Purists might shudder at using them and for them individual spices in the whole and ground form are available. But I am a fan of the premixed masalas, the convenience factor overshadows any concerns – though I think masala mixes sometimes are better than using individual spices and they are commonly used in most households in the subcontinent not just an overseas phenomenon!
You should definitely seek out the Chai section. Need I even list out the choices available? A trend amongst foods gaining popularity overseas is adapting it to the local culture- be it in taste, flavors or even packaging. It is so interesting to see samosas with jalapeno cheese filling (something that you would never find back in India) and mini papadums of different flavors packed in cylindrical boxes like Pringles. Food is a very powerful tool in the dissemination of a culture and walking down the aisle bursting with bags of snacks and seeing a Nacho flavored Namkeen (Hindi for a salty munchy) brought a smile to my face - should I call it an American, Mexican or an Indian snack?
This walk through gives you a glimpse of what the store has to offer, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. On my first visit to the store that is exactly how I felt. It was too much for me to absorb in one go. Experiencing something which might be called the Stendhal’s Syndrome – dizziness, rapid heartbeat, confusion, hallucination when exposed to surfeit of choice – I promised I would return that weekend. But that weekend there must have been close to 200 people in the store with queues snaking all the way down the aisles; vouching its popularity. So note to myself –DO NOT plan to visit Patel Bros on a weekend unless you have plenty of stamina and WRITE DOWN a shopping list otherwise you will be walking around in a daze with the Stendhal Syndrome setting in. Note to you dear reader - Patel Bros should definitely be a destination at the time of Indian Festivals especially DIWALI – the Hindu New Year – to sample the traditional Indian Sweets and other delicacies eaten on this festive occasion.