Where to Buy Indian Ingredients in New York City

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Rounding up Indian ingredients in New York City has been my biggest challenge yet.

The difficulties hit right from the start when I was drafting my shopping list. As I delved into my research, my grocery list kept growing. I've tried to keep this post under control to keep it useful—so it's a bit long, just take from it what applies to you.

Once I got out to my shopping, several of the stores I heard about in the outer boroughs had closed. And, unlike in Chinatown or in some of the Mexican neighborhoods, not much else has cropped up in their places. My biggest piece of advice in hunting for Indian groceries: call ahead before visiting a store and make sure it still exists.

When I did find open stores, several shopkeepers seemed suspicious; more than one was convinced that I was worked for the city of New York. A few said they didn't want to be featured, even if it would mean bringing them more business. As a result I do not have prices recorded in all cases. The good news about a staff that pays attention, however, is that you'll most likely get more help searching for what you need if you decide to check out any of these places.

The shopping guide, after the jump »

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[Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

The areas of New York with the highest concentration of Indian stores are Murray Hill in Manhattan (dubbed "Curry Hill") and a several-block area of Jackson Heights in Queens. There used to be more stores in Flushing, Queens, and Crown Heights and Flatbush in Brooklyn, but I encountered several of my disappointments in these areas. In Flushing, there is still a Patel Brothers, a megastore that has outposts in Jackson Heights and Jersey City as well.

Most people know about Kalustyan's in Manhattan; it's legendary for its wide array of spices and international goods, and is even a tourist destination. Although you'll almost certainly be able to find what you want there, chances are their price is high and what they have is not necessarily the best quality to be found, according to Chef Suvir Saran of Dévi and author of Indian Home Cooking and American Masala.

Instead, Saran touts Kalustyan's neighbor, Foods of India, as your best bet. Saran cannot recommend this place highly enough. In an email correspondence, he gushed about how it is the only Indian grocery store he would ever go to in New York City and how he trusts it more than all other stores in America. Pretty much anything on my list you can find at Foods of India; and if they don't have it Saran assures me that they will order it for you.

A taxi driver told me he goes to Curry Hill for a taste of home when he's eating out, but to shops in Jackson Heights for better prices. Saran says that he will venture to Jackson Heights for fresh vegetables, but for everything else he prefers the quality at Foods of India. He compares Patel Brothers to Sam's Club, whereas he equates Foods of India with Dean & Deluca—though the prices are not as steep.

Dairy

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Saag Paneer [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Paneer: Perhaps one of the most well-known Indian dishes is Saag Paneer—spinach and Indian curd cheese. Chef Saran says that Nanak paneer is the best you can find in the U.S. Luckily, it is carried at almost every Indian grocery. Apna Bazaar stocks 400 gram blocks. Little India has 8 oz squares for $4.99, 14 oz blocks for $5.99, and 12 oz low fat blocks for $4.99. A 14 oz block at Kalustyan's was $6.99.

Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960 (map); Little India, 128 East 28th Street, New York, NY, 212-683-1691 (map); Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451 (map).‎

Dahi (yogurt): Used to thicken sauces, marinate meats, cool down spicy dishes and to make thick, cooling lassis, yogurt is a staple in the Indian kitchen. If you're looking to cook with it, check out these recipes for raita and salted lassi.

The most prevalent brand is Desi. You can buy whole milk or fat-free containers at almost any Indian grocery. At Patel Brothers, a 2 lb carton of Whole Milk Indian style yogurt was $1.99, and Fat Free was $2.49. Little India and Apna carry 5 lb tubs as well as 2 lb tubs of Desi.

Patel Brothers, multiple locations, www.patelbros.com; Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960 (map); Little India, 128 East 28th Street, New York, NY, 212-683-1691 (map)

Produce

Apna, Patel Brothers, and Megna are good bets if there is a vegetable or fruit missing from these list that you would like to find. They have fresh and frozen produce ranging from snake gourds to Punjabi tinda. For the sake of keeping this post readable, I'm not going to go through them all, but here are some of the staples.

