Hiding in a semi-sketchy looking shopping strip behind the Sonic on #1 Highway is an unassuming little market called Oriental Groceries whose name may mislead you to think Asian when it in fact sells all things Indian. West Columbia may not seem like the ideal place for an Indian grocery but on a Saturday afternoon there were enough people in there that backtracking down aisles was necessary in a few instances.
Indian cuisine is a very flavorful as evidenced by the incredibly long spice aisle at Oriental Groceries. They sell packaged bulk spices in amounts that make you wonder if you’ll ever be able to use it all. Also in the “incredibly large bags” category are 15 lb sacks of rice in the $15 range, and four pounds of chickpeas for $4.99, for example. I took advantage of the huge bag of chickpeas and decided to comparison shop at 14 Carrot in Lexington later on where I found that one pound of organically grown chickpeas are $2.89 a pound, where these from the Indian grocery cost me $1.25 per pound. They aren’t grown organically but I personally am willing to forgo that for the price difference and save $1.64 a pound on chickpeas because I go through a cup and a half a week making my own hummus.
Speaking of hummus, the main reason for my stop to OG was to pick up tahini which normally costs around $7 a pop in Publix but only runs $4.49 here, another way to save even more on homemade hummus. The last item I picked up today was fresh garlic heads at $1.25 for five heads, or .25 apiece.
More less expensive than the grocery store finds that I caught up on today where this jar of ghee for $3.99, though they did have higher-priced versions available.
I can’t recall how much sweet chili sauce goes for at the grocery store but here at OG it was $3.99 for this huge bottle!
If you’ve ever wanted an unusual flavor of chutney or a pickled anything, this is your paradise- a whole row of pickled, chutneyed, preserved fruits and vegetables that you never even thought you could want.
In the spirit of flavors you never knew you wanted, this basil juice is incredibly intriguing to me but I wasn’t in the mood to drop $4.49 on it today. The aloe vera juice which I am sure would be excellent, was even more ringing in at over $7.
The great savings come in at the fruits and vegetables table as long as you know what to do with said fruits and vegetables. The prices really were solid on things that I could identify such as garlic, red onions, eggplant, and ginger root. Also on the table were lychee nuts, a lime green butternut squash type thing, some okay looking tomatoes, and others as seen below. I was asking the woman running the register about some of them and she was very kind and patient, telling me what they were called and in some cases how to eat them.
The one thing I really wanted to get but passed on this time was paneer because it was frozen and I was headed out into Lexington. Paneer is Indian cheese and has a texture very similar to tofu. I had it once at Punjaba Dhabi in a dish with a tomato based sauce poured on top, and that’s what I am imagining doing to this paneer one day in the near future. It was $5.99 for this package pictured below which is still much less than it goes for in Earth Fare, the only other place I’ve spotted it around town.
There are a lot of prepackaged just-add-water and cook type Indian food in the store, as well as pre-made desserts in the freezer case, and bundles of fresh herbs as well. If you’re interested in making your own Indian cuisine or are looking for that hard to find ingredient listed in a cookbook, this very well may be the place to look. If you’re interested in saving money on staples like rice, chickpeas, vegetables, herbs and spices, this may be the place for you too. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in here, they are very welcoming and make you feel like you belong here just as much as if you’d been born in India. Oriental Groceries is closed on Mondays and is located at 2410 Augusta Road in West Columbia, behind the Sonic.