Little India

Artesia’s Pioneer Boulevard will make you forget that the subcontinent is more than 8,000 miles away
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Map by Michael Newhouse

 

Imagine Mumbai’s Crawford Market in miniature—bustling fruit stalls, colorful sari shops, vendors hawking Bollywood DVDs—and you’ll have a good sense of Little India. Situated in Artesia, about 13 miles southeast of downtown L.A., Little India was home in the ’20s and ’30s to Dutch and Portuguese farmers, who tapped the artesian groundwater that gave the city its name to build a dairy empire. Today that spirit of entrepreneurship drives Bengali and Punjabi storekeepers. Artesia is also home to the historic Artesia Water Tower—not as spectacular as the Ganges but a lot less polluted.

1. Pioneer Cash & Carry
Locals frequent this expansive corner grocery for the tastes of home, including Wagh Bakri loose black tea, Badshah masalas, and dried tamarind. Seasonal produce, like lychees, mangoes, and fenugreek leaves, costs three times as much at your neighborhood Ralphs. » 18601 Pioneer Blvd., 562-809-9433.

Bhindi Jewellers 
2.Bhindi Jewellers
Three generations of Bhindis run this 20-year-old shop, which carries a collection of 22-karat gold and diamond jewelry created for the store. The marble-floored space showcases everything from traditional Indian bridal pieces such as mangalsutras to contemporary rings encrusted with semiprecious stones like yellow tourmaline and pink sapphire. » 18508 Pioneer Blvd., 562-402-8755
 

3. Rajdhani
This vegetarian Gujarati-style restaurant is known for its all-you-can-eat thali (plates), but don’t expect a standard buffet setup: Waiters dispense fragrant dishes tableside, including dhokla (steamed gram flour squares), stir-fried okra, puris (puffy fried bread), and syrupy-sweet carrot halwa. Snag a seat on the palm-fringed patio, and be sure to try the khichdi—a lentil and rice stew topped with a generous dollop of ghee (clarified butter) that is Indian comfort food at its finest. » 18525 Pioneer Blvd., 562-402-9102.

Ziba Music 
4. Ziba Music & Gift
From 1960’s Mughal-E-Azam, a Bollywood love story as iconic as Casablanca, to modern hits like 2001’s Monsoon Wedding, this Indian entertainment emporium stocks the most impressive selection of music and movies on the block. » 11808 186th St., 562-402-5194
 

5. Saffron Spot
Canary yellow walls and purple Jetson-style chairs impart a cheery vibe to this ice cream parlor, but it’s the flavors—Saffron Silk (saffron with rose and pistachio), mawa kulfi (creamy cardamom)—that bring customers back. Owner Smita Vasant, who got her start selling the sweet stuff to local stores and restaurants, mixes everything on-site. » 18744 Pioneer Blvd., 562-809-4554.

6. Books N Bits
Copies of the Bhagavad Gita, cookbooks by Tarla Dalal (the Julia Child of Gujarati cooking), and illustrated children’s stories about the Hindu epic the Ramayana line the shelves of this pint-size bookstore. Look for popular South Asia-centric titles, including Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy and Shashi Tharoor’s India: From Midnight to the Millennium. » 11806 186th St., 562-809-9110.

Little India 1 

7. Maanavi’s
Browse through lehriya (diagonally striped) stoles in kelly green and cobalt blue at this five-month-old boutique. Intricately beaded chiffon and crepe saris are elegant exceptions to the mostly casual clothing. » 18762 Pioneer Blvd., 562-402-8430.

8. Lobo Beauty
The threading and waxing salon is less than a year old, but owner Ida D’Silva has been making house calls for more than a decade, shaping brows with a gentle touch in an unhurried manner. Five treatment rooms provide privacy. » 17901 Pioneer Blvd., 562-809-7376.

9. Udupi Palace
At this no-frills diner, the specialty is South Indian food, with rice reigning as the staple ingredient compared with meat-heavy northern fare. Try the kanchipuram idlis, steamed rice cakes studded with shredded carrot and nuts (served on weekends only), or the crispy, two-foot-long paper dosa. Both come with sambar, a lentil soup laden with vegetables, and shredded coconut chutney. » 18635 Pioneer Blvd., 562-860-1950.

Photographs by Mindee Choi

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