Wandering the aisles of a supermarket in a foreign country is one of the world’s best tourist activities. But you can do this at home, too, in one of New York’s various ethnic markets. So today, I’m debuting the Best Markets series. I’ll periodically highlight markets in New York that are worth a leisurely visit, and the items you might want to bring home to your kitchen.
Today, one that’s probably familiar: Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights, Queens.
This large Indian grocery is always well stocked and crowded. During Indian mango season, they have boxes of mangoes piled higher than my head. For cheap home cooking, the sacks of different daals can’t be beat, and you can find atta flour for chapati-making, besan flour for besan ladoo (chickpea sweets) as well as mustard oil, good tea and incense.
In the refrigerated section, there are stacks of fresh parathas and chapatis. Just warm them up in a dry skillet and they turn soft, chewy and aromatic. My favorites: Plain whole wheat chapatis and methi (fenugreek) parathas. Delicious Foods brand; each package $2.50.
Patel Brothers chili powder is pretty fiery, but also has a hearty, coarse texture and mouth-filling flavorfulness that sets it apart. I’m always glad I have it in the cabinet. And it’s a fantastic deal: $2.99 for 13 ounces, in an easy-to-store plastic jug.
Canned Alphonso mango pulp is brilliantly saffron-colored and has a sweet, almost floral taste. Pour it over vanilla ice cream. Ratna brand, $2.99
Canned patra is a little strange when you first encounter it, but it becomes a habit awfully quickly. It’s a concoction of colocassia leaves mixed with a hot spice paste. The green leaves and the yellow spice paste get rolled together into a cylinder and jammed into a can. When you open the can, shake out the cylinder whole. It looks bizarre and a little unappetizing, but bear with me. Slice the cylinder into thin circles, and pan-fry each circle, browning each side. It’s vibrantly spicy, vegetal and crisp on the outside.
Swad brand patra; $0.99
Dry garlic chutney is like an all-in-one seasoning. You can mix it with a little oil to make a traditional chutney dip, or you can use it dry, sprinkling it on fish, grilled corn or french fries. $1.99
3727 74th St
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 27, 2008