America is increasingly going Deep

As we all move forward in this brave new era of increasingly visible South Asian influence in America (an era henceforth referred to as Post-Sepia, or Post-Sepiaism), I would like to point out the kudzu-like ubiquity of Deep Brand foods. In the last 2-3 years in particular this stuff has just exploded. In the early 80s South Asian Americans were relegated to going to the lone Indian store in town when they wanted to get their samosa or “Hot Mix” on. Now this stuff is everywhere. I dare any of you to find a reasonably sized grocery store that doesn’t have multiple lines of Deep branded food. Hot Pockets, shhmott pockets. Why not Babu pockets? Yes, I know I am going to hell for pointing people to processed packaged food that I myself will hardly ever touch. Still, there is something comforting knowing that in the future “Abhi junior’ will have the option of having a Babu pocket as an after school, pre-dinner snack. Deep Brand in particular (among all other brands of packaged Indian food) bares mention as it seems to be aggressively cornering its market in the U.S. It is also a rather interesting success story:

Deep Foods, Inc. is a family-owned and operated manufacturer of authentic all natural Indian cuisine since 1977

In the early ’70s Mrs. Bhagwati Amin’s passion for good authentic cuisine gave birth to a hobby. Mrs. Amin had a passion for sharing the cuisine and culture from her homeland. She served up delicious food to friends and neighbors. Soon, small Indian storeowners sought her abilities. As she worked in a clothing mill on weekdays, she would work nights and weekends to satisfy her desire to make and serve high quality foods for the community. Many advised her to open a restaurant. She knew that the time required to run a restaurant would detract her from the family’s need. For this reason, she opted not to start a restaurant.

In a short time her products became popular. Mrs. Amin’s husband, working as an accountant in AT&T at the time, was always eagerly supporting her endeavors. In 1977, he helped Mrs. Amin Incorporate her hobby into a fledgling business.

As the business grew, she never lost sight of producing authentic, quality products. No short cuts were taken that would compromise the quality of the products. Her concern and personal interest for the well being of all her employees earned a great deal of respect from them…

From the humble beginnings of a home kitchen, to the state-of-the-art production facilities and multiple distribution centers, Mrs. Amin has adhered to the original principles of quality and authenticity following a traditional family code of ethics. Today, Deep Foods Group has approximately 1800 employees through its seven locations and over 500,000 square feet of production and distribution space. The company follows her philosophy and believes that there can be no compromise between people, quality, and innovation. Staying within the roots of why Mrs. Amin formed the company, she and her husband Arvind have formed a Non Profit Foundation in India. Out of the success of Deep Foods has grown a foundation that helps the children of India to obtain an education where it would not be possible without their help. Deep Foods, Inc. produces the finest quality foods seeking to provide authentic taste experiences for customers while providing a sound environment and growth opportunities for its employees. [Link]

Maybe the big boys are starting to notice. I learned this past week (perhaps way after most of you) that Costco sells a 30 pack of uncooked whole wheat roti. Just fire up the pan and serve up fresh roti. Can’t be as good as my mom’s but with my long working hours I won’t complain too hard. Have any of you tried it? Is it any good? Pillsbury has been serving up this stuff for a while now.

And now for the fun part. It is time once again to share your Indian packaged food hacks. Take one part packaged food and one part home cooking and tell me about a dish I should be occasionally serving.

Sepia Surgeon General’s Warning: Abhi strongly advises against buying too much packaged food. Never let more than 15% of your weekly grocery bill be attributed to food that comes in a package. Stick to the perimeter of the grocery store. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other ailments are rising too quickly in our community.

64 thoughts on “America is increasingly going Deep

  1. I’m sure there are others, but there is a fair amount of turnover, so New Asha is the one I still know–haha, I usually show up every few months and take home a huge amount of food! They will make what you want if you call ahead, and it’s good!

  2. Has anyone noticed how Indian grocery stories GLADLY and GREEDILY sell expired food? Packets all lined up, well past expiry date. Many don’t even print the date anymore on the packets. They wouldn’t dare do that in India because things move fast and the consumer is also well aware, but here in the US either people assume stores in this country don’t cheat, or they don’t have an option but to buy it. USDA has no budget to regulate them, so these grocery stores operate with impunity. Every time I’ve pointed out expired food in Indian stores, the friendly gujju uncles/aunties would exclaim in mild disbelief, knowing very well they plan to do absolutely nothing about it.

