Monday, August 30, 2010

The Sunoco Sunmart and Indian Grocery & Spices

Several years ago my wife did a DITL post to her blog complete with pictures documenting her day, because her friends in other parts of the country just did not believe how weird her weekly shopping day was.  At the time, among other weirdnesses we regularly bought local eggs from an optometrist, and exotic spices from a gas station.



The gas station in question is the Sunoco Sunmart and Indian Grocery & Spices at 408 S. 7th Street (right by the corner of 7th and Poplar).

It has been selling Indian foods and spices since we got to town (anyone know exactly how long it's been doing both?).  It is the only thing even close to a grocery store in the downtown area.

 About half of the space is devoted to traditional corner gasmart fare, sodas, candy, chips, doughnuts, milk etc.  But the other half of the store is devoted to Indian foods, spices, sauces, chutneys, etc, and some middle eastern ones as well.  Also, as with my own corner gas station, I've never gone in without seeing someone drop in to buy lottery tickets or cigarettes.


One of the things I love about the Sunmart, is that it caters to all levels of Indian cuisine.  If you just want to buy the Indian equivalents of chips and candy, no problem!  Or want some exotic prepared snacks with no cooking required?  Try a bag of spicy banana chips.  Want a whole frozen Indian dinner that you can pop in a microwave or oven?  They've got a selection.  What something from a box, that you'll have to cook, but is already mostly done, like the moral equivalent of hamburger helper?  Again several options.  What to cook something Indian from scratch and  need exotic ingredients?  They've got it.  I bought a huge container of ghee and some powdered garam masala today. Want to make something achingly authentic?  They sell whole garam masala mixes, in case you want to grind it into powder yourself.  They have a frankly amazing selection of spices and exotic shelf stable ingredients.  Need rose water or jaggery or asafoetida?  No problem.

The Sunmart used to sell delicious freshly prepared Indian food as well.  But then they opened the Taj Mahal restaurant.  I'm not sure of the exact connection between the owners and managers of each, but I've heard it explained before, and there is definitely a family relationship between the two.  I think Taj Mahal "stole" the person that used to do the cooking for the Sunmart.  The Taj Mahal's official Facebook pages describes it as "for fans of the Sunmart grocery."  But the Sunmart itself still sells an impressive selection of foods and spices, grocery style despite being, at root, a neighborhood gas station.  Terre Haute has plenty of white folks, and an active and vibrant African-American community.  It's easy to forget that it also has fairly active Indian and Japanese communities.  But the Sunmart isn't just for Indians.  My (very white) friend Brianna put Sunmart at the top of her list of things she loves about Terre Haute.  When I was shopping there today (and I'm very white), I saw black, white, and Indian shoppers come by to buy things, and at least one white lady (who I didn't know) was clearly shopping for spices there.  Maybe it's hokey, but I've always thought shared love of food was one of the easiest ways for folk of different ethnicities or cultures or races to come together respectfully.  The Sunmart is

Just one more reason I am proud of Terre Haute.

5 comments:

  1. I have lived by Sunmart for four years. I agree that they have a great selection of very reasonably priced spices. For example, you can purchase a good-sized bag of cinnamon sticks for under $5, whereas a few cinnamon sticks in a jar at Wal-mart is about $7. Who knew that Wal-mart prices could be beat, right?

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  2. Thanks for blogging about the Sunmart. I've been looking for Indian herbs and spices for months searching thru the Asian grocery with some success and Baeslers with less success. Who knew I needed to go to a gas station? I'm on my way today; )

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  4. I talked to the owner of taj mahal recently, i believe he is THE guy that used to cook at the sunmart. And his food is my favorite in terre haute. Thanks for the blog, i now know where the grocery is, ill be in there today.

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