Patel Bros. Indian Grocery Superstore Opens in Norwalk

Gayatri Batra
I walked into the supermarket, mouth agape - I felt like Alice in Foodland! It was a 10,000 sq feet epicurean trove of gastronomy, nostalgia, delectable aromas and MORE all rolled into one. Finally an ethnic supermarket in Fairfield County. Patel Bros is a family owned grocery store chain that has established itself as a destination for Indian Groceries in North America. With over 35 stores across the country – it is called the Walmart of Indian Groceries, where you get a phenomenal range from the subcontinent at the best price possible.  Their motto is “Celebrating Our Food… Our Culture.’ And it sure does. It is like having my own kirana store, times ten, right here in Norwalk!

Not that we have been deprived of Indian Groceries in Fairfield County – there are around a dozen mom and pop run stores locally that provide you pretty much all the regional foods you might be looking for. But Patel Bros takes grocery shopping to another level. The variety, the foodstuffs, the produce and the prices that they offer due to sheer economies of scale cannot be compared to the offerings of the smaller stores.  Let me pause for a minute and clarify – an ‘Indian Grocery Store’ in America usually means that it sells groceries from the Indian Subcontinent- countries in south central Asia where the cuisines and cultures overlap, so ‘Indian’ in this context is just a term of geographical reference.

The scale of this store is reflected in the 40lbs sacks of rice that greet you as you enter– there is a whole aisle devoted just to Basmati Rice.  The vast assortment can you leave you spoiled for choice – my personal preference is the basmati rice from Dehradun.  Across is an aisle with just different types of ground flours made from different grains – regular wheat, durum wheat, soyabean flour, semolina flour, finger millet (raagi) flour, pearl millet flour, maize flour, sorghum (jowar) flour, bajra flour, gram flour (besan) …. The list is fairly extensive and reflects the variety of grains grown in India and the types of breads -- roti, chapattis, puris, parathas and naans eaten in the local cuisine.


Lentils-these are a key dish in any Indian meal. Being a predominantly vegetarian community, legumes are a very important part of our cuisine and one of the few key sources of protein. Known as DAL – they can also be spelled as Daal or Dahl. Patel Bros must carry over two dozen varieties of dal in bags ranging from 1kg (2.2 lbs) to 10 kgs (22lbs) and the inventory is raised a notch when a specific type is available as a whole and as spilt lentils.   Some  

of my favorite’s ones are Ahar Dal, Toor dal, Urad Dal, Chana Dal and Mung Dal. In the same category  are Beans, sacks and sacks of dried beans - the big red kidney beans, the small brown kidney beans, the beige garbanzo beans, the small black garbanzo beans, fava beans, navy beans, pinto beans, soy beans, dried peas, blackeyed peas, yellow peas, spilt peas  – a legumes lover’s heaven! 

In the refrigerated aisle – there is a whole section allocated to milk products. Boxes of Amul Butter (imported from India) are stacked next to packets of paneer (homemade Indian Cottage Cheese)  The  Kulfi  (Indian ice cream) section had me drooling with tubs of Fig kulfi, Kesar Pista (saffron pistachio) kulfi, cashew and raisin kulfi  and Rose kulfi – yes petals of the rose flower are a huge delicacy! Alongside are bottles  of Lassi (Indian Kefir) and other milk based drinks.  Talking of milk products – GHEE – clarified butter made from cow’s milk - a pivotal ingredient in the Hindu culture is available in many brands both local and imported at really reasonable prices.


The piece de resistance for me was the frozen food section –restaurant quality prepared dishes - appetizers, entrees, side dishes made by local food companies based in NY and NJ – brands like Swad, Bombay Kitchen, Tandoor chef, Mezban – to name just a few. The selection of samosas, curries, sabzis, kebabs, dals, dhoklas, dosas… is overwhelming . There is also a whole range of Indian-Chinese dishes. The frozen breads--paratha, naan, and kulcha are my favorites. A pleasant surprise was seeing a whole range of Pillsbury prepared dough – from ‘ready to puff roti’ to puris, naans and parathas with different vegetable stuffings.

The fresh produce section is a gastronomes’ heaven with an eclectic variety rarely found in a regular supermarket  -  jackfruit, fresh green chickpeas aka garbanzo beans, bitter melon aka karela, fresh turmeric, snake gourd, green Thai baby eggplants, bunches of Cilantro, mint, dill anda variety of fresh herbs at really reasonable prices. A tip – this summer during Mango season do visit for the Alphonso Mango which till recently was banned from being imported to the US. Grown in western Indian t is considered one of the sweetest mangos in the world and its taste is exquisite.


The spice aisle had Stephanie and me ooohing in delight. Huge bags of bay leaves, cloves, cardamoms, whole black pepper, cinnamon sticks, cloves, mace, nigella, poppy seeds, fenugreek, nutmeg, cumin, saffron at amazingly reasonable prices.  My favorites are premixed spice boxes – Masalas - for different dishes by MDH and Shaan – they make cooking so easy.

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.

Patel Bros 330 Connecticut Avenue, Norwalk 203.939.1777