Discoveries and deals

What to look for while you shop

Indian markets can seem intimidating at first, but Alur-Kundargi and Hiremath led me to foods that are both easy to like and easy to use. I found great bargains for everyday cooking as well. Since spices play a prominent part in this cuisine, they're bountiful, fresh, and cheap at Indian grocery stores. Saffron, especially, is a deal. Many Indians are vegetarians, so the markets carry a huge assortment of dried legumes and well-priced nuts ― notably cashews. Here are some of the foods we particularly like.


Spicy plantain chips.

Samosas: Savory filled pastries, frozen or fresh in the deli. Serve with hot ketchup or chutney.

Murukku, chakri, or chakli: Crisp fried cumin-spiked spirals made from a batter of rice, garbanzo, or other flours.

Sev: Thick or thin fried strands of spicy garbanzo batter.

Rice chica or khichiyia: Bright- or natural-colored thin disks or extruded wafers of rice, potato, or tapioca flour; when fried, they puff into crisps reminiscent of potato chips.

Pappadums or papads: Paper-thin dried lentil wafers that cook into crisp disks.


Chapati: Tortilla-like flatbread, fresh or frozen.

Naan: Flat rounds or ovals of yeast bread, plain or seasoned.

Paratha: Flaky flatbread rounds.


Paneer: Fresh, mild, pressed cow's-milk cheese; grill it or use it like firm tofu in curries.


Eggplant relish: Eggplant preserved in spices and oil; good with Indian breads. Alur-Kundargi recommends the Patak brand for newcomers (if you want to tone it down slightly, mix 1/2 cup eggplant relish with 2 tablespoons cream cheese).

Hot ketchup: Indian-style ketchup with a spicy kick; Tom Tom is Alur-Kundargi's favorite brand.

Tamarind-date chutney: A dark brown, sweet-sour chutney.


Basmati: Highly aromatic long-grain rice that grows in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Poha: Flakes of dried and flattened cooked rice that resemble old-fashioned Ivory soap flakes; they come thick or thin. Use thin poha in snack mixes. Rinse thick poha in a colander until thoroughly moistened and drain; mix with seasoned oils or yogurt for light grain salads (similar to couscous dishes).


Individual: Saffron; green or black cardamom (the green is the form that is bleached for white cardamom); black and regular cumin seeds; and coriander.

Blends: Garam masala (all-purpose aromatic seasoning; buy a whole-seed version and grind it in a blender or spice grinder for freshest flavor); chaat masala (sprinkle over fruit, buttermilk, or potatoes); pav-bhaji masala (for vegetable dishes); tandoori masala (rub over meats, seafood, and vegetables for grilling); mukhwa (roasted seed mixture; use as an after-dinner digestive or breath freshener).


Black teas, coffee.

Rose syrup: Sweet, fragrant red syrup; mix with soda water and ice or with cold milk for pink coolers.

Tropical fruit juices: Mango, litchi, guava, and passion fruit.


Canned sweetened Alphonso mango pulp: The Alphonso variety contains few fibers; Hiremath likes the Ratna brand. Use it for desserts and drinks.

Chikki: Candied nut and seed brittles.

Cookies: Cashew, coconut, almond, and pistachio.

Ice creams: Saffron, saffron-rose, pistachio, mango, litchi, and cashew-raisin; Kwality and Real Ice Cream are good brands.

DownComment IconEmail IconFacebook IconGoogle Plus IconGrid IconInstagram IconLinkedin IconList IconMenu IconMinus IconPinterest IconPlus IconRss IconSave IconSearch IconShare IconShopping Cart IconSpeech BubbleSnapchat IconTumblr IconTwitter IconWhatsapp IconYoutube Icon