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[Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Okra: Okra, perhaps known in America for its role in gumbo, is characteristic of Northern Indian cuisine. It is used in stir-fries or pickles and is also deep-fried. I found it selling for a range of prices. At Subzi Mandi it was $1.49/lb, while a few blocks away it was $2.29/lb at the Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights. At the Patel Grocery (unrelated to Patel Brothers) in Sunset Park it was going for $3.49/lb, but looked a little sad. And at the Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center it was $3.99/lb. It is traditionally a summer vegetable, but it grows year-round in the American south. Look for tender but firm pods that aren't too short but aren't too long.

Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960 (map); Patel Brothers, multiple locations, www.patelbros.com; Patel Grocery, 5303 4th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY‎, 718-748-6369‎ (map).

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[Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Banana Flowers: These blossoms look too cool not to include in my list. They are used in stews, soups and stir fries, as well as fried in cakes. They are extremely healthy, packing potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. Pick ones that are firm and tight. Haat Bazaar Grocery had some good looking ones.

Haat Bazaar Grocery, 37-11 73rd St, Queens, NY, 718-205-8588 (map).

Ginger: Ginger is not hard to come by in New York; an Indian ingredient, it's part of the American pantry as well. It is worth pointing out, however, that ginger is often less expensive at Indian grocery stores. The Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center was selling it for $4.99/lb, whereas ginger at Apna was $1.29/lb.

Whole Foods, multiple locations; Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960, (map).

Indian Mangoes: While you can find mangoes at most Indian grocery stores, most of them they are from Mexico or Haiti, not India. Fresh Indian mangoes are a real treat. You can find them at Patel Brothers, where you can only buy them by the case, not individually. They had them at both locations in Queens: Flushing and Jackson Heights.

Patel Brothers, multiple locations, www.patelbros.com

Pantry

Mustard oil: Mustard oil bottles are marked not for consumption, but many Bengali and eastern Indian recipes call for it. The oil makes spicy dishes a little less biting and easier to digest; it should be brought to its smoking point before cooking. If you dare to use it, be sure the bottle you get looks fresh. I saw several, particularly in a few stores in Brooklyn, with labels that looked quite old and bottles that were greasy, such as the Tez and Darbur Mustard Oil at Purnima Halal Meat and Grocery.

Dual Specialty Store stocks 16oz bottles of Dabur Pure Indian Mustard Oil for $5.75, 8.5oz of KTC Mustard Oil for $3.75 and Tez Mustard Oil for $4.75. Kalustyan's had Laxmi in 16 oz bottles and 8 oz bottles $6.99 and $3.99 respectively, as well as KTC, Tez and Radhuni brands. Apna stocks a 5-liter bottle of Moyo Mustard Oil for $19.99, as well as smaller bottles of KTC mustard oil.

Dual Specialty Store, 91 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212-979-6045, (map)‎; Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451, (map); Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960, (map).

Ghee: India's main cooking oil, ghee, is clarified butter. You can make your own ghee by heating unsalted butter in a pot until the water is boiled off. Turn off the heat and let the milk solids settle at the bottom. Then spoon off the clarified butter. Another method calls for using yogurt.

You can also buy jars of ghee. Look for the ones made from cows' milk; the vegetable ones are made using hydrogenated oils. Subzi Mandi has a full range of ghee, selling Moyo, Deep, Nanak, Laxmi and Joy brands. Kalustyan's stocks their own vegetable ghee in 8 oz jars for $4.99. They also sell their own 100% pure cow ghee for $5.99 in 8 oz containers and $9.99 for 16 oz, as well as Bhavani 100% pure cow ghee. Vrindivan is one of the most common brands. At Indian Spicy & Grocery, it was $8.99; at Patel Brothers it comes in four sizes: 8 oz., 1 lb, 2 lb, and 4lb for $4.99, $7.99, $14.99, and $32.99 respectively.

Subzi Mandi, 72-30 37th Avenue, Queens, NY, 718-457-1848 (map); Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451 (map); Indian Spicy and Grocery, 135 East 28th Street, New York, NY‎, 212-213-8499 (map); Patel Brothers, multiple locations, www.patelbros.com.

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[Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Poppadams (papad):
These thin crispy flatbreads are served at the beginning of the meal. Lijjat papad seem to be the preferred brand. They were 99 cents at Patel Brothers, which was the best price I could find, and come in all flavors from garlic to green chili to jeera.

