Little Bangladesh Offers Big Flavors

People come from all over So Cal to find authentic Bengali foods and culture.


Walking through Little Bangladesh, the spices are distinct when it hits your nose. Cinnamon, cumin, cloves mixed with the smell of the grimy L.A. streets. On weekends, Bengali people flock to the area to drink traditional tea, eat authentic foods and sweets, and grocery shop for items not found in mainstream stores. This area, located in 10 blocks of Central Los Angeles, is a second home to Bengali people all Southern California. It is also home to some 30,000 residents, many immigrants from Bangladesh.

But little Bangladesh is fairly new, having not been established until 2010.

Growing up as a first generation child born and raised in West Covina, California, I was teased for not knowing enough about my cultural roots. My family even had a nickname for the kids of our generation: “American Born Confused Desi’s” aka A.B.C.D’s.

According to Urban Dictionary, the term Desi means “one from our country;” a national opposed to a foreigner. It usually refers to people from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. For me, being ABCD. means being seen as brown and not knowing enough about either American or Desi culture.

Tradition & Culture Vs. Me

Their judgement felt unfair. I did not live the life my parents did, therefore I did not have the same image or knowledge of my ethnic roots. I dressed up traditionally about once a year on a Muslim holiday called Eid and roamed around not really knowing the actual reason why we celebrated. All I really knew was that it is a holiday just for us and one that was very special to us.

All dolled up, but why?

I was also out of touch with the people, the food, the music, and everything associate with being Desi. I was too busy growing up with American customs to explore the other side to me that I was not in touch with; the Desi side.

As a little girl my parents would drag me with them to Little Bangladesh almost every week. I would dread going and never really paid attention to what they were buying or the foods they were so eager to eat. It wasn’t until recently that I realized what my parents were trying to do by taking me with to Little Bangladesh. They were trying to instill in me a sense of pride for our ethnic roots and give me some background on what Desi culture meant to them. I will always remember something my grandpa told me:

“ You, sweetie, are American of Bengali decent, so never let your family discourage you.”

I never understood this until now. It was contradictory to being called an ABCD. It meant that my features may look like the rest of my family’s, but it did not mean we are the same. Being Bengali is a natural thing for my parents. It’s where they were born and it is all they knew until they moved to America. For me, embracing my Bengali side is a day-to-day learning experience, not only for me but for my brother and our future generations.

Every time I visit Little Bangladesh, it helps my brother and I feel closer to our culture and more able to relate to the family we have in Bangladesh. But at the time in Los Angeles when we would visit, there was no official recognition for this Bengali community. There were just a few stores that carried products imported directly from Bangladesh.

People like my parents would drive from all over Southern California to purchase things that they could not get their hands on anywhere else. This is what drew in Southeast Asians like my family and others.

Every week, we would come with our grocery shopping list for things such as halal meat, fresh produce, traditional meeshti (sweets) and spices.

Spices! We’re all about our seasonings!
Frozen goods

As the community started to expand, more people of the community started to petition to make this area official and documented.

In late 2010 Little Bangladesh became an official city of Los Angeles. In January 2011, the first sign went up.

Third Street and New Hampshire.

Today, the community continues to expand with people of all different ethnic backgrounds who come here to try the different foods and to experience a different atmosphere on every corner.

Kabobs & Naan
Chicken Biryani.
Bengali’s are all about their desserts!

Visitors can find everything from authentic Bengali food to a new,and hip fusion food that combines the American palette with Bengali spices.

There are at least six large stores that each have specific things that make them different from each other. One store might have fresh sweets being made and the other might have imported Bengali fish. Each store holds importance to the community.

Some of the most renown stores in Little Bangladesh are:

  1. Bangla Bazaar: 4205 1/2 W. Third St.; (213) 380–4070

2. Swadesh: 4153 W. Third St.; (213) 386–7799.

3. Deshi: 3723 W. Third St.; (213) 389–9644.

4. Biryani Kabob House: 3525 W. Third St.; (213) 384–3570,

5. Aladin Sweets & Market: 139 S. Vermont Ave.; (213) 382–9592.

Every time I visit, I still see the same familiar smiles and smell the same spices. And each time, I learn a little bit more about the culture. Maybe you can give it a try if you’e in the Los Angeles area. You just might like it!