On March 8th 2017, I traveled with my classmates to Plano Texas to visit The Taj Chaat House inside Taj Grocers. As we arrived to the location I could tell we were in for a unique cultural experience. My car and group arrived a few minutes early so we got a chance to walk around the grocery store and see what it was all about. When I walked inside I quickly noticed a great deal of shops built into the walls along the edges of the shop. This brought a unique cultural feel to Taj Grocers and also demonstrated the market side of the store. They sold all sorts of items in these shops, such as Jewelry and clothes. They also sold a wide selection of foods and spices in the main grocery store. This consisted of a great deal of fresh vegetables, rice, and endless displays of spices in the aisles.
Soon the rest of my class arrived and we made our way to the back of Taj Grocers and into The Taj Chaat House. Once here I was entranced with the aroma of spices in the restaurant. As I looked on at the workers I noticed that a large portion of them were Indian, which really added to the authenticity. The class and I studied the menu for a few minutes and then made our selections. I was apprehensive at first as I did not recognize a single item on the menu, however after consulting with Professor Ball-Phillips and other students I decided to order the Cheese Dosa. While sitting and waiting for my food I began to notice some weird looks I was getting from the everyday crowd that goes to Taj Chaat House. Clearly we were not the normal crowd, but this only strengthened the authenticity of the restaurant. Soon my food was ready and to my delight the cheese Dosa was very good. It was prepared with light bread that is cooked very crispy with a great deal of cheese inside. I dipped this into a variety of sauces and spices that my friend ordered, which resulted in some extremely tasty combinations.
Relating back to the article we read before the field trip, Taj Chaat House was very similar to Viks Chaat house as detailed by Sen. Both of these stores are primarily grocery stores from the outside, however it is apparent that both generate a great deal of business from their restaurant style Chaat houses, that are located in the back of the store. It was also interesting to see Sen describe the stores inside, “This store sells merchandise from across the world and is thus tied into transnational networks of goods, capital, culture, images, and people.” (Sen 202) I found this to be the case in Taj Grocers as well, as they sold a variety of items in the small shops that were built along the walls. This added to my experience and I even considered buying a small object from one of these shops. I also noticed another similarity in the chaat house, Sen described how it was an area of great socializing in the community at Viks Chaat house. This was also the case at Taj Chaat house as I observed a great deal of people going from table to table and conversing with one another. Clearly this is a place for people in the community to enjoy a good meal and converse. I have a great deal of respect for that sense of community and enjoyed my adventure to the Taj Chaat House.
Arijit Sen, “From Curry Mahals to Chaat Cafes” Spacialities of the South Asian Culinary Landscape University of Califronia Press, 2012. 201-202.