Indian Grocery Store in Burlington Offers Everything from Basmati to Bollywood

November 26, 2010
By Holly Jennings

In these parts, Gagan Indian Grocery Store is the place to go for Indian ingredients. It is small but mighty. If you’re looking to try a new brand of Basmati rice, Gagan gives you not one choice but a dozen.  Would you like to compare and contrast different brands of ghee or tamarind concentrate, or buy frozen paneer or fresh grated coconut? You can do this, plus spend a long time looking at the great variety of prepared sauces, condiments, spice blends, snacks, desserts and even “ready-to-eat” meals in pouches that need only to be heated. I don’t buy conventional American convenience foods—especially something that is shelf-stable—because the list of ingredients tends to be very scary. But every box of Indian “in the pouch” foods or packaged snacks or sweets that I’ve looked at includes only food in the list of ingredients—not scary sounding preservatives or chemicals. (If it’s possible for Indian food companies to do this, why can’t American food companies?)
Me, holdng the bag (of Basmati) at Gagan

If you don’t live in Burlington, your local coop or specialty foods market can probably get the most commonly used Indian ingredients for you. But even if you don’t live in Burlington, it’s worth a drive to Gagan to have a one-stop Indian grocery shopping experience, including Bollywood films, for rent or purchase, and homemade snacks like samosas and pakora. Though the owner, Kuljit Kar Gahir, and her husband, Rattan, come from Punjab, in Northern India, Gagan offers a full range of ingredients needed to prepare all styles of Indian cooking, from North to South. Unless you’re Indian, or a very well-educated Indian food buff, I promise that you’ll find lots to wonder at, and, if you’re adventurous, you’ll end up leaving with more than you intended to buy.

If you’re new to Indian cooking, the staff at the store will be happy to give you cooking tips. (I wanted guidance on how to make the everyday Indian flatbread called chapatti—it’s known to be tricky—and I got it. It’s all about the dough, Kuljit said. It shouldn’t be too sticky or too dry, but soft and pliable. Hard dough makes tough chapatti; soft dough makes tender chapatti.)

The day we went the two small aisles that make up the store were filled with Indian families and, occasionally, a non-Indian or two, in addition to me and my boyfriend Mike. (Many Americans shop at the store, Rattan said, because the prices are competitive, especially for spices.)  The passage way through the aisles was made a little tighter with boxes of fresh produce sitting on the floor.

As it turns out, the grocery is not always so busy or crowded with produce boxes. We happened to go on a “produce” Saturday. Once every two or three weeks, Rattan leaves Burlington at 2:00 AM to drive down to Manhattan where he hand picks a fresh selection of Indian vegetables, herbs and fruits for his customers. Unfortunately, the Indian produce vendor in Manhattan is the closest offering the variety Gagan customers request. (Rattan will often buy a selection of fifteen or more vegetables, fruits and/or herbs.) If you’d like to be reminded which Saturday the fresh produce will be in the store, and what the selection is, you can sign up on the produce email list at the store.

The only thing Gagan could not get me is pickling mangoes, or at least not without great cost. That’s because they are out of season. DCCC chose an Indian cookbook at the worst possible time of the year to find pickling mangoes (October and especially November and December are very difficult.) Duh! I hadn’t considered this point before picking Entice with Spice. Well, there are still 98 or so recipes that we can make at this time of year from the book, and Gagan does offer several brands of premade pickled mango and mango chutneys. Below are some of the interesting vegetables I saw at the store.

Gagan Indian Grocery Store
1293 Williston Road
So. Burlington, VT

Hours: Mon–Fri, Noon–7:30; Sat, Noon–6:30; Sunday, closed

Long squash


Long beans


Bitter Melon

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