manhattan - best shop for indian spice mixes
i would like to buy some ready made spice mixes for indian food (curries) to bring back home. i presume there are many specialized fresh spice shops which also offer mixes but i wonder which would be best
is zabar's good place for this?
I tend to think Kalustyan's is really over recommended on this board. Yes, they have Indian spices, but they are located in an Indian neighborhood, next to two Indian grocery stores, both of which sell a larger selection of spice mixes, oftentimes of better quality, at a fraction of the price. It doesn't make sense to head to Curry Hill and skip all the other Indian grocers in order to pay a visit to an overpriced gourmet shop.
If you're headed to Curry Hill I would recommend Foods of India (121 Lexington Avenue) or Little India (128 East 28th Street). Both carry the Shan brand of masalas that I like though they also have other brands like National or MDH from different parts of the subcontinent. Many of the small shops in the neighborhood are Pakistani-owned so you can also find Shan brand in a lot of the stores that don't readily appear to be spice shops. Dual Specialty Store in the East Village also stocks the same popular brands of spice mixes, but I think they have less turnover and of course Patel Bros. in Jackson Heights is the major Indo-Pak store in the area.
Zabar's does not have ready-made spice mixes but they do have curry pastes. The only one I would recommend is the Patak's tandoori paste, which is quite good. The others don't really taste like the dishes they are purported to make.
You may also find this thread on Indian masala brands helpful: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/668820
I agree on all fronts - though ill say that Dual has better pricing than most of what ive found in Curry Hill (though im usually buying whole spices not mixes, whether commercially produced or made-in-store) and the turnover may be less substantial but Im not so certain - despite the concentration of indian restaurants Curry Hill has never seemed to be a hotbed of grocery shopping (by South Asians anyway - and excepting Kalustyans).
Other big plus for Dual in my book is their hours - open till 1am every night.