A Taste of Home Starts at Kamdar Plaza

Take your first step to an authentic Indian meal in the aisles of Kamdar Plaza on Devon Ave.

By Gulnaz Saiyed
Hapless Intern

Some of my earliest memories are of shopping trips to Devon Avenue. We would travel across town and then across states to get holiday clothes (even my wedding dress last year!), boxes of sweets and most importantly, stock up on ingredients for my mom’s kitchen. We would, of course, stop to eat on these trips, but given that my mother is the best cook on the planet, the restaurants never quite compared.


Now that I’m back in Chicago, I love to go to Devon for meals I don’t have the time or expertise to cook myself. But when I’m hungry for a taste and smell of my mom’s Kentucky kitchen, I head to Kamdar Plaza.


Kamdar has imported cookies, snacks and other delectable junk food for a quick, hassle-free taste of India.

When I was a kid, I’d beg my mom to stock up on sweets from their deli/café (it has some of the best Indian street food, if you need a shopping break) and then plead my case for packaged Parle-G cookies.


Two decades and countless cavities later, I’m more interested in the savory and spicy tastes Kamdar has to offer. I ran out of my favorite moong dal (split mung beans), last week. To my horror, I was also out of every other type of dal. Dal, in addition to referring to dry lentils and split beans and peas, also refers to the soupy dish made with them. Dal can similarly be used to make fritters or cooked with rice.


At Kamdar, I was able to choose from multiple brands – Swad and Luxemi are two of the big ones – from an assortment of different types of dal. My dad (I can’t think of a better expert) suggested I just go with the Kamdar-packaged option, even though it’s a little more expensive. If you’re familiar with red and yellow lentils, you can find those here. Of course, you can also get the mung dal, with or without its skin; chana dal, made from black chickpeas; and urad dal, which is used to make South Indian dishes like idly and dosa.


After grabbing a few bags of dal, I headed up the aisle to get spices. Whole and ground varieties were available and Kamdar offered an array of brands, including their

Pre-mixed spice packs are great for finding just the right flavor for the dish you're creating

own. They also sell spice blends, packaged together with recipes for particular dishes. I often turn to Shan masala packs when I want to make certain dishes. The chana chaat masala blend, for example, includes green mango and papaya, allowing me to make tangy chickpeas without having to find and figure out how to prepare the fruits.


Finally, I had to pick up some Wagh Bakri tea, the only black tea I will let in my front door. I grew up preparing it for my dad, boiling the loose tea leaves in milk and water for his strong, sweet chai. Kamdar sells a variety of Wagh Bakri products, as well as other brands, loose, in bags, spiced and herbal.


Although it might seem dauntingly unfamiliar with attendants chatting in Gujarati and then roughly translating into broken English, a visit to Kamdar Plaza doesn’t require an intimate knowledge of Indian foods and flavors. Yes, you can get stainless steel idly steamers, chickpea flour and jaggery, but you can also just pick up pre-packaged meals and spices.


Kamdar Plaza is a great place for both beginners, as well as more experienced Indian cooks; at some point during your Indian food exploration, you’re going to have to pick up basmati rice, dal, ginger/garlic paste and an array of spices from cardamom pods to garam masala. Kamdar has it all. Whether you’re craving adventure or nostalgia, it’s a step towards a fantastic meal.

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