Trip To The Indian Market
Well, I ran out of most of my staples. No more garam masala, asafoetida, chili pickle, sack of basmati, and I'm down to only one Shan Masala (murg cholay.) So, I'm planning a trip to the good Indian Grocer this wknd to stock up on everything. I have a few Indian Grocers around town that I pop into for a thing here or there inbetween trips to the GOOD grocer, but the good one is where I stock up. I'm looking for any suggestions on pre-made masalas. BRAND AND TITLE. Also, any premade sauce base like a patak's brand. (I tried Patak's jar of red hot vindaloo and was not impressed at all.)
My list so far is:
Paneer. A few different brands. I freeze it.
Shan Chicken tikka, chicken handi, chicken kerahi, and Chana Masala mixes in the box. (That's just a start - I'll probably wind up with 10 to 20 boxes of masalas)
An assortment of Pickle - probably chili, and lime, and who knows what others?
Deshi Coriander Chutney - love this stuff to death
A few different brands of garam masala
Anyone? I think I'm gonna try at least one pre-made biryani masala. Any favorite brands?
Can anyone recommend a pre-made masala brand and name? Or a pickle brand and name? Jarred sauce/ sauce base brand and name?
Make your own paneer. Find a recipe online and make it the night before you actually need the cheese. It need to drain off excess whey similar to a lebneh. There are precious few ingredients, and chances are you have them right now in your cupboard. It is super easy to make and you will be overwhelmigly proud of yourself.
In 30 years of making Indian food, I've never bought paneer. Now, maybe I don't know what I'm missing, but the homemade version is so easy and so cheap that I'm wont to figure out why I'd buy pre-made. Didn't know, however, that it could be frozen--good to know for my next saag paneer!
Also, I'm wondering if there are any of those shelf stable heat n eat foods that are worth anything. I've tried many, but they all taste like gloyrified chef boy ar dee food. It might just be the nature of the beast
One more thing - I'm a paratha person. Any name brands of the frozen ones anyone cares for?
I just found Pillsbury frozen Indian breads in a local store called "H Mart". Yup, our little All American Pillsbury Doughboy makes Indian breads in Nashik India. I purchased the plain paratha and the ready to puff roti. (they also had a naan and a microwavable roti.) I thought they were both pretty good. We hosted two Indian dinners this week and the guests really liked them, especially the paratha.
I did a "dry run" cooking each to see how they were before serving them. My first impression was that they had a doughy taste. It took me a few tries (well, 5 or 6 or 7) to get them right, figuring out the proper temp to use on the electric stove and deciding which skillet to cook them in. Using the damp cloth on the roti and pushing down on the parathas while they're cooking really makes a difference and helps them puff. I noticed that when I got the hang of cooking them correctly the doughy taste was gone. They're much better than the pre-packaged naan I used to purchase, but much more intense in terms of time and babysitting.
Making Indian bread is something that I really want to learn. 25+ years ago I worked for an Indian physician. The office was in his home and I often ate lunch or dinner with the family. I'll never forget the experience or the food. It was fascinating watching his wife making and cooking puri.
Several weeks ago while I was in the local Indian store looking around an Indian woman who was also shopping came up to me and asked me if she could help me. I wanted to make a chicken biryani, she suggested National brand. We talked for quite some time and she offered to teach me how to make breads! I'm very excited!
I have used several Parampara mixes and liked them. I just cooked my first chick pea dish last week using their chhole gravy mix, very good.
Shan Zafarani garam masala is quite good. I also love Shan Curry Powder. A box of Qasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) is nice so you can add a pinch at the end of cooking a basic curry. Shan has fine Qasoori methi, but really any brand will do.
I use Shan's Sindhi biriani masala, about 2 tsp, and add in a tsp of garam masala, 1 tsp amchoor (dried sour mango powder...very very useful ingredient), plus some extra chile powder and some extra aloo bukharay (aloo bukhara is a dried plum/apricot also available at the grocer and the Shan Sindhi biriani already has some in the packet---you can use it also to make a chutney and in other rice dishes like qabuli pullao, keep a packet in the fridge and it will last for a year or until you use them all). I like a hot, spicy, sour biriani masala. For a lighter more Mughlai taste I also use Shan brand Qorma Masala and make a qorma biriani with that. The Qorma masala also makes a good regular qorma, just use like 2 tbs of it, though, not the whole packet.