Patel Brothers, multiple locations, www.patelbros.com

Chutneys: Saran stocks his pantry with Tamarind-Date Chutney, as well as Swad brand Mint and Cilantro Chutney, for the occasions when he doesn't have time to prepare his own. Foods of India carries jars of Deep Tamarind-Date Chutney for $5.49; Apna sells Deep Tamarind-Date chutney. Patel Brothers has Swad chutneys for $2.99.

Patel Brothers, multiple locations, www.patelbros.com; Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map).

Pickles and Preserves: An Indian pantry is never complete without pickles and preserves. Saran likes the Ahmed brand Mixed Pickle and Mango Pickle (because they remind him of the kind his mother makes); they are typical of Northern Indian cuisine. Little India sells both for $2.49. Saran also recommends Ruchi's Gongura pickle, which Foods of India sells for $2.49 and Patel Brothers for $2.29.

Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map); Little India, 128 East 28th Street, New York, NY, 212-683-1691 (map).

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[Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Rose Water: You can find rose water in several Indian desserts and drinks, including lassis. Subzi Mandi sells Deep Rose Water for $4.99 as well as 7 Roses Rose Water for $1.99. At Dual Specialty Store, 7 Roses was $2.95. Kalustyan's stocks over six different kinds, which range from $3.99 to $9.99. You can also buy rose syrup, though they tend to be artificially flavored. Chung's Market had some.

Subzi Mandi, 72-30 37th Avenue, Queens, NY, 718-457-1848 (map); Dual Specialty Store, 91 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212-979-6045 (map); Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451 (map); Chung's Market, 12-28 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718-636-6194 (map).

Mango pulp: I love mango lassis almost as much as I love mango with coconut sticky rice—especially in this heat. You can recreate your own favorite version using a can of mango pulp (which is what they use in most restaurants and cafes). The secret: canned mango pulp gets you closer to a restaurant version than using a fresh mango because it has added sugar. Less healthy and fresh, maybe, but delicious and refreshing, and better than any of the pre-made bottled versions I found.

At Foods of India, find cans of Hampa Alphonso Mango Pulp $2.99, Ratna Alphonso Mango Pulp $3.99, and Maya Kesar Mango Pulp $4.49. I'm partial to the Alphonso variety, particularly Ratna's. India Bazaar (whose shopkeeper told me they might be closing soon) had Deep Mango pulp.

Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map).

Pulses, Grains, Beans

Next to spices, pulses (dried seeds of beans and peas) are the most varied sort of Indian ingredients. I still find it difficult to keep them all straight, especially since each store and brand labels them differently.

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Peeli Dal from Brick Lane Curry House [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Pulses and lentils are also often called dals or dahls, though technically a dal is a special preparation of a pulse, which has been skinned and split. Dal is also the name of the thick stew made from lentils. Swad brand carries a whole variety and are carried by most Indian groceries, especially some of the smaller ones who don't stock their own brands.

For the best quality, Saran recommends Foods of India again. In general, favor buying them from stores that stock their own packages, since that tends to be an indicator of better quality, as long as it looks like there is movement on their shelves. Saran cautions: "If lentils are clinging to the plastic that they are packed in, and lentils are broken or sticky looking, it is a sure sign of a very long shelf time."

Mung dal (Moong dhal): These are dried whole or split beans. Their skin is green, but the insides are yellow. Northern Indian cuisine features them in soups. At Foods of India they were $4.99 for a 2 lb bag, either split or whole. Kalustyan's were also $4.99 for a 2 lb bag of whole beans; unhulled and split moong were $8.99 for 4 lbs and $2.99 for 14 oz. Whole Foods sells split mung beans for $3.99/lb. Meghna's whole moong were $2.49 for 2 lbs. At Apna Bazaar they were $3.49 either split or whole.

Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map); Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451 (map); Whole Foods, multiple locations; Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960 (map); Meghna, 74-18 37th Avenue, Queens, NY, 718-429-3374 (map).

Masoor dal: These lentils are the most colorful, ranging from a cherry red to a bright orange. Here's a recipe for Tadka Dal that calls for masoor. You can find red lentils at most markets. Whole Foods has organic red lentils for $5.99. Apna's were $4.99 for 4 lbs. Sahadi's had red lentils from Turkey. Kalustyan's, as well as having regular masoor dal, has a mixed bag of moong and masoor for $9.99/4lb. Dual Specialty Sotre has organic red lentils for $3.75/lb.

