Step inside this unassuming store for everything you didn't know you ever needed.
This tour roughly follows a circuit through the store, followed by a quick trip upstairs.
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.
Things you never knew you wanted
Did you know you could buy camphor? Did you know you could eat camphor? Now you do.
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.
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.
One of the larger mustard collections you'll find in stores, with a number of imported varieties.
Dried beans are a staple of the Indian diet. These split chickpeas cook much quicker than their whole counterparts, and can be used for a slightly chunky spiced bean soup called dal.
Beyond assorted dals, you'll find Western beans and pastas.
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
Because you can.
Salads, soups, and pickles
A small kitchen and cafe makes Middle Eastern-ish salads, soups, and pickles to take home.
Homemade yogurt products, including tzatziki and lebne, a thick, tangy cross between yogurt and cream cheese.
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.
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.
Fresh rare herbs
Kalustyan's is the only place I know of in the city where you can find fresh bay, lime, curry, and holy basil leaves all together. Oh, and lily buds.
Why go through all the trouble of pickling your own eggplant when you can just buy a jar of Baroody?
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
Or just go for broke and pick up some dried bhut jolokias ("ghost peppers"), the world's hottest chili.
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.
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.
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.
Date and grape molasses
Concentrated syrups made from dates and grapes. I've seen some Israeli recipes call for them, but you could also use them as a substitute for honey with some fresh ricotta on toast. You can find these jars in the syrup aisle. And yup, it's right across from the honey aisle.
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 gets its own mini-hallway in the front of the store.
Look closely and you'll find some bizarre illustrations on some of the boxes.
You almost never see fresh turmeric (or even in whole dried form). If you think turmeric is just flavorless yellow dust, taste this stuff and think again. Try slicing it thin and brewing it into tea.
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.
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.
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.
Black pepper corner
Yes, Telicherry peppercorns can make a man giddy. Sue me.
A close-up on the cinnamon selection, with powders, sticks, and quills from all over East and Southeast Asia.
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
Every once in a while you find something that just doesn't. make. sense.
Bulk spices in bags are far cheaper by the ounce, but jarred versions are smaller (less waste) and already come with their own storage. Many of the special spice blends are only available in jars.
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.
Both heat-and-serve meals and boxed mixes for Indian dishes.
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.
Part of the new-ish modernist pantry at the store, dehydrated vegetable, cheese, and vinegar powders are increasingly common. When in doubt: toss them on french fries or roasted potatoes.
Frozen store-made savory pastries stuffed with meat, cheese, and vegetables.
I love the juxtaposition here: probably crummy frozen falafel with likely excellent D'Artagnan lamb sausage.
Spicy cracker-like pappadums I understand. Wheels of multicolored pasta? Not so much. But it's these bizarre finds that keep me coming back.
Chutneys and sauces
I admit it; I mostly like these jars for the label design.
Ample supplies of kulfi, a thick, rich Indian ice cream made with nuts and flavored with rosewater, cardamom, and other spices.
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.
Okay, they're skewers. But if you want to think of them as kabob swords, I won't blame you.
Get your dumpling, burger, and tortilla presses here.
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.
Tiny extruded noodles of fried chickpea flour. These are what you most commonly see on chaat in restaurants.
Puffed rice is frequently tossed with onion, herbs, spices, citrus juice, and oil to make another form of chaat. It makes great cereal, too!
Another fried chickpea flour snack, this time formed into octopus-like tentacles and wrapped in coils. I could snack on these all day.
Note that, among other creepy things, this child has five fingers on each hand, but no thumbs.
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.
Head upstairs for a selection of loose leaf tea.
Nearby upstairs you'll find coffee, too.
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.
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.
All the dried and candied fruit you could ask for.
The Kalustyan's version of impulse shopping is a display case of sweets by the cashier. Plenty of baklava (and its bedfellows) here.
Get your almonds plain, salted, or coated in silver.