Archive for ethnic food shopping

Ringing in the Season with Curry Leaves Galore

tiny christmas tree
our tiny tabletop tree ~ complete with clementines and christmas candy

When I moved to northern Michigan, I knew I would miss the proximity to the Indian and other Asian grocery stores that I loved so much. Now, nearly two years later, I have learned to handle this minor inconvenience. I shopped around town and discovered ghee and a few other staples at Meijer’s supermarket — who knew? Meijer’s even boasts an expanded produce section — think bottle gourd and small brinjals and greens of every description — once I even found fresh methi there and I nearly cried!! I found a Latin American store which sells rice and tapioca flours, dried chiles and cumin, and many great veggies such as chiles, cilantro and limes which are cheaper and fresher than the supermarket variety. I grew my own Korean radishes in the garden for making kimchi. The one thing that eluded me was curry leaves.

Then I happily stumbled upon NJ’s Grocery in the tiny village of Lake Leelanau, on the beautiful Leelanau Peninsula. NJ’s is a sweet little hometown grocery store, offering the usual everyday groceries, produce, its own small meat counter and deli, and… homemade Indian cuisine!? How lucky could I be? Just a half hour’s scenic drive up West Bay from work there was a tiny Little India awaiting me, complete with a few dals and spices on the shelves. One look at the dishes on offer and I knew someone must have access to … ahem … the elusive curry leaves. Of course I am not shy, so I asked πŸ™‚

Rosie, the kind lady in the kitchen, was good enough to sell me some of her stock of lovely curry leaves — albeit frozen — which I otherwise would have no hope of obtaining. This is what I have been using in sambhar and other dishes since I arrived in the north woods. Then I traveled back to Boston for Thanksgiving last month. I ventured out with little m on a shopping extravaganza. From Patel’s in Waltham I scooped up bags of Haldiram’s cornflakes mixture (dear G’s fav!), some of my fav Gujarati fafda, a few harder-to-find spices, and about 10 packages of dreamy looking fresher-than-fresh greener-than-green curry leaves to carry home with me.

fresh curry leaves podi
precious cargo ~ fresh curry leaves and the tasty podi they made!

Back in the north woods, I immediately cooked up several sambhars and curries absolutely loaded with my fragrant find.

chicken curry with curry leaves galore!
chicken curry with curry leaves galore!

I froze a couple of packages, but I can *get* them frozen now. I searched and searched for the perfect way to preserve my bounty. Finally I decided on this tasty-looking recipe from Sangeetha of Spicy Treats. I made it tonight and it is absolutely divine! I followed Sangeetha’s recipe with few changes — I increased the garlic, reduced the red chilies, and forgot the jeera! 😦 Nevertheless, I was so happy with the way the toasted curry leaves ground to a fine powder with the fragrant dals and hing… the first time I have made a podi that came out so soft and … well … powdery! Thanks for the great recipe, Sangeetha πŸ™‚

curry leaves podi with rice and ghee
the fresh curry leaves podi with rice and ghee… mmmm

Of course, I saved a couple (ok, a few) packets of curry leaves from the deep-freeze because… I now am sufficiently encouraged to try my hand at ISG’s famous sambhar powder!

rice with curry leaves podi and ginger-lime rasam
the yummy curry leaves rice with ginger-lime rasam from Anushruti’s Divine Taste ~ another delicious recipe!

pinks and gibby
pinks and gibby are sleeping by the fire ~ all is cozy in the north woods


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If You Don’t Like The Weather, Wait a Minute ~ Moving Home Part Five, AKA The End

welcome to michigan!
welcome to (beautiful!) michigan

Back in Moving Home Part Four, we were blown across Ohio by a hot wind.

After a much needed rest, we packed up the trusty Subaru with two kitties in the back and some leftover Tony Packo’s in the cooler, and set out on the last leg of the trip home. The day was blustery and a bit rainy — though some cooler than the 100F temps of the day before, it promised to be a weather-ridden ride.

It mattered not.

Nothing could erase the excitement that accompanied one fact: at the end of the day’s drive lay the end of the journey. Today, come what may, we would be home. This was momentous for me — the long and longingly awaited over-the-rainbow day. I shed a few tears of joy when we crossed the state line into my beloved Michigan.
I even called my folks on the cell phone — I was that excited.
My mom said, “oh, wonderful”! Then my dad told me to hang up because it’s not safe to drive while on the phone!