Dried mango pieces are good to throw into daals or veg for a sour note.
A packet of whole (unground) garam masala is useful for recipes which only require like "two pieces of big cardamon, one stick conamon, five cloves..." so you can just keep these in a jar and fish them out as needed.
I would say don't waste your money or closet space on too many boxes of Shan, just go for a few.
I like National brand pickles.
I will update if I think of something else.
I always get a load of pappadoms (the ones that you have to fry/grill) when I'm at an Indian supermarket. Also fresh curry leaves, which can be frozen, and lots of different types of lentils for dahl. A jar of tamarind extract can be useful, as well as a tamarind chutney. I never use jarred ginger, always fresh.
Kalijira rice, which is a tiny basmati, is my favorite rice and cooks up in 10 minutes.
Raw cashews and almonds -- so much cheaper than anywhere else. Made into "milks" for sauces, and candied for the holidays.
In addition to lime pickle, I also like ginger pickle.
I don't buy spice mixtures and pastes. It is much more economical and fun to grind and mix myself, and then I control the heat and the salt.
In addition to the regular pantry of spices, you may want to include black cumin seeds, black cardomom pods (toss a couple into a pot of rice) and black mustard seeds.
Pickled ginger: this is the mainstay in my kitchen, and this I also make myself. It is so easy, and a teaspoon of the vinegar pulls flavors together like nothing else. I use the vinegar more than the ginger. Well worth the ten minutes it takes to make a quart-sized jar.
When it's getting cold outside, my mind automatically turns to Shan brand Haleem. I also keep a plentiful supply of Shan chaat masala year-round. If you want frozen parathas, I've had good experiences with Deep brand dough. As far as pickles are concerned, I am still looking for my ideal brand. Bedekar has good tartness and spice, but is extremely salty. Ahmed, on the other hand, is extremely bland. My ideal is something closer to Bedekar without the salinity.
For the occasional easy meal, I have Swad readymade baingan bhartha and sarson ka saag. I haven't really liked any of the other heat-n-eat products they make.
Wow, you find Ahmed brand bland. You must like some really spicy stuff. I like Ahmed, they are famous for having a Hyderabadi Indian taste. But National and also Shan brand (not sure if this is available in the US) is quite good. Yes, I find a lot of pickle brands have good flavor but are much too salty, it seems to be a catch 22 of a lot of major desi pickle brands.
I also use Shan masalas. I like their Bombay Biryani and Malay Biryani, but the Sindi Biryani is also good. I use MDH Kitchen King masala (try adding it to dal), MDH sambhar powder, and MDH Tava Fry masala -- pan/dry fry veggies sprinkled liberally with the masala. (you're supposed to stuff the veggied with the masala but I only do that if I'm making it for company). Patak makes a very good biriyani paste in a jar, but I use it as part of my own recipe, not using the recipe on the jar.
For achaars (pickles), we like Ahmed brand mixed pickle, and Shan mixed pickle. I picked up a can of Ahmed red chilli pickle a couple weeks ago that is wonderful with rice and dals. We like the mixed (panchranga) pickles with dals and parathas with plain yogurt.
If you are looking for frozen parathas, try Kawan brand roti parathas. They are very good, just like the roti prata in Singapore and Malaysia.
I'd also suggest getting a couple product items to try. Bittermelon (karela) and things like tindora or indian eggplant come to mind.
Well, thanks for all suggestions, wound up with a bunch of Shan Masalas and also a bunch of MDH brand masalas (love these because they generally have no salt added.) could not find the pickle brands suggested, but it's all good - bought a few different brands to try. Had a revelation of sorts, however. I've been trying those shelf stable Indian foods every so often, and every single time, the results are the same - totally inedible. They all taste like chef boy ar dee garbage to me. Anyway, on a whim, I picked up a pkg of frozen Laxmi brand matar paneer. Nuked it last night - totally expecting it to be thrown away, but it was not only edible, but bordering on decent. I'll DEFINITELY be trying more of their stuff. Makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs to all the posters who claim that the Trader Joes frozen Indian meals are "good." That Laxmi product I had was close to 200% better than any of that frozen TJ garbage.