April 20, 2021
For many South Asians who leave home — for college, grad school, or even a short trip — batch-cooked dal, a stack of chapatis, poriyals, or biryani are almost obligatory packing items. There’s a comfort that comes with having home-cooked food available at the punch of a microwave button. Though the U.S. is no stranger to the wonders and affordability of prepared convenience, you may be hard-pressed to find a lot of good Indian fare. But walk down the aisles of your nearest Trader Joe’s — the national grocery chain with over 500 stores — and you’ll quickly find hints of India. After passing the spiced chai, the wildly popular naans, and a pleasantly tangy mango ginger chutney, you’ll end up at the frozen section. There, you’ll find foods that resemble the menus of many Indian restaurants: garlic naan, butter chicken, and palak paneer. For regular Trader Joe’s customers, it’s a culinary journey to India without ever leaving the U.S.; for South Asians across the country, it’s dinner that tastes a bit like home.