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Where to find it: Indian snack food 

Life without barbecue potato chips — or any potato chip, for that matter — is unthinkable for an American. After all, the potato chip business is a multi-billion dollar industry here. For many Indian ex-pats living here in Charlotte, life without snacks is just as unimaginable.

Patel Brothers, an Indian grocery store in Pineville, carries several varieties of traditional Indian snacks. One of these is navratna, which is an Indian Chex Mix (without Worchester sauce). Navratna consists of fried potato sticks, dried mung beans, peanuts, cashews, lentils, puffed rice, raisins, sugar, paprika, turmeric, chili powder, and corn poha — which in American English is a corn flake. Navratna, as well as six other snacks, are located in large bins at the front of the store and sold by the pound ($3.99/lb).

Grocery store patrons told me they come to this store specifically for the navratna. The clerk noted this style of snack food is found primarily in northern India. The heat in a handful of navratna is better paired with a cold beer than a soft drink.

If you need to round out your buying spree, head to the freezer section. Indian grocery stores can be intimidating if you don't know what to do with the fresh items. But the frozen food section of Indian grocery stores is growing exponentially in the U.S. Patel has many varieties of frozen "hot" snacks such as samosas and kachoris. Locally made samosas are also sold at the checkout counter for one dollar each. Additionally, Patel Brothers carries an extensive number of ready-to-eat products under the Swad label; these items are typically made in India and brought to the U.S. by Raja Foods of Illinois.

Where to find Indian snack food: Patel Brothers, 601-605 N. Polk St., Pineville. 704-889-1670. www.patelbros.com

Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: tricia.childress@creativeloafing.com or 704-522-8334, ext 136.

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