Revealing Two Hidden Treasures

Jo McGarry
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Friday - May 26, 2006
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India Market owner Shereen Khan offers specialty items and ethnic foods at ‘reasonable’ prices
India Market owner Shereen
Khan offers specialty items
and ethnic foods at
‘reasonable’ prices

Those who enjoy shopping for hard-to-find ingredients, eating healthy food or cooking exotic dishes at home may enjoy a trip to a quiet corner of Honolulu where two interesting food stops await.

India Market and The Well Bento sit on the ground and first floor levels, respectively, of a small mall just off Beretania beside University Avenue.

The unassuming surroundings do nothing to pronounce the food treasures that lie within both establishments.

India Market is the brainchild of owner Shereen Khan, a former flight attendant who, with more than 20 years experience traveling the world, decided to gather some of the best food finds in one place.

“I’ve lived in Honolulu for almost 15 years and I’ve always been somewhat disappointed in the range of Indian and other ethnic foods on offer,” he says. So, after three years or more of research, Khan opened India Market and now sells some of those elusive ingredients. Ghee, halva, nan bread, Bulgarian sheep’s milk, corned beef and lady fingers all share shelf space with olives, stuffed grape leaves, cookies, desserts, marinated stuffed peppers, pickles and chutney.

And if you love Indian curry but can’t ever find the right ingredients to make one at home, then you need look no further. Biryani paste, chicken tikka masala sauce, tandoori marinades and a powerful dry rub for chicken are just some of the items you’ll find here. Rice, breads and an assortment of dried herbs and spices are on sale for less than I’ve seen them in other specialty stores, and Kahn says that he keeps the prices as low as possible. His aim, he admits, is to “get people the things they want at the most reasonable price.”

Above Kahn’s delightful shop in this outdated mini mall sits another of the most unassuming food sources in town. The Well Bento serves a variety of take-out macrobiotic fusion meals that taste considerably more appealing than they sound. Walk to the second level of the structure and you’ll find The Well Bento - basically just a kitchen with a table for customers to order and pay. Easiest way to get food is to call ahead (usually orders don’t take more than about 15-20 minutes), but as there’s nowhere to sit and wait, it’s best to phone first. The food is tasty and far more flavorful than you anticipate from the menu descriptions. They even have a selection of “transitional” dishes for those who like the idea of eating in a healthier way, but who can’t quite tear themselves away from meat.

The healthiest bento in this super-healthy restaurant is the Zen Macrobiotic, a plate of boiled root vegetables that includes kabocha, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions and daikon, beans and hijiki for $6.95 (I know, they just don’t sound that appetizing - but trust me, they really are good!) There’s an excellent Grilled Salmon plate (all the plates are served with “healthy” mac salad, coleslaw and tahini over brown rice) for $8.25 along with a Hamburger Steak ($7.50) that might not have the added oomph all the extra fat and grease impart, but it’s a really tasty alternative. The Grilled Chicken plates are worth trying too, particularly the sweet and spicy Louisiana-style plate smothered in Cajun spices and then grilled.

The Well Bento has some of the healthiest plates around, and if you’re seriously looking to make some changes to your diet, I think you’ll love the food from these committed owners.

Well Bento (941-5261) and India Market (946-2020) are both located at 2570 Beretania St.

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