it! – I know, I made it! Where’s mine’s one? Let me see if it’s in there. That’s like crunchy, sticky, and gooey. It gets all over your fingers. – That’s very old traditional,
like more than 500 years in India. – [Sharan] So, that’s
grinded chickpeas flour. – Oh, man, that’s delicious. – We make a food, also, like,
homemade food, you know? One of our customer, he come everyday. – [Sheldon] Every single day? – Every single day. – That’s dedication. How many years has he been coming? – Last – Last 10, 12 years. (Sheldon laughs) Yeah. Every day. – [Sharan] Because you always
want to be able to connect to your roots and your
culture and where you’re from. – [Sheldon] What was your thought when your husband said
I’m going to America? – Open, big country. It’s better life. – When my parents did land
here, they had literally, I think my dad had $20, ’cause he had lost all
his savings from London, closing that restaurant and
then opening it in Cleveland. They saved up for six years? – No, four years, four years. – Four years. She worked at Dunkin’ Donuts. – Yeah. – That was her job.
– For one year. In the nighttime. Because my children is small. (Sheldon laughs) – He worked at Burger King. He was a manager at Burger King. In their minds, they were like we’re gonna
achieve the American dream, which is being successful in America, because there’s so much opportunity and then we were first,
longest-running Indian restaurant in Texas now. – Thirty-one years. – Thirty-one years. – On April 20th, yeah. – So back in 2002, your dad passed away. – [Sharan] Yes. It was hard. But we wanted to keep his legacy alive. – What type of man was he? – He was very good. He was very active in
the community, you know. – Very strict with you guys? – Yeah, he was pretty strict.
– Yeah, he was. (Sheldon laughs) And he’s a very outgoing personality. Very charming. Everybody that would come in,
he would just make friends with them.
– Yeah. And you would say, sit down, have tea.
– Sit down, eat. – You know, eat what you want. – Let’s feed them. (laughs) – He would give away so much free stuff. Then, after he passed, he wasn’t able to see the city proclaim it
is Mahatma Gandhi District, but he came up with the idea. Him and the other two, the
one that owns the sari place and the jewelry place.
– [Sheldon] Yeah. – [Sharan] It was their idea. Like, let’s make this home. (upbeat music) – Well, that’s amazing
what your father did. – Yeah, he did. – [Sheldon] He was kind of
like the founding father of, you know, Indian food here in Houston. (Sheldon laughs) (rock music) – Welcome to Houston. (Sheldon laughs)

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