If you've driven around the suburbs, you've undoubtedly seen countless Indian groceries dotting the strip malls. They're everywhere. And while they have a lot of similarities with other ethnic grocers in the area, many of which are much larger, they do have some ingredients that are hard to find elsewhere. They also have rock-bottom prices.
The pictures here were taken at the Indo Pak Market on Dickerson Parkway just across the PGBT from H-Mart in Carrollton, but most Indian groceries will have a similar offering. A lot of them have really cheap cafes as well. Here are 10 things worth the visit.
Goat: (pictured above) if you want to make authentic Indian curries at home, you've got to ditch the lamb and go with gamey goat. It's by far the more popular protein for cooking in India and has a more intense, rich flavor.
Kulfi:This frozen dessert is lower in milk fat than ice cream and gelato and lower in calories too. The funny thing is it's more filling at the same time. This pistachio flavor from Kaurina is one of my favorites.
Cheap spices: One barrier to getting into Indian cooking is all the spices you'll have to before you even fire up your karahi. This massive, 14-ounce container of ground coriander costs $4.99. The quality of these spices is not as good as what you'd get at a premium grocery store, but you can make up for some of the lack of potency by buying the spices whole at an Indian grocery and then grinding them yourself. Really, you should be grinding your spices fresh every time you cook. The difference in intensity and flavor is amazing compared to preground spices.
Frozen breads: If you've ever tried to make parathas at home, you know how good the fresh baked breads can be. You also know what a pain in the ass they are to make, especially if you're preparing food for large groups. (Something that Indian cooking lends itself to, nicely.) If you need a lot of bread fast, these loaves, cooked in a skillet straight from frozen dough are great in a pinch.
Ghee: cow ghee, if you can believe it. Clarified butter cooked until it is devoid of water produces an almost nutty flavor and lends intense richness to dishes. If you want to skip the frozen breads above, you'll need ghee to make parathas from scratch. Or if you want a killer breakfast, try scrambling some eggs in some of the liquid gold with thinly shaved shallots and some curry leaves, which brings me to...
Cheap produce: Cilantro at Whole Foods and other markets can run up to $2 a bunch. At this market, a bunch is 33 cents. The bunches aren't quite as big or full, and they're not organic, but the value is real.
Lentils: You never knew there were so many. Red, green, black, yellow, brown, split, whole -- they take up a whole aisle.
Rice and flour: The rice you buy at an Indian grocery is more fragrant and a hell of a lot cheaper than what you'd get in a typical grocery. Rice will keep through the apocalypse, so buy yourself a 10-pound bag and never worry about starch again.
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Weetabix: Wouldn't you know that these places are great for finding English imports? Expats trapped in the States who don't want to pay $20 for a box of cereal at a specialty market can find some good deals here. There are tea, biscuits, cookies and chocolates, too.
Cheap curry:This is straight-up utilitarian chow, but you get a ton of it. I spent $8 for all the food pictured above, plus a meat pie and a bottle of Coke. The byriani were a little bland, and a chicken korma was spiced till it tasted like potpourri, but the byriani, grilled chicken, hand-formed sausages were fiery hot and delicious.