Indian Food: recipe in a box...
I live in the SF Bay Area, and there are several Indian groceries in this area. They have a plethora of spice packets for specific indian dishes. They include cooking instructions. I have tried several of them, and approve of them. Sad, but true.
I suppose you could argue that they may not be authentic (although they are imported directly from India, I am sure at least some of them use non-authentic ingredient shortcuts), or that they spices are not fresh (using fresh spices in sine qua non in India, although these are packed in stay-fresh foil packets). Still, I like them a lot and they make mighty tasty food, the equal to what I get in local Indian restaurants. Just make sure that you follow all the directions on the package and do not cheat or substitute: I always get really good meals from them.
They have name brands like Shan or Parampara and come in small packets or boxes that look like small paperback books. Right now, I have just finished something called 'Kunna Matka Gosht Curry Mix' for lamb. It is might tasty, and pretty hot, too, so keep your beer handy. The markets near my home have literally dozens of such things for all kinds of different foods, including soups, vegetarian, dumplings, etc.
I agree - they can be great for flavorful and easy indian food. As for authenticity, I was introduced to them by my boyfriend who is from Delhi. We use them for chana masala and pav bhaji, both of which get better after a day or two in the refrigerator. There is one for fruit as well. It tastes most like cumin and can be sprinkled on papaya, for example. It's a bit unusual at least for a lot of American palates, but worth a try.
Recent discovery for me is papadums.
In the restaurants they are fried.
I tried the microwave -- it works great.
One or two, on a plate (uncovered) for 2 minutes -- fat free, crispy crunchy.
A package of about 20 papads costs $1.50 (at Vik's).
They have different flavors -- I like the cumin seed ("jeera").