by Tom Hanchett, 2010Ever thought, “I’d like to explore immigrant food stores, but how would I know what to buy?” Here’s a tasty strategy – look for chips and a soft drink.
I did just that at India Grocers in Pineville. Pritesh Patel behind the counter, quiet and friendly, was born in Gujarat, India, but came to the US as a youngster 22 years ago. His family has stores in Michigan and a brother runs one in Cincinnati. Pritesh decided to try his luck in Charlotte. Newcomers from India make up this city’s second largest immigrant group, behind only Mexicans.
Salty snacks are popular at India Grocers. Bright packages line two whole aisles – but they aren’t the familiar U.S. potato or corn chips.
“Bhelpuri is our best seller,” says Pritesh. It’s a bit like Chexmix crossed with Doritos, a variety of crispy shapes dusted with flavorful powder. “It’s got puffed rice, noodles made from chickpea flour, little bread-puffs, peanuts.”
I sampled Haldiram’s brand bhelpuri, just as hard to stop eating as U.S. potato chips. There are dozens of other brands, including the aptly named Hot Mix.
Thirsty, I reached into the cooler for a Thums-up cola. It’s beloved in India — Coca-Cola couldn’t beat it and ended up buying the company.
Thums-up has a hint of bitter betel-nut, not what my American tongue wanted. Pritesh said he feels the same way about Coke, only in reverse.
We agreed on a Fanta orange drink. Even though Fanta is also made in the U.S., Indian customers prefer the glass bottles from back home. I did, too. The Indian version uses sugar, not modern high-fructose corn syrup. A smooth, cool sip carried me back to younger days.
Hours: 9am – 9pm seven days a week.
509 N Polk Street (Interstate 485 exit 65B)
Pineville, NC, 28134
Center City & nearby
Carolina apple cider
Indian street food
Greens from South Carolina
Upstate NY Italian sausage
Blackberry memories of Brooklyn
Puerto Rican kabobs
South Boulevard, South Tryon & southward
Mexico + Greece = holiday treats
Cuban box pig
Snack foods from India
SC meets Vietnam
Little corner of El Salvador
Arepas from Venezuela
Indian sweets for Diwali
Korean at China Wing
Indian food in south Charlotte
Fort Mill — real Chinese
Independence Boulevard, Monroe Road & environs
Nigeria in east Charlotte
Secret Greek grocery
Colombian BBQ & snacks
Detroit hot dogs
New York bagels
Iran Kabobs in Matthews
Ramen in Matthews
Central Av, Albemarle Road & vicinity
Dominican street food
Jamaican black cake
Somali stew and sides
Schawarma from Jerusalem
‘Tis the Season for Champurrado
Latino bakery feeds a region
Taste Monterrey, Mexico
Tamales in Plaza Midwood
One restaurant, three Latino traditions
Guatamala in east Charlotte
North Tryon, UNCC area & northward
Asian Moon Cakes
Beef on Weck from Buffalo
Dominican fruit shakes, pressed subs
Mexican ice cream
Louisiana Viet crawfish
Salvadoran comfort food
NYC pastries – Lake Norman
Vegetarian eats from south India
The Patio at Our Lady of Guadalupe
NC fish camps
Grits & cornmeal
Laos in Kings Mountain