I love my parents πŸ™‚

Of course we stopped at the first rest area so I could get the last requisite welcome sign pic.

me in many layers... welcome to michigan!
home at last ~ in many layers of outerwear πŸ˜‰

We headed northwest to the VIP destination of Ann Arbor,
where I could stock up on some fresh curry leaves, yogurt, and other goodies at Patel Bros. Proximity to my old-haunt Indian groceries is one sacrifice I made in order to live amongst the wild things in the north woods, and I don’t regret it (as a matter of fact, I got my sister to mail me some fresh curry leaves in the heat of summer and they came through just fine!). Still, it was fun to see what will be available to me here, within a few hours’ drive. Patel Bros. is an orderly, modern store with great variety.

Somehow I prefer the smaller mom-and-pop places, so I think our ethnic shopping trips will be made to (closer) Grand Rapids.

Armed with the necessities, we departed populous “downstate” for the relative wilderness of the northern lower.

I took no photos en route. I had been here so many times before. What I had not encountered in my previous travels was a snow-squall near Clare. We drove straight into that snow squall, then straight back out again, in the space of ten minutes or less. It was like driving through a curtain, literally. I will never forget that.

The weather here is so dramatic. No wonder I feel at home πŸ˜‰

At the end of that relatively short drive, I left DG at the airport to pick up his car. He had parked there when he flew to NH, to drive back with me. He was anxious to hurry along and check on his own three kitties: Lemur, Squeaker and Gib. They had been home alone for nearly a week. Pinks, Daisy and I landed at the little cottage I had rented for a month, hoping I would find a place of my own before summer. It was a cute place.

temp rental
the cottage south of traverse city ~ kitties’ and my first home in michigan

The very next day, it snowed!

if you don't like the weather, wait a minute...
if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute…

It’s six months to the day that we landed back home.

Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.

kitties at the hometel jan of 13
kitties at the hometel ~ january 2013

kitties in nh feb 2013
kitties at dear S’s place in nh ~ february 2013

kitties in first michigan home
kitties in their first michigan home ~ april 2013

kitties with new brother and sister :)
pinks and daisy with their new brother and sister, gib and squeaker ~ in the kitchen looking to eat ~ october 2013

Welcome home, kitties! πŸ™‚

P.S. How ’bout those sox!

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Vani’s Eating Better Challenge and Garden Update

Last week I passed by Mysoorean and saw that Vani had been reading my mind; she had embarked upon an Eating Better Challenge.

Here I am to join you Vani, and wishing you a Happy Blog Birthday! πŸ™‚

Today, my breakfast was sabudana khichdi based on Nupur’s recipe. My lunch was the leftover palya from the Fasting Dosa Experiment (and seriously, no dosa from my kitchen need apply, the filling was better than the wrap!). I had both while manning the front desk of a lovely little hotel — the first day I was not tempted by the bagels and cream cheese served up for b’fast there! πŸ˜‰

Tonight I am making ISG’s kollu paruppu chutney and rasam. This is so delicious that I routinely keep a quantity of the special rasam powder in my freezer πŸ™‚

No photos of the above, as I worked late last night only to return first thing this morning. No rest for the weary in my new life! Tomorrow is a coveted day off so I can photograph at leisure; hopefully I will get some things prepared ahead to carry with me the rest of the week.

The little garden in the north woods is coming along in spite of cooler temps last week.

chard tomatillos 72713
chard and yellow tomatillos finally taking off ~ those are little carrot seedlings to the left!

little corn patch
the little corn patch towers over various pepper plants, with cherry tomatoes growing tall on the near side

cukes growing on teepees
cucumber vines climbing homemade teepees ~ poles beans to the right

lebanese zucchini
these lovely lebanese squash plants are among my favorite things in the garden ~ already bearing fruit but too small to pick…maybe tomorrow?! hopefully these are similar to the korean grey squash I grew so fond of ~ dear h-mart, please build a store in the north woods! πŸ™‚

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Along The Mohawk Trail ~ Moving Home Part Two (plus Upvas Fasting Mix Dosa)

Continuing this little story, we set off from New Hampshire on a rainy morning, and drove south into Massachusetts. Turning west, we picked up the historic Mohawk Trail. Avoiding the highway was best for kitties and driver alike; we made several stops along the way. The first was Erving, a small town in western Mass. Like many such towns, it lives alongside the railroad.

