India Dukaan (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

India Dukaan: One-Stop Shop for Fresh Produce, Spices & More

June 1, 2023
By Rita Connelly

On the first and third Thursday of every month, Sukanya Bhat, owner of India Dukaan Fine Food Market on North Campbell Avenue, sends out a message on Facebook informing customers about a new shipment of fresh vegetables at the store. 

“We notify people by posting on our India Dukaan Facebook page as soon as we get the shipment, so they can receive immediate updates,” said Bhat. 

India Dukaan (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

Customers appreciate that special touch and often show up the minute the doors open. Not only do they want to get the freshest products, they know once the veggies are gone, they’re gone (at least until the next shipment.) Yes, the options may vary a little from week to week, but this is a self-contained farmer’s market, where the brightly-colored veggies call to customers to touch and feel and inhale the goods.

No glitzy, brightly-lit, or fake rain shower displays here. Instead, everything is simply displayed in the boxes they come in and set on the floor in the second room. It’s all very reminiscent of the neighborhood markets of the days before corporate super-duper grocery stores.

India Dukaan (Photo by Rita Connelly)

All of which speaks to Bhat’s commitment to finding the freshest and finest produce available in any given week.

A recent visit to the store on a day that a shipment arrived, revealed a bounty of veggies and herbs: tiny Thai chilis, huge knobs of fresh garlic, a mound of mangos, deep purple eggplant so tiny they fit in the palm of your hand, garlic galore, and herbs like turiya and bathura that make Indian cuisine so special.

Bhat offers the kind of personal service that isn’t found in all those mega markets. 

Customers rave about the store because “The people go the extra mile.” “Their prices are quite reasonable,” said Bhat. “Things like Saffron are one-fourth the cost at India Dukaan than the nearby Albertsons.” 

Most importantly, “Friendly service” is mentioned again and again on Yelp.

The Roots Go Deep

“I opened the store on October 3, 2004. I realized there is a great demand for Indian food in the Tucson community,” she said. “I wanted to help the community by providing healthy ingredients and tips to cook Indian food.”

Bhat brought a family history with her when she opened her store.

“My education and family background encouraged me to start a grocery store in Tucson. My great-grandfather started a retail grocery store in India, and my grandfather started a wholesale grocery business there as well. Both still are successfully run by my family members in India now.” 

India Dukaan (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

These days, her customers come from all over town to stock their pantries full of all the necessary goods to make delicious Indian dishes.

“The demand for Indian food is continuing to grow in the Tucson community for both Indians and non-Indians,” Bhat noted. 

But Wait, There’s More

The veggies are only a small part of what you will find at India Dukaan. Every square inch is filled with an assortment of goods (including Indian beauty products.)

Bhat loves to answer any questions customers may have no matter their cooking level. In fact, customers rave about her knowledge and passion for Indian fare and life.

India Dukaan (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

“At our store, items can be divided into three categories. First, we have all the ingredients to make Indian dishes from scratch. Second, if people are newer to cooking, I recommend pre-blended spice boxes that make it easier to get started. Lastly, for those with an active lifestyle and limited time, we also have ‘Ready to Eat’ Indian dishes for people to enjoy.”

For The “From Scratch Kitchen”

Offerings fulfill the needs of more confident cooks. You can easily fill your pantry with one trip.

Dried beans and split peas sit on shelves next to rice flour and garlic paste. Chickpeas in all forms — whole, dried, flour, and noodles — can be found.

Tucked in one corner are bottles of tomato sauce. Basmati, sono masoori, and idli rice are all there, as is rice flour. Chutneys, jams, ghee, paneer, lassi, yogurt, peanuts, and plenty more are found throughout the store. Pickled options include chili, bitter gourd, coriander, amla (Indian gooseberry,) ginger, and moringa, AKA drumsticks. 

India Dukaan (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

There is also a freezer full of many of the same vegetables found in the biweekly shipments.

And, of course, spices, spices, and spices so home chefs can blend their own curries and masalas.

The Novice Cook

For those of us, who like to cook but may be timid to try Indian cooking, there is plenty to inspire and challenge.

Packaged masalas from Bombay Birayani to Tava Fry take up several shelves. Sambar powder, a variety of idli mixes and chutney powder (to name just a few) make it easy to make breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

India Dukaan (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)
It’s Six O’Clock & I’m Hungry

Prepared foods can be found in the several refrigerators and freezers that line the walls in both rooms. The shelves hold a variety of dishes, that only need to be heated up. A nice variety of soups are available. One freezer holds pakuras and samosas. 

Snacks range from sweet, sticky Bundi laddoo to salty, savory bhel puri (both very addicting by the way.)

Teas, both traditional and herbal, are available as well.

A Teachable Moment

The store is a wonder of sights and scents, but Bhat offers her customers much more.

“Indian food is one of the healthiest cuisines —  we incorporate spices and natural ingredients while cooking Indian dishes. The spices have medicinal value. I do my best to give tips from my own experiences and help customers to get the right ingredients they need to cook good quality, healthy Indian food that tastes good too,” Bhat said. “During the COVID pandemic, more people began to cook at home and wanted to try new recipes. After visiting the store, they were able to cook based on their comfort level.”

A Fine, Fine Food Store

Like many markets that cater to a certain community, India Dukaan acts as a source of other needs.

“I not only provide ingredients for cooking Indian food, but I also connect people in the community with each other. There are several Indian groups in the community, and I share information about their events with people when they come to the store. This is especially helpful for those who are new to Tucson because they are able to get involved with the community quickly,” she said.

India Dukaan (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

“Additionally, when students come from India to study at the University of Arizona, they are able to feel more at home because they have a place to get the food that they are used to.”

Looking To The Future

As busy as she is, Bhat has other things brewing. She hopes to start hosting cooking classes. 

“I want people to be aware that they can eat flavorsome food that is also healthy and it encourages them to try making the food themselves.”

The store is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. 

India Dukaan Fine Food Market is located at 2754 N. Campbell Ave. For more information, follow India Dukaan on Facebook and call (520) 321-0408.

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Article By

Rita Connelly is the author of “Lost Restaurants of Tucson,” “Historic Restaurants of Tucson,” and “Arizona Chimichangas,”all published by The History Press. Growing up in a large Italian family instilled in her an appreciation for the important role food plays...

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