Whole Foods, multiple locations; Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960 (map); Sahadi Importing Co., 187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY‎, 718-624-4550‎ (map); Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451 (map); .

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[Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Urad dal (urid): You can buy them whole and split; their skin is black or grey, but their insides are white. They are used to make dosas. They also feature in South Indian curries. Subzi Mandi was selling 2 lb bags of whole ones as well as split ones for $1.99. At indian Spicy and Grocery 2 lb Swad bags were $3.99. Foods of India's 2 lb bag was $4.99.

Subzi Mandi, 72-30 37th Avenue, Queens, NY, 718-457-1848 (map); Indian Spicy and Grocery, 135 East 28th Street, New York, NY‎, 212-213-8499 (map); Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map).

Chana dal: These split baby chickpeas are a yellow lentil. They are used in soups, salads and rice dishes; it's one of the most popular dals in India. The most common use is cooking it soft for a yellow, soupy dal, such as this one. In South India it is also used as a spice. At Meghna, $5 gets you 4 lbs. Dual Specialty Store charges $4.50 for 2 lbs.

Meghna, 74-18 37th Avenue, Queens, NY, 718-429-3374 (map); Dual Specialty Store, 91 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212-979-6045 (map).

Toor dal: Toor dal is a split pigeon pea that is dark yellow and somewhat like Chana dal. They come either dry or oily. Apna and Foods of India sell them both ways. At Apna, 2 lbs of either kind cost $3.49; a 7 lb bag of dry cost $11.99. Foods of India charges $4.99 for 2 lbs.

Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960 (map); Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map).

Kabuli Channa: These are also known as chickpeas, Desi chickpeas, or garbanzo beans. Besides being used to make flour (besan), they are also used in classic dishes such as chana masala (recipe here). Subzi Mandi sells them for $1.99 per 2lb bag. Next door at Apna they were $2.49. At Kalustyan's they are $3.99/lb roasted. Sahadi's also sells them as a snack, roasted and salted, lightly salted or unsalted for $1.95/lb.

Subzi Mandi, 72-30 37th Avenue, Queens, NY, 718-457-1848 (map); Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960 (map); Sahadi Importing Co., 187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY‎, 718-624-4550‎ (map); Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451 (map)

Rajmah (kidney beans): These beans, used in Northern Indian cuisine, come in a spectrum of reds. At Subzi Mandi, dark rajmah were $1.99 for 2 lbs, Kashmiri rajmah $2.49 for 2 lbs, and light rajmah $2.49 for 2 lbs. You can also find rajmah at many grocery stores, such as Whole Foods.

Subzi Mandi, 72-30 37th Avenue, Queens, NY, 718-457-1848 (map); Whole Foods, multiple locations.

Gram flour (besan, chickpea flour): This flour is made from ground chickpeas. It is used for the batter in many fried dishes, such as vegetable pakora—consider it the Indian version of vegetable tempura.

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Assorted pakora [Photograph: Robyn Lee]

Besan Meera Gram Flour was $3.49 for a 4.4 lb package at Patel Brothers; a 2 lb bag of Laxmi brand besan was $2.99, and there was also a 4 lb bag of Laxmi Superfine gram flour. Mannat and Jumuna both stock Swad Gram Flour. Foods of India has their own packaged besan.

Patel Brothers, multiple locations, www.patelbros.com; Mannat, 12-27 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY (map); Jumuna, 1225 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY, 718-783-3977 (map); Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map).

Basmati rice: Basmati is a staple, served alongside curries and used to make biryanis. The sheer size of the bags, never mind the overwhelming variety of brands, is enough to make the thought of buying rice daunting. Make sure that whatever kind you buy has been aged; stick with Indian brands over domestically grown basmati, since those tend not to have been aged.

Several sources recommend Tilda as the best brand. It is ubiquitous and easy to find; even Fairway stocks 4 lb bags. Cooks Illustrated did a taste test of basmati rice, comparing Della Basmati White Rice, Goya Aged Basmati Rice, Kohinoor Super Basmati Rice, Lal Quilla Basmati Rice, Lundberg White Basmati Rice, Royal Basmati Rice, and Tilda Pure Basmati Rice. They named Tilda the winner. Of those other brands, people also seem to like Lal Quilla.

