After Bagga Satnam and his family migrated to Colorado from New Delhi, India, in 1994, they purchased a 1,500-square-foot space in Aurora. There, Satnam opened an Indian market called Bombay Bazaar with the goal of bringing the flavors of his homeland to the Denver metro area. Nearly 30 years years later, the shop has expanded to 46,100 square feet and has become a go-to for cooks seeking everything from rice and lentils to frozen meals and cookware.
Madhavi Tandon—a chef-owner of three-year-old Maia Foods, which offers prepackaged Indian meal kits and home-made ghee, biscotti, and spice blends for sale at Ruby’s Market and other local outlets—discovered Bombay Bazaar in 2005 while searching through the yellow pages for an Indian market to shop for ingredients for her family. “It always felt like a quick trip home,” says Tandon, a native of Pune in Maharashtra, India. “The smells, the familiar products, the ease of knowing what to expect feels very comfortable.”
But the familiarity of visiting the market is not the only thing that keeps Tandon in the winding isles of Bombay Bazaar. The chef exclusively sources traditional ingredients for her meal kits here, working to keep her recipes authentic and uninfluenced by the preferences of a mostly white, American customer base.
“The impression many have of Indian cuisine is mainly for [what’s available at] Indian restaurants, which is not representative of the regional cuisines,” Tandon says. “I don’t want to modify my product or make it less authentic just for it to be familiar. Indian stores help me achieve that goal.”
Satnam works to ensure his shelves are stocked with products sourced from different regions of India and Pakistan. He offers, for example, more than eight types of rice from different regions of India—a variety Tandon appreciates.“Brand loyalty is important to us,” Tandon says. “But it also affects the flavor. Different types of rice sit differently in your belly, and for my business I want the flavors to be high quality and consistent.”
The shelves of Bombay Bazaar reflect the diversity and interests of a burgeoning community in search of Indian products in Colorado. While visiting international grocery stores can be intimidating, Tandon says it can also be eye-opening and educational, clearing up misconceptions about Indian cuisine. “East Asian grocery stores help people see Indian products and allow them to familiarize themselves with the kind of spices, array of lentils, and ready-made-meals we eat,” Tandon says.
In the store, Satnam can be found hustling through the isles to organize and meticulously restock products and answer patrons’ questions. Customers stroll through the aisles beside walls adorned with posters of Indian landmarks and actresses while music and TV shows from the country blare from screens scattered around the store. “The community has supported us through-and-through…I love coming here,” Satnam says. “It’s a lot of socializing with my folks.”
Not sure what to buy? Here, a short list of Tandon’s favorite things to buy at Bombay Bazaar.
Shan seasonings: Available in flavors such as chicken masala, chicken jeffrezi and pilau biryani, these handy blends help those craving Indian fare craft meals on the fly.
Minute Khana Multi Paratha: Sop up your curries with these microwavable stuffed naans—fluffy flatbreads filled with white radish, herbs, and spices.
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables: Tandon always stocks up on fresh limes, curry leaves, and ginger in Bombay Bazaar’s produce aisle.
Pressure Cookers: Many Indian chefs rely on these vessels to prepare dals, curries, and other staples. Thankfully, Satnam has a whole section stocked with pressure cookers, along with other handy wonders such as roti pans and griddles.
Paneer by the Block: This Indian cheese, which Bombay Bazaar also sells in bulk, is the centerpiece of many Indian dishes—a mild, creamy protein for specialties such as tikka masala, samosas, and curry.
Gluten-Free Flour: Roti—a deliciously soft, unleavened flatbread often eaten with Indian meals—can be made with gluten-free flour rather than wheat flour.
Haldiram’s Frozen Samosas: These savory fried pastries are filled with spicy potato and are ready to eat after a spin in the microwave or oven. Found in Bombay Bazaar’s expansive frozen aisle, they are available in packs of eight to 70.
Shan South Indian Pickles: Indian cuisine is notoriously flavorful, and pickles often accompany creamy and savory dishes, such as dal and curry, to cleanse the palate between bites.
Haldiram Frozen Roti: Not in the mood to make roti from scratch? Browse the frozen section for a range of ready-to-heat roti, from gluten free to whole wheat, to enhance your meals.
Guru Nanak Ice Cream: The ice cream section of Bombay Bazaar is packed with an array of tasty flavors like saffron, cashew raisin, kesar pistachio, and mango; Guru Nanak is a popular Indian brand available in the States.
Today, Tandon is shopping for the ingredients—sticky short grain rice, pigeon pea dal, cumin seeds, whole red chilis, turmeric powder, curry leaves, and a spice masala—to make tadka dal, a popular Indian lentil dish and a staple in her household.
In the coming weeks, 5280 will go behind the scenes in Tandon’s home, where she will share the significance of tadka dal and prepare it in her kitchen. Watch for the cooking video—part of our new series featuring local chefs—on 5280.com.
Bombay Bazaar is open daily (11 a.m.–7 p.m.); 3140 S. Parker Rd., #4, Aurora