Get Your Ass to an Indian Grocery Store

Get your ass to an Indian grocery store. I can’t even pretend to start this post with a cute little intro. You just need to find one, budget an hour plus of browsing time, and thank me later. The store will amaze you with its aisles of spices and spice blends, varieties of dal and boxes and boxes of in-minutes dinners. I’ve never purchased a Lean Cuisine but for some reason I thought it was perfectly acceptable to buy boil-in-a-bag, ready-in-2-minute versions of palak paner (spinach and cheese), chana masala (chickpeas in tomato sauce), dal makhani (creamy black dal) and paner makhani (cheese in a cashew cream sauce). I haven’t tried them yet, as I’m saving them for a night I can’t bare to cook.

In the meantime, another purchase inspired me to actually cook. And my about-to-expire Greek yogurt became the perfect addition to my almost-Indian dinner.

And don’t worry, I’ll try to stop my love-of-the-dash current obsession for the recipe portion of this post.

Dal Palak (Spinach and Lentils) with Yogurt and Coriander Chutney

Measure 3/4 of a cup of udad lentils, rinse and pick through (I found some black specs and tossed them), then heat them through with a bit of oil for about 10 minutes, adding curry powder, cumin, black mustard seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Add 3 cups of water, cover and let simmer until soft.

The lentils still tasted bland, so it was time for some creaminess from the yogurt and then some heat from the coriander chutney. I actually bought a tikka masala from a regular grocery store, so I threw in a few spoonfuls of that as well. I added salt and pepper and then the ultimate saver, Maggi sauce. A few minutes before serving, add torn spinach leaves to just-wilt into the lentils.

Serve with nan (or other bread), more yogurt and chutney. I added some almonds for crunch, but they’re not necessary. Or at least not the Target brand almonds—mine came out of the package stale.

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  • Kary S February 23, 2011  

    Couldn’t agree with you more! I was driving back from Boston and ended up having to take a detour to go around an accident. I was sitting at a stop light and noticed an Indian grocery store to my right so I decided to pop in. I was in heaven! I ended up buying about 10 boxes of those 2 minute meals (had the Bisibele Bhath yesterday = yum). Also found Thai eggplants which I’ve been having trouble finding around DC. Plus some sweets and curry crackers which made the rest of the trip home delightful!

    Now I need to find one around here!

  • Dad gansie February 23, 2011  

    Wow…Kary S. Great observing your surroundings

    And that recipe a mouthful Hopefully as tasty as it’s final eating
    Gansie sounds like your food as good as the Indian restaurant we were at last week, right 80P??

  • erica February 23, 2011  

    Tasty Bite boil-in-bag packets are a godsend for those kind of nights around my house. cook up some quinoa while the water is boiling and TA-DA! food. (I think i need to write a song called “TA-DA! food.”)

  • Julia February 23, 2011  

    Where did you find an Indian Grocery in DC?!?

  • TheGourmetCoffeeGuy February 23, 2011  

    Love eating Indian cuisine!
    Your recipe is terrific, will try it for sure.
    Great observation skills, a very nice and spontaneous post.
    Thank you for sharing it,

  • EvoDiva February 24, 2011  

    Not sure which store gansie went to, but I got her urad dal and black mustard seeds at a store in Langley Park, MD (near Takoma Park) in a shopping center on the corner of University Blvd and New Hampshire Ave. It’s 2 doors down from the Woodlands vegetarian Indian restaurant which I also highly recommend! I wish I knew the name of the store, but I can tell you it’s at the end of a hallway: 1st you pass to the right of a store with beautiful saris (on the facade), then a jewelry store, and the grocery store is in the back. It’s small, but I had the same experience that gansie did – aisles of goodies that will make your head spin!

  • gansie February 24, 2011  

    thanks for checking in with an answer @EvoDiva. my Indian grocery store rendezvous occurred in Queens (Jackson Heights). i had a lot of trouble not buying a lot of cookware at the Indian-themed housewares stores. there were these gorgeous copper, dimpled cups: funnel shaped at top then molded into a round circular shape at the bottom. beautiful!

  • EvoDiva February 28, 2011  

    BTW, the coriander chutney is worth the price of admission. On lazy nights, a spoonful of this added to rice and beans creates a delicious (not boring) meal!

  • Kary S March 4, 2011  

    @Julia – Going to try to find a store in DC this weekend. WIll keep you posted!

  • Kary S March 4, 2011  

    Anyone have an opinion on these places?

    Ginger & Spice Market
    6548 Little River Tpke
    Alexandria, VA 22312

    India A-1 Grocery
    4815 Lee Hwy
    Arlington, VA 22207

    Delhi Bazaar
    295 S Van Dorn St
    Alexandria, VA 22312

  • Julia March 4, 2011  

    @Kary, I actually headed out to VA last weekend and found a really nice little one called Ginger and Spice in Alexandria. I would love to hear what you find though!

  • Kary S March 4, 2011  

    @Julia – Awesome, I will check it out! Thanks!

  • veena April 4, 2011  

    Mmm I love the spicy version of Maggi sauce!

    One reason your daal may have been bland is because the spices were not fully cooked in the oil. Heat the oil (or ghee) and add your whole spices first. They should sizzle in a few seconds and then add any blends or ground spices. Pour this over the boiled lentils and mix with salt. I like squeezing some lime juice at the end. And I’d recommend picking up some asafetida or hing while at the Indian store. Some people don’t like how it smells – I think it smells divine when cooked in oil. You just need a big pinch. And it’s fantastic with lentils.

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