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Indian Food Brands


rks
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I'd been using Patak's (with feelings of guilt) for a few years; whenever I didn't have the time or inclination to start from scratch. Then a Tamil friend whose cooking I admire told me that most Indo-Canadians use convenience products *a lot*, and that Patak's was the weapon of choice (probably because they're the most complete line that's readily available in Canada).

Offered FWIW.

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.” - William Cowper, The Task, Book Three

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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As far as pre-packaged masala blends go, the only one I use regularly is chat masala. Both MDH and Laxmi brand are good, but I prefer Laxmi because it comes in an air-sealed container with a reusable plastic lid. If I am teaching someone who swears they will never make their own garam masala, I recommend Rajah brand. It also comes air-sealed with a plastic lid. I use this if I am in a pinch. I have never cared much for bottled masala pastes, they never taste right to me, but there are some that are not too bad. Patak's "Kashmiri Masala" is one I have used in small amounts with success.

Bottled pickles and chatnis can be quite good. Patak's are usually very nice, as well as Deep brand, if you can get them. There is also a brand called Ashoka. It seems like there are a million more brands of bottled pickles imported from India and some are great. It is a matter of trial and error.

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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I buy MDH kasoori methi. Since it's the only brand of kasoori methi I've come across, I have nothing to compare it to. I like it :)

I'll never buy another spice mix again. If I'm in a hurry, I may combine powdered spices instead of using whole ones, but never again will I buy them premixed. No control. Low ratio of the more expensive cardamom. Too many cloves.

If you like Patak's pastes and buy them for convenience, maybe you should think about making a huge batch of paste yourself. They're not that hard to mimic. Not only will the flavor be superior, you can freeze it in small amounts to have on hand when you need it. It won't be as good as starting a curry from scratch but it is certainly better (and a lot cheaper) than the stuff in the jar.

Edited by scott123 (log)
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i think there's a lot of silliness about buying packaged spices and such. sure, you can control flavors and freshness by making your own at home, but packaged spices are good enough for millions of indian home-cooks and they should be good enough for amateur cooks in the diaspora as well. this goes for not just chilli powder etc. but also garam masala and curry powder.

and speaking of curry powder, cookbooks and food-writers give the impression that no indian cook worth their salt would be caught dead using curry powder, that it is just a western concoction or something like that. this is absurd--again as with other packaged spices most indian home cooks (and very good ones) have packets of store-bought garam masala and curry powder in their spice cupboards. they may additionally have other home-made spice mixes but packaged spices are not universally looked down upon--my mother, for instance, has her own original spice mix ("made only in our house" as our old housekeeper used to say) that she sprinkles on certain vegetable dishes, but uses store bought garam masala as well. somebody else mentioned mdh--that's what i use as well. but in most cases you're best off if you can figure out which brand your grocer has the highest turnover of; that way you're least likely to get stale stuff.

spice-pastes too have their place. i don't think you're likely to be able to create a good rogan josh by using only the patak's (or other brands') rogan josh paste and the bottle instructions but if you have a good sense of how each paste works and tastes you can use it as a secret weapon. i often use a spoon of patak's vindaloo paste, for instance, in my keema curries.

as for pickles etc. i used to like patak's for certain kinds but now i prefer the swad brand for most. i also have a nostalgic affection for baedekar's. when in delhi though i find i like the mother's brand of pickles to be my favorite for store-bought.

rks: i gather you're collecting this information not for the purposes of buying spices but for research you're doing on the growth of ethnic ingredients in the u.s?

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I forgot about Swad brand, they're good too! The store-bought curry powder I like is Bolst's. Come to think of it I also use MDH Pav-Bhaji masala.

So, Mongo, what are the spices in your mothers original spice mix? :wink:

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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I forgot about Swad brand, they're good too! The store-bought curry powder I like is Bolst's. Come to think of it I also use MDH Pav-Bhaji masala.

So, Mongo, what are the spices in your mothers original spice mix? :wink:

I likes Bolsts too, but it can be quite hard to track down

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Way to go Mongo! I agree entirely, readymade spices blends and pastes very much have a role in the Indian kitchen (you will also find Monica agreeing with you on this, she's written an excellent feature for this on egullet which you can find in the archives).

Of course, everyone will find their own balance between authenticity and effort, and perhaps there is that little extra that comes from doing it from scratch. I sometimes think that the real secret behind the food of certain legendary caterers and restaurants lies in just that - they do their own blending because on the scale of their cooking it makes business sense.

(But then I also think some of the difference in their taste also comes from exactly this scale and is hence not really replicable at home. For example, I have always found restaurant made iddlies superior to the efforts of even really good home chefs. Some level of scale is needed, I think, for the batter to get that perfect blend of sourness and lightness that can steam to perfection).

My personal balance is something like, I think its worth raosting and grinding individual spices, but when one has to do a whole bunch for something you just need a p[inch of, then forget it, a packet is better. Just make sure you replace these fairly regularly and you won't have any problem.

There are also some spice blends that are only ever really made professionally or semi-professionally - East Indian bottle masala on which I have waxed eloquent in these forums is one example, made once a year by old aunties for their extended families and then stored in the beer bottles that gives them their name. Kashmiri ver is another example, so Edward was actually being fairly authentic using a readymade masala.

I have to add that the one readymade paste I find TOTALLY essential is ginger-garlic and to hell with all those recipes that advise you to peel and mince the garlic and ginger till its a paste. Just open the damn packet and the tastes are so strong anyway that the loss in flavour is minimal. OK, I admit, there is a slight difference between the fresh and the packaged ones, but I quite like the packaged version and no one aint taking it from me!

