217 Bethpage Rd., Hicksville 516-931-2045
If Hicksville's Indian grocery corridor starts in the south with Patel Brothers, its new northernmost outpost is Apna Bazar, which opened Oct. 6 in what used to be Circuit City.
The Hicksville store is the seventh in the New York-New Jersey chain and, according to manager Tony Singh, it was Nassau County residents tired of making the trip to the Queens locations who urged Apna to move to Long Island.
Singh, who started with the company 16 years ago, said Apna's strategy is to offer very cheap prices in a very clean setting. "Look down this aisle," he said, gesturing toward an expanse of basmati rice and dried beans. "Every sack is neatly stacked, and there are no empty spaces." Apna's aisles are constantly patrolled by stock boys who adjust sacks and boxes. In produce, workers are vigilant about sorting and fluffing the fruits and vegetables.
Apna's produce encompasses not only the exotic - prickly skinned karela, tiny cucumber-like vegetables called tindora, eggplants of all shapes and sizes, Chinese long beans - but more prosaic oranges, apples and pears. Every type of Indian ingredient is there in profusion, but I was particularly taken with the frozen foods, 175 feet of glass-fronted cases containing all manner of curries, rice dishes, vegetables, snacks, desserts and breads. (Regarding the latter, I know from experience that frozen parathas, reheated in a hot skillet, are virtually indistinguishable from fresh.)
"When I started in this business" Singh said, "there was practically no frozen food except peas." But, he allowed, Indian families today are no less pressed for time than anyone else.