The Search for International Grocery Items is Getting Harder in NYC

When Gayatri Miryala, who lives in northern New Jersey, stocked her kitchen with spices and groceries on March 13 to prepare for the novel coronavirus pandemic shutdown, she was hopeful that her supplies would get her through. “I thought the Indian grocery stores would reopen in two weeks,” she says. She stashed her pantry with a few staples that can be hard to find in standard American grocery stores: urad, toovar, and mung lentils, as well as some rice and ghee.

But after her supplies diminished quickly, she panicked. It was becoming increasingly hard to find specialty grocery retailers that were still open. Stores that were doing deliveries have limited windows of opportunity to place orders, while others have closed completely. Instead of using fresh curry leaves in dishes, she skipped them, and instead of ghee, she started to use peanut oil. And to get what she absolutely needed, she would go to busy shops in person.

“We were very scared to go shopping where people are so crammed and jam-packed, but there was no other way around it,” she says.

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