  3. ok, so i checked out their menu – what’s good? i’m not extremely familiar with sri lankan food – some of it i knew, but some of it i had never heard of. i do love a good idiyappam – a few of the sri lankan stores in jamaica sell red rice ones – yum!

  4. Chikesh, ha ha. I noticed that. Especially the smaller indian stores. I once got a LIMCA that was priced at 50 cents(usually it’s a dollar). My cousin asked me to check the expiration. Not all bottles have one, but this one did and it was dated a few months prior to that day.

    Usually there is a buffer for legal reasons on those expiration dates for western products. But with Indian goods, that date may be a realistic one.

  5. “And yes…the tables are a little unkept”

    b mahesh, Yes I will have a car…thanks for the advice…and as far as unkept table, That’s one of my clues to find really good places…I’ve found strangely that a tiny bit of dirt is essential to have really awesome food…In Vietnam especially, but all over the world.

  6. I like Deep’s roshmalai. It’s not home cooking, but Deep does have a less of a preserved, bland taste to their taste. They taste like real food, even if doused in preservatives.

    But the sad truth is we wouldn’t need all this if the wimmenz would just stay home and make sammiches in the kitchen. End of an era.

    1. Paneer parathas (the frozen kind – obviously, Deep) with cucumber raita. (I’m not a fan of boondi – it’s too given to go mushy very quickly).

    2. About the canned rasgulla thing – throw away the sugar syrup (no one needs that much sugar!) and cpok ’em up in two to three cups of milk to get a rabri like consistency. Finish it off with slivered almonds or pistachios (or both) and seasonally, serve hot or cold. It’s a great rasmallai substitute for home without the labor.

  7. Take one or two Soan Papdi squares from any desi grocery store and mush them into a cup of vanilla ice cream and you’ll get insanely addictive Ice Papdi. You heard it here first!

    Better known is the gulab jamun and vanilla ice cream combination. For best results, the gulab jamuns are made from Gits-style mix, but even if they come out of a can, do warm them up first before eating with ice cream.

  8. jyotsana – the place is called Kabob Palace – it’s got the best chola around!

  9. My wife and I discovered the Babu pockets a few months ago at a local desi grocery store. They are the BEST frozen snacks we have had EVER. The Paneer Tikka pocket was simply outstanding. We liked the pockets so much, we literally bought 20 boxes of Babu pockets and cleared out the entire Paneer Tikka line.

    The Babu pockets come in handy whenever we need to make quick snacks for ourselves and our kids. I wish that these Babu pockets were available when I was a kid as the frozen vegetarian snack options were few and far between in the 1980s. Now that’s one less thing for my kids to worry about! It’s good to be an American desi in the 21st century.

    As for the dosas and South Indian food – you need to be married to someone from South India to really enjoy the real taste of South India. I was very, very lucky to have married my wife who grew up in South India in a Gujarati family. She’s an expert in making authentic dosa mixes from scratch (we have two grinders at home) and EVERY WEEK, the whole family enjoys crispy dosas, thick uttapams, fluffy idlis, and fried idlis that taste like something straight out of a popular hole-in-the-wall joint in Tamil Nadu. I’m eating at least $100 worth of dosas, uttapam, and idlis EVERY WEEK. We haven’t been to a South Indian restaurant in the U.S. in 12 YEARS.

  10. Agree with Rabindranath at #2 about going paleo (or primal, it’s more flexible; really just low-carb in general).. the typical Indian diet is incredibly bad for our bodies (hello diabetes!), so it’s kind of ironic to see people giving each other recommendations about how to make a meal ‘healthy’ that have almost nothing healthy in them to begin with. I convinced my mother to quit eating wheat products and most other grains and she lost the weight she’d been adding on the last few years, and her osteoarthritis even lessened.

    I do miss rice with yogurt and mango pickle, or a nice hot masala dosa with coconut chutney and sambar sigh, or idli with ginger pickle… but those have just become occasional treats.

  11. Please? Could someone recommend a really good desi restaurant in Chicago? I’ve lived in this area for 15 years; besides Vermilion (off Hubbard) and Marigold (further North), have yet to eat anything besides the lazy tikka masala crap the Devon Street people dish out.

  12. @Rokeach.. Try Marigold or Vermilion. The latter is Indian/Latin fusion. I’ve heard great things about Vermilion, nothing about Marigold but it looks interesting.

    True, some of the restaurants on Devon aren’t worth their salt, but I still like Udupi.