small town america
small town in western massachusetts

cute little stop on day one
cute little antique and lunch spot in erving

cargo piles
various piles of cargo along the railway at erving

We ventured off the Trail to visit the hamlet of Shelburne Falls, home of glacial potholes. Here, the Deerfield River tumbles over a dam at Salmon Falls. As it was early spring, there was plenty of runoff. My photos did not capture a pothole. Still, it was a sight to see, all that water — and a pretty little town in the foothills of the Berkshires to boot.

salmon falls viewing platform
salmon falls and glacial potholes at shelburne falls

salmon falls plaque
history of the spot

salmon falls tumbling over dam
the deerfield river tumbling down to the potholes creates plenty of white water

deerfield river runs on
deerfield river racing out of the potholes to join the connecticut river, then onward to the atlantic

Continuing from that small detour, we arrived at the famous hairpin turn coming down into North Adams. Of course there are myriad hairpin turns in the world — the thing about this one is that you don’t expect it unless you have heard of it, and if you haven’t traveled in the western part of Massachusetts, you probably wouldn’t have. This turn seems to spring up out of nowhere and affords some lovely views!

hairpin turn at north adams ~ rainy day
hairpin turn at north adams ~ rainy road

view from siding at hairpin turn
view from the side of the hairpin turn

view into the valley at the hairpin turn
view into the valley at the hairpin turn

in the clouds at the hairpin turn
*in* the clouds at the hairpin turn

The rest of the drive was too rainy to stop for photos. We continued off the beaten path, until NY Route 7 carried us across the Hudson River via the Collar City Bridge. Faced with the outskirts of Albany, we stopped for the night. Kitties were mighty perplexed, as you can see.

miss daisy pretending to hide
miss daisy trying to hide under a bed, only there was no ‘under’ — just a platform base

mr pinks ventures forth for supper
pinkie ventures forth from the closet — supper is of utmost importance to pinks πŸ˜‰


Upvas Fasting Mix Dosa ~ An Experiment

One thing I knew I would miss in moving away from a major metropolitan area was the *shopping* — food shopping to be more precise — my favorite haunts for Indian and other Asian groceries, to be exact! To comfort myself, I stocked up on numerous items. For example, I am probably good on methi seeds and Korean chili powder for the next oh, 20 years or so πŸ˜‰

upvas fasting mix
fasting mix ~ has anyone used this??

I purchased this Upvas Fasting Mix by Deep Foods. I had NO idea what to do with it, but it was inexpensive, came in a small package, and looked too good to pass up (yep, I am a sucker for marketing — and I know it). Just look at that green, serene figure meditating on the lovely light-colored flour, bathed in yellow sunlight. You just *know* something good will happen to you if you cook with this, right? Right! Maybe you’ll find inner peace — maybe you will create WORLD peace! Yep, that’s me… a dreamer to the end.

Shortly prior to moving, I visited King Arthur Flour in Norwich, VT with my good friend A. There, I purchased a sourdough starter and carried it to Michigan in the cooler. When I landed, I fed the starter and made two batches — one for me and one for dear G. Now that I am here in the new little home, there is no need for two starters — today we combined them into one and freshened it up.

The fascinating fasting mix moved with me amongst the other goodies, all the way to the north woods. I searched and searched for a way to use it. This morning I found a recipe on Deep’s website. Rather than fried bread (that would negate all that good stuff that fasting is supposed to do, right?), I decided to try dosai with the freshened sourdough.

potato masala for dosai

To make dosai, a cupful of starter went into a bowl, along with a cup of that Upvas Fasting Mix and about 1 1/2 cups of water. Happily, after an hour or so, the neglected starter came to life and the dosa batter bubbled. I added only a pinch of salt before cooking. The dosai came out as mine usually do — looking like a mess!

fasting mix dosa
looks iffy ~ tastes great!

I added a bit more water to the very last of the batter for a ‘paper dosa’…

paper dosa with fasting mix
crispy super-thin paper dosa from fasting mix

They all tasted properly dosai-ish nonetheless, and I am happy to know the sourdough is working yet. A simple potato palya (modeled after this lovely recipe of Prema’s) with plenty of onion was the filling, and that was my supper for work tonight.

