Slideshow: A Tour of Kalustyan's, the Indian Specialty Food Megastore

Exterior
Exterior
Step inside this unassuming store for everything you didn't know you ever needed.
Aisles
Aisles
This tour roughly follows a circuit through the store, followed by a quick trip upstairs.
Rice
Rice
Kalustyan's has rice of every size and color. There's Indian long grain rices, Bhutanese red rice, rice specifically for Indian snacks like iddly, black rice, and more.
Pantry starches
Pantry starches
Soy flour, rice flour, almond flour, chickpea flour, rye flour, millet flour...the only thing you may have trouble finding is wheat flour, which hides among the other bags.
Sugar
Sugar
Several types of raw and less-refined sugars: demerara and turbinado foremost among them, all with different moisture levels and delicate flavors. There's also a sizable selection of molasses on the shelves below.
Mustard
Mustard
One of the larger mustard collections you'll find in stores, with a number of imported varieties.
More beans
More beans
Beyond assorted dals, you'll find Western beans and pastas.
Hot sauce
Hot sauce
From all over the country and the world. These shelves are the only red-trimmed ones in the store, as if they were always destined to house hot sauce.
Dried corn on the cob
Dried corn on the cob
Because you can.
Yogurt
Yogurt
Homemade yogurt products, including tzatziki and lebne, a thick, tangy cross between yogurt and cream cheese.
Preserved lemons
Preserved lemons
If you have one preserved or pickled item in your fridge, let it be Moroccan-style preserved lemons. The preserving process renders the rind edible, so you can chop them up and add them to salads, soups, sauces, relishes, hot dogs, and so on.
Flatbreads
Flatbreads
Parathas and roti (their leaner cousins) are made in-store. They're thicker and chewier than flour tortillas, but thinner and flakier than naan. And while naan is cooked in a tandoor oven, parathas and roti are cooked in a hot dry pan on the stove.
Pickled everything
Pickled everything
Why go through all the trouble of pickling your own eggplant when you can just buy a jar of Baroody?
Ajvar
Ajvar
A Balkan salad/dip/spread made primarily from roasted red peppers, sometimes with the addition of eggplant, onions, and chilies. I keep it around for snacking with bread, and it doubles as an instant hors d'oeuvre when I have guests over. The flavor is sweet and pungent, more vegetal and fruity than your standard roasted red peppers
Dried chilies
Dried chilies
The chili selection is one of the few parts of the store I'm not thrilled with. They aren't especially fresh, and most are the same Latin American chilies you can find elsewhere, but at much higher prices. Do check out the aji chilies though—I'm a big fan of their aji panca and aji amarillo.
Salemme Pepper
Salemme Pepper
So far as I know, Kalustyan's is the only place to buy this pretty extraordinary chili, which is made by the Salemme family in Connecticut. It tastes incredibly fresh and sharp with a great clean heat that takes well to feta cheese, garlic, and herbs. Pricey stuff, but I adore it as a finishing ingredient.
Curd chilies
Curd chilies
I love curd chilies: whole chili peppers cured in yogurt or buttermilk, as tangy as they are spicy. I toss them in hot oil with mustard seeds to flavor rice dishes, or just munch on them as a snack.
Honey
Honey
All the honey. All of it. (And this isn't even all the honey they have.) There are lots of interesting raw and spun varieties from the U.S. and around the world.
Pan masala
Pan masala
Pan masala's a hard concept to explain, but here goes. You take fennel seeds, crunchy bits of hard candy, and little nubs of silver (I don't get that last part either), and chow down on a couple pinches as a breath freshener. It's sweet, fennel-y, and it definitely cleans out whatever other flavors you had going on in your mouth. Whether or not you'll like it largely depends on your feelings on fennel. I'm itching to break it out as a garnish on desserts.
Incense
Incense
Incense gets its own mini-hallway in the front of the store.
Incense tableaux
Incense tableaux
Look closely and you'll find some bizarre illustrations on some of the boxes.
