Food: First-of-its-kind paan shop in Australia
A Mumbai businessman has made the Aussies take to paan with a first-of-its-kind sweet store Down Under
Sanjay Dhodi's mitha paan is the most popular of the three types of paan on his menu; his shop
If there was one thing that Sanjay Dhodi missed when he moved to Adelaide from Mumbai in 2008, it was his daily dose of paan. "When I was living in Andheri, my day wouldn't be complete without paan, but in Australia I couldn't find a single shop that sold paan," Dhodi tells us over the phone from his home in Parramatta, New South Wales.
The 49-year-old, who migrated to Australia for a better career prospect, sensed a business opportunity during this innocuous search for a paan store. This is when he decided to set up a grocery store, where he also introduced a small paan counter. "I had no idea how people would receive it. There was no market research or any consumer analysis involved. It was pure instinct," he says.
Durga Paan and Falooda House, is the only paan shop in Australia
Today, Dhodi runs Australia's only paan shop, Durga Paan and Falooda House on 3/14 Station Street, Harris Park, Sydney that he set up in 2014. "I realised the place has a large Indian community and a cosmopolitan crowd," says Dhodi, who runs the shop with his wife and son.
The menu includes three types of paan — mitha, saada and dark chocolate. Mitha, which is the more popular one, comes with coconut flakes, rose paste (gulkand), cardamom and betel nuts wrapped in a crispy betel leaf. Along with paan, much in demand is the kulfi and falooda, peppered with jelly and nuts, ice cream and cherries. While the paan is imported every week from India, Dhodi says the fennel seeds and gulkand are easily available in Australia. Most of his customers are from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries. The shop sees maximum business over the weekend. "Choreographer Saroj Khan, Pakistani cricketers Wahab Riaz and Umar Akmal have also dropped by," he says, adding that there are about 25 Indian restaurants in the vicinity.
Dhodi says he never had doubts on the saleability of paan. "You'll find it in the UK and the US, because you have Indians everywhere. Paan reminds them of home," he says with a smile.
However, the shop does see footfalls from curious locals too. "For them, it's the novelty factor. They haven't seen, heard or tasted anything like paan before. They often get overwhelmed by the burst of flavours, but they do like it," he signs off.