If you’re feeling inspired by your recent Ekta BYO and looking for some more Indian flavors, look no further than International Foods and Spices. You don't have to fly to India for the best Indian products—many of them can be found just around the block on 42nd and Walnut.

International Food and Spices opened in 1987. It’s a family business: Paul Singh, the manager of the store, is the founder’s son. The market carries foods from the Middle East, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and—of course—India. It’s filled to the brim with eye–catching wrappers, large bags of grains, clarified butter called ghee, fresh produce like tomatoes, and even some ready–made samosas behind the front counter for less than a dollar each.

It’s a vibrant environment, with Indian music playing in the background and very friendly staff. Singh says that it’s a lot of work to be manager, “but you get to see a lot of people, meet a lot of people, provide great products that add flavor and variety to your everyday foods.” His favorite dish is palak paneer, a traditional Indian cheese and spinach dish. And—of course—many of the dish’s ingredients can be found at his store.

Photo: David Zhou

One of International Foods and Spices' clients is Mamle Mante, a faculty member at the Penn Dental School. She visits the store frequently, once a week or every other week, and has been a loyal customer for the past 20 years.

“I come here to get Bourbon cookies and this is about the only place I know where I can find them. I grew up in a British colony and Bourbon reminds me of my childhood.” Dr. Mante grew up in Ghana, so going to International Foods and Spices is somewhat nostalgic for her. 

As I was standing behind her in line, Dr. Mante tried to use a credit card even though there’s a $10 minimum. The cashier asked for cash instead but she didn’t have any. Instead, the cashier told her she could take her items because she recognized her, “Just pay next time.” 

Photo: David Zhou

Rima, a cashier who’s been working at International Foods and Spices for 16 years, says one of her favorite parts of her job is meeting new customers.

As for my recommendation, try moong dal, an Indian snack made of split yellow mung beans. And if you’re feeling even more adventurous, try cooking your favorite Indian dish yourself. You could even throw a dinner party.