On March 8th 2017, my classmates and I took a field trip that I don’t think any of us will forget. We left Dallas and went to Plano, Texas, for the Taj Grocers and Chaat House. Taj Grocers is a grocery story with only South Asian food and was definitely unique from any grocery store that I have been to before. There was a restaurant, Chaat House located in the back of the Taj Grocers. Although I only walked through the grocery store part, I saw some foods and spices that I have not seen before. I also have never seen a grocery store with the amount of rice that this store had. The stacks of rice bags they have go at least five feet high! In the refrigerated section of the store, they were selling yogurt in gallon containers, which are much bigger than the yogurt containers I’m used to seeing in the grocery stores I go to. We have learned in class that rice and yogurt are the foundations of meals in India and Taj Grocers proved that even more so.
The majority of time I was there was spent in the Chaat House. The Chaat House is a vegetarian, Indian/South Asian restaurant. Not only do they not sell any meat, but none of the utensils they use, to make the food, have ever touched meat! Immediately when you enter the Chaat House, your smell is aroused from the great spices and the food that is cooking. The menu is extremely extensive with so many delicious options to choose from. In retrospect, I probably should have expanded my horizons and ordered more than one thing, but I was not feeling great so I only got a cheese naan. Although not the most exotic thing to order, the cheese naan, which is similar to a quesadilla, was amazing and the creamy white sauce they gave with it complimented the naan very well. Going into the evening, I did not have the highest of expectations, but the Chaat House definitely exceeded them. Almost all my classmates that I talked to had the exact same reaction to their meal.
From the article we read before the field trip, we knew that Indian grocery stores not only supply its customers with food, but also is a place where the South Asian culture is vibrant. “The unique sensorial qualities of the Indian grocery store give meaning, a sense of place, and value to these locations among immigrant customers,” (204 Sen). This could not have been more evident than in the Chaat House in Plano. It was not that crowded when we first got there but once we started eating and more people had arrived, that is when I got to see the community aspect of the restaurant. There were little kids running around the place playing tag, having a fun time. However, the one thing that stuck with me the most was that I saw people going from table to table conversing with each other. I did not know whether these people already knew each other or not, but it was something that enlightened me. It stayed with me so strongly, because I have never seen people go to each table and start talking, if this happened at any restaurant I have been to before, people would not be as friendly and probably thought the person was crazy. The sense of community is truly real at the Chaat House and I wish more restaurants in the US had that friendly feel. I had an amazing time with this field trip and if I go to a Chaat House again, I will definitely try more than one food.
Arijit Sen, “From Curry Mahals to Chaat Cafes” Spacialities of the South Asian Culinary Landscape University of Califronia Press, 2012. 203-204.