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Chicken Tikka Masala with Basmati Rice from Earthen Oven [Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Little India stocks Tilda Pure Basmati Rice; 10 lb bags were $22.99, 4 lb bags were $14.99, and 2 lb bags were $7.49. Their Kohinoor's Exclusive Supreme aged 2 years comes in 1 kg bags for $6.99. Foods of India has its own packaged basmati rice, which also comes highly recommended (and not just by Chef Saran). A 2 lb bag is $3.79. Foods of India also sells 10 lb bags of Tilda for $16.99—much better than the $22.99 it goes for across the street at Little India. Mannat in Brooklyn had 10lb bags of Tilda for $14.99.

Apna and Subzi Mandi both have towering stacks of rice, and Patel Brothers has stocked shelves holding the 20 lb sacks. Specials and prices change constantly so check them out for yourself (same goes for the prices above; people forget that even though rice isn't a fruit or vegetable, it also has seasons). Patel Brothers did not have Tilda when I was there, but they did have Lal Quilla. Subzi Mandi's 10 lb bag of Tilda was $13.99.

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[Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Turkish Afghan Halal Meat Store in Flushing had Royal Brown Basmati in 10 lb bags for $12.99, as well as Lal Qilla Traditional for $15.99. Trader Joes also sells Basmati rice from India: the organic is $3.99 for a 2 lb bag, regular white is $2.99, and brown is $2.99.

Fairway, multiple locations; Little India, 128 East 28th Street, New York, NY, 212-683-1691 (map); Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map); Mannat, 12-27 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY (map); Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960 (map); Subzi Mandi, 72-30 37th Avenue, Queens, NY, 718-457-1848 (map); Patel Brothers, multiple locations, www.patelbros.com; Turkish Afghan Halal Meat Store, 42-34 College Point Blvd, Queens, NY (map); Trader Joe's, multiple locations.

Spices

We're in the home stretch (if you've made it this far). Consider spices the payoff—since they're what make Indian cuisine so special.

Generally, it is best to buy spices whole because they retain their flavor better and stay fresh for longer when kept whole. Chef Suvir Saran advises that you look for bags with the least amount of crushed seeds or stalks. When they are beat up, it means that they have been on the shelf for awhile and aren't fresh. He suggests looking for the "cleanest packages, that are see-through with no oily residue inside, or any sticky or tacky feel on the outside."

Spices are a better value the larger quantity you buy, but then you may end up sacrificing quality if the more economical large bags linger on your shelf for a long time. For more advice on buying, storing, and using spices, check out Spice Hunter Max Falkowitz's comprehensive post.

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[Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

The number of spices and powders involved in the Indian kitchen goes on and on. Cayenne, cumin, coriander and powdered turmeric are some of the more familiar spices that star in Indian cooking. You can pretty much find them anywhere, including your neighborhood grocery store, though for freshly roasted and ground spices, again, check out some the stores that package their own. You can find any spice you could need at Foods of India, Kalustyan's, or Dual Specialty Store. Again, Saran recommends Foods of India for the best quality and freshest spices.

Apna also has a good selection and has their own spices bagged. Patel Brother's is a little more limited and restricted to lesser brands such as Swad, which won't necessarily guarantee freshness.

Asafoetida (Hing): This dried and powdered tree resin has a distinctive smell you can sniff practically the instant you walk into an Indian grocery store. It is used largely in South Indian cuisine, and thus features in a lot of vegetable dishes. Read the Spice Hunting post for more information about its flavor and uses.

Dual Specialty Store has its own Organic House Brand Hing Whole for $4.95/45gms in a packet and $5.45/45gms in a jar. Its blended with fenugreek, white flour, food gum, mustard oil. Other than that, pretty much every other store listed so far sells LG Hing.

Dual Specialty Store, 91 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212-979-6045 (map).

Amchoor (Amchur): Amchoor is raw mango powder that is dried and ground. It is used in North Indian cooking especially and has a tangy, sour flavor. It is used to a similar effect as lemon. Find it at Dual Specialty Store for $2.50. At Indian Spicy and Grocery Inc. it is $1.99. Foods of India, of course, has it as well.

Dual Specialty Store, 91 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212-979-6045 (map); Indian Spicy and Grocery, 135 East 28th Street, New York, NY‎, 212-213-8499 (map); Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map).

