Like the concentration of Japanese restaurants in Arlington Heights or the Russian Borscht Belt in Buffalo Grove, the Indian community has found another home -- outside of Chicago's West Rogers Park -- in a sleepy section of Schaumburg. One mall along Schaumburg Road could be called "Little India" thanks to the adjacent businesses that have set up shop there.
The endless rows of spices - including cumin and turmeric - are indications this is a serious Indian grocery store. And while the Patels do have a large branch on Devon Avenue in West Rogers Park, this location is decidedly suburban, located in Schaumburg near a growing hub of activity. Traditional sweets and snacks, including tandoori naan bread to go, offer customers a chance to cook Indian meals at home. And just a few doors away, Raj Palace uses many of those spices from the grocery store, to make its Northern Indian-focused food.
"We pretty much use cardamon, cumin seed, mustard powder and fresh ginger garlic... and cilantro," said Vijay Chauhan, the Chef and Owner of Raj Palace.
No need to buy the packaged naan though. Chauhan makes his own, including a terrific onion kulcha, or stuffed bread, and then quickly bakes them until blistered inside the tandoor - the ubiquitous vertical clay oven found in every Indian kitchen. That oven serves many purposes: it roasts salmon, as well as long skewers of ground, seasoned lamb, that take just minutes to finish, due to the high heat.
On the stove, Chauhan makes a number of curries and stews, including the classic - chiken tikka - swimming in a turmeric-laced gravy, as well as baigan bharta, an eggplant stew loaded with garlic, onions and tomatoes.
"There's like a couple dishes with the cream otherwise it's healthy. It's more healthier than. . . there's not even a fried food or anything in the Northern. It's all spices," Chauhan said.
Cool, refreshing mango lassis offer the promise of sweetened yogurt blended with mango puree.. and Chauhan says there really is no need to schlep downtown for ingredients anymore. Everything he needs - from groceries to halal meat - is all conveniently located in this hidden mall on Schaumburg Road.
"It's pretty much you know, like, Little India," he said.
There's also a video store, travel agency, and beauty salon in the mall, all of which cater to the growing Indian and Pakistani clientele in Schaumburg.
855 E. Schaumburg Rd.
Schaumburg, IL 60194
873 E Schaumburg Rd