And whew, the work day is over and so is this post πŸ™‚

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Eggs with Spicy Gravy and Epic Tour of Top Secret Location!

remedy for a chilly night ~ eggs in spicy gravy

We’ve been in the deep freeze here, with nary a snowflake to be seen. Tonight there is a light snowfall at last, and it is still falling as I type. I’m happy to see it softly blanketing the frozen grass. This means great birdwatching tomorrow morning ~ the feeders are full and I’m hoping for a siskin or redpoll to join the usual suspects.

I was in the mood for something really spicy to ward off the chill, but I wasn’t in the mood for a ten-step evening in the kitchen. Plenty of eggs on the counter and plenty of onions too, hmm…

Here’s what I whipped up.

Eggs with Spicy Gravy

6 hard boiled eggs, yolks removed

For gravy, spray a pan with non-stick spray* and fry:

1 big onion, roughly chopped
1 inch ginger, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 sprig curry leaves
1 big green chile, slit
2 dried red chiles

Fry until onion is golden brown and starting to stick to the pan. Remove to a bowl and set aside.

browning the onions etc

To the pan, add:

1/4 c coconut (mine is frozen finely shredded)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 TB chana dalia

Dry roast this mixture until browned and fragrant. Remove and set aside. Don’t wash the pan.

roasted coconut and spices, fried onions and chiles, tomato

Grind the onion mixture and the coconut mixture up together (yep, skipping steps, lazy lazy…) πŸ™‚ Add 1 c water to the grinding bowl and rinse the residue — reserve this water.

Now heat 1 scant tsp oil in the pan. Add 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and 2 red chiles. Fry 2 minutes, then add 1 small chopped tomato. When the tomato starts to soften, add the ground mixture. Cook five minutes, stirring, then add:

1/2 tsp red chile powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp methi powder

Cook a further 2 minutes, then add the reserved rinsing water and a very small bit of jaggery and mix well. Bring to a boil and cook 10 minutes, stirring. Add the egg whites.

Voila! Quick and spicy eggs πŸ™‚

note: the addition of methi may seem strange — I did not add this initially but when I tasted the gravy, it was lacking something — I tossed in the methi on a hunch and that was the missing link!

*Non-stick spray can be substituted with a couple of sprays from an oil spritzer — I’m trying to avoid excess oil and this treatment makes the onions brown up nicely.

they’re getting along swimmingly!


My sister and I went to a Top Secret Location on the weekend. Feast your eyes, and see if you can guess where! πŸ˜‰

disclaimer: I did my best to keep people out of photos, but on the busy weekend it was not so easy. Any appearance of you, your family member, your best friend or next-door neighbor is strictly unintentional! My goal was the food not the folks πŸ™‚

entrance with worker serving up fried king trumpet mushrooms, gift boxes of mandarin oranges, persimmons, giant fuji apples and asian pears

just a few of the dozens of kinds of tofu, with a few bean sprouts thrown in for good measure

wide view of produce section

the giant korean radish section

hot and spicy kimchi alley, also many prepared specialty dishes in here

a smattering of the pickles and miso on display

fresh noodles, yum!!

rice (ok, this shouldn’t shock anyone) πŸ™‚

overview of seafood section, frozen in foreground, fresh counter off in distance to the left, where they will fix your selection Any Way You Please. I have seen fresh kingfish here… hmmm πŸ™‚

frozen dumplings ~ some of about a hundred varieties! various Asian specialty seafood and meatballs, sausage, etc fill the upright cases.

myriad dried noodles, from japan, china, korea, vietnam, and more

even more dried noodles!

dried shiitake mushrooms, some in fancy gift packs

condiment central ~ one of the endless aisles

the fabulous food court ~ lunch anyone!?


This is truly only a taste of the wonder and delight your local Top Secret Location has in store (no pun!). If you’re lucky enough to live near one, run, don’t walk, especially on a weekend, and be sure to get there early and have a small bite of breakfast before you leave. If you’re a foodie like me, it will take you at least 3 hrs to get through the place, and that’s on the first visit.

