Punjab opened a decade ago in a shopping mall on Main Street just a few blocks shy of Mission Drive. It’s a great secret for vegetarians, with the mango kulfi ice cream being all-natural and devoid of eggs. Then there's the variety of different grains, rice, spices and vegetable samosas. The store remains a secret because the owners did not advertise when it first opened, and it's still a hidden gem for Middle Eastern restaurants from surrounding cities that buy bulk from the grocer.
The shelves of the store reflect the diversity of India, which has 28 states, people speaking many different languages and contains just as many regional cuisines. Products come from all over India, including its namesake state of Punjab. There's also cooking utensils and household products such as natural hair dyes – the boxes are adorned with dark-haired women and the word "Henna" proudly spelled out in English. The employees at Punjab mention that the dye can last for a few days and older Chinese women buy 10 boxes at a time.
Behind the counter are Amandeep Singh and Simran Jit, who both attended Alhambra High School. The store has character – this could be because Singh opened the store in the middle of a predominantly Chinese-American community, or it could be the Indian DVDs that frame the walls. There are bright colors throughout the store, whether it’s a box of tea, a bag of naan bread, or the bright green bird’s eye chili peppers. Punjab is part of the Sikh community in Alhambra and is packed with both American and Indian products. Some of the English translations are tiny, indecipherable and this is the biggest selling point for Punjab – it does not compromise the Indian experience.
Punjab Indian Grocery, 1300 E Main St.