Most people don't know about this wonderful Indian market tucked away on the southside. You've got to really look for it, hidden behind Sushi Time Towa on Montgomery Cross Road, right across from our only remaining K-Mart.
But it's worth the hide 'n' seek to take a peek. There's a bit of everything you'd ever want to make your own Indian cuisine, or pick up a ready-made entrée, bread or dessert. For vegetarians it's a haven of lentils, grains, rice varieties and all sorts of hard-to-find flours (anyone looking for teff?).
I got news of them ten years ago from a sister with a passion for Indian food, and I've been shopping there regularly ever since. When you walk in the fragrant scent of exotic spices and the lilting Bollywood music is the first thing you notice—it always makes me feel excited and peaceful at the same time: excited because there is such a wonderland of items to make a meal with, peaceful because the I find the gentle sound of Indian folk music so soothing.
The owners who bought the place three years ago, Girish and Daksha Patel, from Gujarat in western India, are usually busy re-stocking or ringing up customers, but somehow they always make time to smile, say 'hello' and show me what's new.
They know I'm a bread fanatic, so Girish will be sure I see the stacks of chapatti, papadam and naan in the cooler. You don't have to visit an Indian restaurant to savor the delights of Indian breads -- they're all here, ready–to-eat, or in mixes, or everything you need to mix up your own.
Teff , by the way, is also used in Ethiopia to make their fantastic, spongy flat bread called 'injera', and that's just one of the special flours here.
Most people don't realize that India is famous for her sweets, and there is a dizzying assortment to choose from at Shivam. Gulab Jamin is a favorite around my house: fried doughnuts soaked in rose-water syrup, or Rasmali, a delicately sweetened farmer's cheese flavored with pistachio. Have some fun trying the many varieties here, either pre-packaged, or freshly made and stashed in the cooler.
Since India was conquered and held by the British for over a century, there are also plenty of English cookies and sweets available for an equally sweet price. If natural and healthy is what you want, try the delicious Tunisian dates or the fresh mango lassi, a traditional yogurt drink.
Every Wednesday fresh produce arrives from Homestead, Fla., farms and Girish can be seen piling high some beautiful purple eggplants, towers of red, ripe tomatoes, bitter melons, cucumbers, potatoes and crisp, fresh okra. If you're not sure what something is, just ask.
On both sides of the store are shelves of brightly colored Hindu art, jewelry, statues and other religious items, as well as fun household tchotchkes like key-holders and mirrors, even beauty products like face creams, shampoos and henna.
Take a look at the stacks of Bollywood movies for sale or the music CDs to find something unique and interesting to watch or listen to while you stir up your Indian specialties at home.
There are many reasons I frequent Shivam. If I want a quick Indian-style dinner I can run in for a box of delicious samosas, naan and a sweet Indian dessert, or, if I feel more adventurous there are loads of jarred sauces, spices, lentils and flours to make my own dishes; so many cakes, candies, munchies of all kind, cookies and a great assortment of cold drinks for packing a fun picnic or a quick snack.
I've also found wonderful gift items for family and friends here, and it seems there is usually something new to try or a sale, during Indian holidays, so I can hunt up bargains and BOGOs.
It's colorful, it smells delightful and there are always sweet melodies to accompany you as you shop... overall, quite a fun place to spend an afternoon.