The preferred plan of attack, developed over several months of experimentation, is to arrive around 10 am on a Sunday (not as crowded as Saturday). This is sufficiently early to secure a parking space, but not so early that you’re tired and cranky by the time they start whipping out the endless free samples. If you don’t get enough for lunch that way, you can haul your purchases out to the car and come back for lunch at the food court. I highly recommend the soondubu πŸ™‚ Stop by the bakery on the way out for a mini-loaf of pan bread or a green pea pastry, and perhaps just one last bite of the sweet persimmon samples as you head out the door…

I tried to get a snapshot of that tropical fruit sample table as we were leaving, but a manager-type caught sight of me (what, after 2 hrs in there taking photos??) and sternly ordered me to put my camera away. He did not, however, confiscate my camera — so while my evil plan of stealing trade secrets lies in pathetic ruins, my ultimate goal of the epic tour is realised. πŸ˜‰

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Spicy Horse Gram (Ulavalu, Kulit, Kuthlee, Kollu, Muthira) Rice

horse gram dry and soaked
tiny, tasty horse gram — dry and soaked

I have always loved to try new foods. My odyssey into Indian cooking has been a whirlwind of new tastes and ingredients, and I know I have only scratched the surface. Dal is still my favorite — to cook, to eat, and to gaze at in the store. I could spend hours (and I have!) browsing and comparing and dreaming up reasons to buy “just a little” of each different type I encounter.

To that end, I had been eyeing horse gram for months; but for some reason never bought any. I had lots of excuses. I hadn’t seen too many recipes for it, and what little I had seen seemed to be for soup. I had plenty of variety at home. It was shelved way off by itself in my favorite shop — near the Chinese food freezer. Maybe it wasn’t *really* dal…

Perhaps my hesitation stemmed from the name — “Horse Gram”.

I should know better than to judge a book by its cover.

A few weeks ago I saw Indosungod’s Horse Gram and Snake Gourd. That dish looked so tempting, I had no more excuse. Off I trotted to the international market, and soon had in hand my very own bag of this tiny, tasty dal. I was ready to experiment.

This recipe is something of an amalgamation of several recipes I have read.
Main sources whom I thank for inspiration are:

Sailu (Ulava Chaaru)
Anu (Ulavalu Chaaru)
and of course
Indosungod (Horse Gram and Snake Gourd and Kollu Chutney and Rasam)

Spicy Horse Gram Rice

For the dal:

1/2 c horse gram, soaked overnight and cooked till soft in 6 cups water
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 green chili, slit

Remove 1/4 cup cooked gram and mash lightly with fork. Reserve this, and also hold aside the rest of the gram in its cooking liquid.

For the rice:

1/3 c sona masuri rice, rinsed

2 tsp oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
6-8 curry leaves
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 red chilies, seeded and broken up
2 green chilies, slit
1 big clove garlic, crushed
1/2 c peeled baby onions or chopped onion

1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp kashmiri chili powder
1-2 tsp cumin-coriander powder
1 medium tomato, chopped

1/2 c strong tamarind water (from about 1/4 c pulp in 1 c water)
3/4 c reserved gram cooking liquid
1/4 – 1/2 c reserved whole gram
1-2 lumps jaggery
1/4 tsp methi powder
salt to taste

optional: 1 c plain dry-fried eggplant cubes


1. Heat the oil/ghee. Splutter mustard seeds, add curry leaves, cumin seeds, and red chilies; stir for a minute.

2. Add slit green chiles, garlic, and onions; saute a few minutes more.

3. Add turmeric, red chili powder, and cumin-coriander powder.
Mixture will be somewhat dry so watch that it doesn’t burn — add a tsp or two of gram liquid if needed to prevent sticking. Cook minute or two.

4. Add chopped tomatoes. Cook over medium heat till moisture has evaporated.

5. Add tamarind water, mashed and whole horse gram, cooking liquid, and jaggery. Allow to boil for a couple of minutes.

6. Add rice, methi powder, eggplant if using, and salt to taste. Stir well, cover and reduce heat to medium low.
Cook twenty minutes, or until rice is tender.

Serve hot (literally and figuratively!) rice with yogurt and a plain browned vegetable. Mellow eggplant was a nice side for this.


I was so excited and happy with the result. The dark, earthy bite of the horse gram and mellow undertone of its cooking liquid, tangy tamarind, sweet jaggery, and plenty of heat from the red and green chiles made this dish an explosion of taste. I will definitely be looking for more ways to enjoy this new addition to the pantry.

Incidentally, I’m also learning alot of new words. Each of the Indian names I came across sounds prettier to me than “horse gram”.

horse gram rice and yogurt
spicy horse gram rice with yogurt and dry-fried eggplant

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