The fact that Pocatello, Idaho is home to a university makes it a hub for different cultures, communities and groups of people outside of what is typical for southeast Idaho; or Idaho in general for that matter.
One thing to consider when significant populations of new cultures appear in an area is that they bring their cuisine and palate with them. Often you can find what you need to cook traditional meals from different parts of the world in superstores; but sometimes that is not possible.
Many ingredients are not available easily either due to perishability, difficulty to source or simply the demand is too low for major corporations to stock.
Enter Kumar Roshan, a former ISU student who found himself in a position to fill a particular void.
Roshan is the owner of the Himalayan Grocery and Smoke Shop located a short walk from campus on S. 5th Avenue, in the same building as Goody’s Deli.
While the shop offers a wide variety of hookahs, pipes, tobaccos and other things you would find in a smoke shop, Roshan’s main focus is the grocery section of his store.
Himalayan specializes in providing ingredients for traditional Indian and Nepalese cooking.
The store provides easy access to a plethora of unique ingredients. All varieties of spices, cooking oils and sauces, rice, lentils and other grains, snack foods and candy are available. Even fresh produce is stocked with the likes of fresh curry leaves and Indian okra.
The name is derived from the mountain range that forms the northern regions of India and much of Nepal.
“When you see ‘Himalayan’, you immediately think of that region. I wanted people to immediately associate the name with what the store provides,” Roshan said.
Roshan graduated from ISU in 2016 with degrees in finance and accounting. According to Roshan, he wanted to someday be an entrepreneur but never imagined that he would start this early. He came across a deal that was too good to pass up. The location that the store is located in previously held a similar store that closed. Once that store and other local Indian groceries closed there was a void in the area of where to buy authentic ingredients.
Roshan, among many others, would previously drive to Salt Lake City, Utah in order to buy ingredients when he wanted to cook specific dishes. That’s over 150 miles, a two-and-a-half hour drive.
He saw the need and demand and decided to pool his resources and open his shop.
The largest struggle for Roshan has been figuring out how to best source inventory and manage the grocery.
The fact that his store is one of the few places to buy these types of ingredients in the area just means that he has picked up the struggle of obtaining the inventory to take the pressure off his customers.
Many items are only available from Salt Lake City, or either the east or west coast, so finding a way to combine all of those separate orders from suppliers into a reasonable amount of delivers is challenging.
“Also, a lot of [suppliers] don’t want to come into Pocatello, you know,” he added laughing, commenting on the size of the community.
Figuring out exactly which items he needs to serve his customers is another key point Roshan is focusing on. If there is enough demand for product he does not carry, he will find a way to source it.
Because he was not totally prepared within his first year, he was not able to participate in Welcome Back Orange and Black at the beginning of this academic year, something that he was very disappointed in.
Roshan also works with Continuing Education Workforce Training on campus by teaching cooking courses. The two current courses feature Himalayan homestyle pan fried chicken with puffed rice salsa and Himalayan homestyle fried lentil soup and pulao, a dish very similar to rice pilaf.