Spices
Spices
The soul of the Kalustyan's operation. You may think you've seen Indian grocery stores, but until you've seen Kalustyan's, you don't really know the meaning of holy-crap-that's-a-lot-of-spices.
Spices
Spices
These are just the curry powders. Especially worth seeking out is the vadouvan, a Francofied blend with lots of savory dried onion, garlic, and a good hit of fennel seed.
Rare spices
Rare spices
Every time I walk into Kalustyan's I encounter something I never heard of before. Take a chance on one of these small bottles. You never know—it could just be the spice that changes your life.
Cinnamon
Cinnamon
A close-up on the cinnamon selection, with powders, sticks, and quills from all over East and Southeast Asia.
Paprika shelf
Paprika shelf
Paprika varies substantially from region to region: levels of heat, sweetness, and actual chilies used are all shifting variables. So Kalustyan's covers you by offering them all.
The Good, the bad, and the WTF
The Good, the bad, and the WTF
Every once in a while you find something that just doesn't. make. sense.
Chutneys and sauces
Chutneys and sauces
Plenty of mint chutney and ready-made sauces. These make Indian home cooking substantially easier; sometimes I even use them to dress up take-out. Mint chutney in particular is useful: equal parts bright and hot, a shocker on the plate.
Boxed meals
Boxed meals
Both heat-and-serve meals and boxed mixes for Indian dishes.
The modernist pantry
The modernist pantry
As a response to the growing interest in modernist cuisine among home cooks, Kalustyan's has grown a fairly respectable modernist pantry. You'll find dried acids, ice cream stabilizer, guar gum, carageenan, and lots more.
Frozen burek
Frozen burek
Frozen store-made savory pastries stuffed with meat, cheese, and vegetables.
Frozen food
Frozen food
I love the juxtaposition here: probably crummy frozen falafel with likely excellent D'Artagnan lamb sausage.
Pantry goods
Pantry goods
Spicy cracker-like pappadums I understand. Wheels of multicolored pasta? Not so much. But it's these bizarre finds that keep me coming back.
Ice cream!
Ice cream!
Ample supplies of kulfi, a thick, rich Indian ice cream made with nuts and flavored with rosewater, cardamom, and other spices.
Service pieces
Service pieces
These copper pieces aren't especially practical, but if you're looking to replicate that curry house look in your home, they're pretty mandatory.
Meat swords
Meat swords
Okay, they're skewers. But if you want to think of them as kabob swords, I won't blame you.
Fried snacks
Fried snacks
Okay, be warned: these are downright dangerous. They're simple snacks made of three ingredients: chickpea flour, salt, and fried, and a couple crazy delicious handfuls will run you a few hundred calories. But they also make great garnishes on dishes like chaat.
Sev
Sev
Tiny extruded noodles of fried chickpea flour. These are what you most commonly see on chaat in restaurants.
Puffed rice
Puffed rice
Puffed rice is frequently tossed with onion, herbs, spices, citrus juice, and oil to make another form of chaat. It makes great cereal, too!
Biscuit child
Biscuit child
Note that, among other creepy things, this child has five fingers on each hand, but no thumbs.
Pani puri
Pani puri
These delicate hollow spheroids are another chaat essential. You take one in your hand, crush the side with your thumb, and use it as a scoop for chickpeas, onion, tamarind water, and other sauces. Scoop and eat quickly, or they'll disintegrate on you.
Tea
Tea
Head upstairs for a selection of loose leaf tea.
Medicinal herbs
Medicinal herbs
Some of the medicinal herbs recently moved upstairs. Not to say that you can't cook with raspberry leaves, but I just don't personally recommend it.
Cafe
Cafe
The second floor is also home to a small cafe where you can find several mighty sandwiches.
Malted milk balls
Malted milk balls
I have a big weakness for these extra large malted milk balls by the cashier. They come in flavors like coffee and mint, too.
Sweets
Sweets
The Kalustyan's version of impulse shopping is a display case of sweets by the cashier. Plenty of baklava (and its bedfellows) here.
Nuts
Nuts
Get your almonds plain, salted, or coated in silver.