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[Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Black Salt: Despite its name, this salt is actually pink. You can find solid crystals at Meghna for $1.25. Dual Specialty Store has it ground in jars and packages. It is $3.50 for 113gr in a jar or $6.75 for a pound in a bag. A half pound at Foods of India is $6.99.

Meghna, 74-18 37th Avenue, Queens, NY, 718-429-3374 (map); Dual Specialty Store, 91 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212-979-6045 (map); Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map).

Cardamom: These pods come in three different colors: green, black and white. Green cardamom, called "the Queen of Spices" in India, is used in both savory dishes and desserts. It is a key component in garam masala (a crucial spice blend in North Indian cuisine) and curry powder (a spice blend heavily used in Southern Indian cooking). Saran says, "Cardamom should be beautifully veined and nicely colored, not pale or bleached in places. That indicates age and a long time on a ship or store shelf."

I read in Madhur Jaffrey's An Invitation to Indian Cooking that the large black pods are difficult to find in the U.S., but I saw them everywhere, especially packaged by Swad brand. You can, however, find fresher cardamom (of all colors) at several of the stores that package their own spices such as Foods of India. Dual Specialty Store also carries their own packages, including organic cardamom.

Black cardamom is related to ginger as well as green cardamom and it used in many North Indian curries. Check out Spice Hunting for more information on black cardamom.

Dual Specialty Store, 91 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212-979-6045 (map)Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map).

Garam Masala: Everyone emphasizes that for the freshest, most vibrant taste it is best to grind garam masala yourself. Several stores sell pre-mixed bags of their own mixture of spices that are left whole so you can grind it yourself, yet skip the step of amassing all of the different spices. Saran recommends Foods of India's blend of whole garam masala, which is $3.99 for 4 oz. Apna also has whole garam masala for $4.50/lb. You could also mix your own. There are many different recipes; everyone uses a slightly different combination and ratio of spices. Scroll down here for Saran's mixture.

Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map); Apna Bazaar Cash & Carry, 72-20 37th Ave, Queens, NY, 718-565-5960 (map).

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[Photograph: Ava McAlpin]

Fenugreek: Another prevalent spice in Indian cuisine, fenugreek comes in seeds or ground. You can also buy the leaves. It pairs well with vegetables such as potatoes and eggplants. Here is a recipe for Aloo Methi.

Sahadi's has fenugreek ground and whole for $4/lb. Kalustyan's crushed seeds and ground seeds are $4.99 for 7oz. The whole seeds are $4.99 for 3oz. The leaves are $4.99 for 2oz.

Sahadi Importing Co., 187 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY‎, 718-624-4550‎ (map); Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451 (map).

Curry leaves: Fresh curry leaves are an important herb, particularly in South Indian cuisine, for soups, salads and even some chutneys. You can find them fresh at Dual Specialty Store, Kalustyan's $3.99 for .5 oz, Patel Brother's $1.00 a packet, and Patel Grocery in Sunset Park. Foods of India had dry curry leaves whole for $3.99; they also stock fresh leaves in their fridge. Chef Saran says that fresh leaves are much better; they can be kept frozen and retain their flavor.

Dual Specialty Store, 91 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212-979-6045 (map); Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451 (map); Patel Brothers, multiple locations, www.patelbros.com; Foods of India, 121 Lexington Ave, New York, NY, 212-683-4419 (map).

Fresh Turmeric: In my Thai post, I noted that I hadn't found fresh turmeric anywhere. A few people posted that you can find it in Indian groceries, and indeed, you can. Kalustyan's, Dual Specialty Store, and Little Indiain Manhattan all had some. Usually, it's stored in a small basket in a fridge.

Kalustyan's, 123 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY, 212-685-3451 (map); Dual Specialty Store, 91 1st Avenue, New York, NY, 212-979-6045 (map); Little India, 128 East 28th Street, New York, NY, 212-683-1691 (map).

And More...

This list barely touches on the abundance of Indian products you can find in New York City. If you find yourself looking for something else, check out the stores in Curry Hill and Jackson Heights and you'll likely be able to find it or order it. if you come across an ingredient you are unfamiliar with, ask about it at any of these stores. I found the staff to be friendly and eager to educate people about the joys of Indian cuisine.

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