We stepped up to the armed men guarding the door. The street was deserted, not a single person walking. The doors were huge, almost the entire front of the ground floor. I hesitated, checked the number again, but there was no doubt. This was it. I spoke to one of the guards…is this the place where the…and then blank, the spanish words for grocery shop disappeared from my mind.
Luckily as soon as I said the word for Shop, one of them helpfully filled the blanks, the Indian shop? I said yes. He said, follow me. We walked through the narrow doors into what appeared to be a parking lot. A few cars were parked there, but the vast cavern inside was clearly underutilized. Off to one side, a door. We followed the guard through this door and then the lift. Second floor to the right, he said., and quietly disappeared. We got into the lift and at the second floor, we turned right. A maze of corridors and doors. One door had a framed portrait of an Indian god, but I don’t even remember which one. That was the only sign that behind this door was the only Indian grocery shop in Mexico.
When I first arrived in Mexico, I knew that it was going to be problematic to find indian grocery items. Mexico is not exactly known for its large Indian population. In the past I hadn’t really cared, sine I was quite happy to go with the flow, scrounging around on foreign foods. I didn’t even learn to cook till I reached Australia, and till I had an epiphany. Nobody was going to make me food that I wanted to eat, and thus I started cooking. Really simple stuff, but somehow it’s only the food of your childhood that manages to fill your stomach. Sydney did have a large Indian population, and frequent visits to Parramatta was enough to keep things stocked. So when I left for Mexico, I got a whole bunch of essential spices shipped, and stocked up with visits from my parents and anyone who went anywhere basically. We managed to find ingredients in odd places: ghee from this ultra hippy food place, mustards seeds from the general market (they feed it to birds), tea from an upmarket grocery shop in Mexico city. The first time I went to an Indian artifacts shop in Mexico City I asked the shop keeper where to get foodstuff, and he gave me a number of a wholesale dealer, but I never followed it up, it wasn’t even a real shop.
But then a friend of D’s, who’d been to Bangladesh, and subsequently enamoured of Indian food, passed her an email from another friend with a list of supplies stocked by this grocery shop in Mexico City. I looked at the list and realized that most of my troubles were over. But the shop was hard to find, and it meant a trip of 5 hrs to Mexico City and then some to find the place. We went one weekend and as luck would have it, the shop was closed for vacations. And last weekend, on a whim, we went there again, and finally it was open.
The owner of the shop, who’s been here for close to 20 yrs now, is mostly a clothes dealer, because the entire warehouse was dominated by stacks and stacks of clothes. The grocery section was a small room, with a few shelves packed with lentils and spices and all the familiar accoutrements of indian cooking. We walked in , and immediately started piling stuff on a table to take home, while the assistant looked on bemused at the flurry of activity. I even found ragi flour. In a matter of minutes we were done, with enough supplies to warrant a largish carton and the assistance of one of the workers to carry it down to the car.
I spoke briefly to the owner, and he claims to supply food to the entire Indian community in Mexico. He told me that there were around 5000 people here, but they must be well scattered. I guess I will have to make the inevitable trip to the Indian embassy to find out what they’re up to.
The address for the place is as follows
CALLE FERNANDO DE ALVA IXTLIXOCHTIL 27 INT 201
COL. OBRERA, C.P.06800. DF, MEXICO
Above location is one and half block from METRO DOCTORES. Open from 10AM TO 7PM (M-F) Saturday by appointment.