(Readymade garlic paste is almost or even more vital for me since its the cornerstone of my hummus, and I've got waiting lines for that!).

Vikram

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Mongo and Vikram, you have covered it all and very well.

And exactly as Vikram points out, there are those masalas which cannot really be replicated very well at least by the home chef that I have met.... Bottle Masala is never the same as I used to get from friends in Bombay.

rks seems to be perhaps equiring about a commercial opportunity... and in that case, again, it depends on what market you are aiming your restaurant for, what menu you are working with and what dishes you are looking for using these products in.

Bedekar was a favorite for me everytime I found myself very late into the night (early in the morning) in Colaba Causeway near the BEST station. There was a vendor that would sell vada pao and my friend Sam and I would take them to our room at the YMCA and slather some of the extra pao we had bought with the Bedekar mango pickle and feel we had tasted ambrosia.

Do I still have the same reaction to Bedekar? At times... and it is then the same guttural feeling of ambrosia and then at others, it is not what I want. I say this to share that in the end, all of this would depend on what you are using the product for, with and for whom. Also when and where.

There are many good products out there... At Amma, we prepare most of our own pickles, chutneys and murabbas but have still had to keep some Panchranga (sp?) Achaar for those that have gotten so used to this pickle, that no home-made pickle (ambrosial to very many) could ever replace that from their diet. And then, we have those that accidentaly ask for Panchranga and then see me or a server carrying pickles that are home-made to another table and then complain why a fine restaurant would bother carrying such trash. Hard to please all. But again, it is all about - with what it is paired, how it is used and presented, when you are using which brand, and where it shall be most perfectly paired.

The other day I was given a taste of Khatta Meetha Gobi Shalgam Ka Achaar (made with jaggery) and I remembered my Nani and was crying inside about how these achaars would soon die out as we lose more and more Nani's from that old school. This version was very similar to hers... certainly not exactly the same, but so very good and close to it and it would be hard for me to be objective and call this version any less wonderful than what I remembered hers to be. My friends were amazed to see me smile as I enjoyed it like a child would enjoy their favorite brand of candy. Later, they showed me the tin from which it had been removed and presented inside a glass jar. It was a Panchranga version of the same old Punjabi recipe. It was superb. I would never feel ashamed to use this version and I would enjoy it many times more...

Would I use it at my restaurant? Nope. For I make pickles like that, which can be easily replicated in the American world without losing much if any of their Indian flavors. So, while I would buy certain pickles for my own home, I would not buy them for the restaurant. For the restaurant, I would invest in the extra hour of work one day, and pickle these veggies myself and share with our diners, a version of the pickle that leaves them enjoying/savoring flavors that are part of our restaurants repertoire and cannot be similarly enjoyed at other such establishments.

But then there is the Bedekar pickle that I may serve at my restaurant, when I want to share with my customers the same enjoyment that I have lived in Bombay. That call is made by me for I have realized that while my home efforts can produce a more than decent result, it is not the same as the magical Bedekar pickle I can find easily at a store.

The list is long... and there are more acceptable products out there than the ones I would not use. Vikram and Mongo have both touched on the key element being the procurement of products that have larger sales. That guarantees fresher products on your restaurants tables.:smile:

Like Monica, I too have no shame in using products from our stores. I was pleased and felt lucky to have been encourage to lose any fear when I first landed here and saw the books written by the legendary Madhur Jaffrey and Julie Sahni and the many other pioneering Indian chefs in the US, who came into this country in a time unlike today, when there were far lesser options. These women and men, made the most of what they had, and did so most creatively. They paved the way for Raji Jallepalli Riess, Maya, Neelam Batra, Geethika Khanna, Madhu Gadia, Floyd Cardoz, Raghavan Iyer, Monica Bhide, Simi Advani, Hemant Mathur, myself and a long list of chefs that have found it an easier entry into the world of Indian cooking in America.

Products are out there only for they are used. If they were as bad as some make them out to be, they would not be used by as many and for as long as they have been. There are certainly some that are really not fit to exist, but those are way fewer in number. Like all things in life, choosing products is a very subjectiv endeavor. There will be as many opinions as the number of people you ask from.

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rks seems to be perhaps equiring about a commercial opportunity... and in that case, again, it depends on what market you are aiming your restaurant for, what menu you are working with and what dishes you are looking for using these products in.

Thanks Suvir. Unfortunately no commercial opportunities nor for any restaurant, just inquisitive.

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Interesting story here on Indian pickle manufacturers:

All in a Pickle and Spoilt for Choice

Also, there is turmoil in the Patak's pickle empire as the late Lakhubhai Pathak's children squabble over ownership of the company:

UK's Indian pickle story turns sour, by Rashmee Z. Ahmed

Not to mention former PM P.V. Narasimha Rao being cleared last last year of charges of cheating the late Pathak. . .

In the United States, Patak's is distributed exclusively by Hormel through its World Food brand (Hormel did not buy up Patak, as I erroneously said in another thread).

Sun-Ki Chai
http://www2.hawaii.edu/~sunki/

Former Hawaii Forum Host

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Vikram, maybe you can expound more on your Hummus in the Middle East and Africa forum?

Please... coming from you, it would make for a great new way of entertaining this dish that has found a comfortable place in new American cookery.

Suvir hummus has a found a place in Indian cooking too these days, or in view of Mongo's ongoing dispute (I am firmly on his side, of course) on regional versus national monikers, I should say Gujju cooking. All my fellow Gujjus (well I'm half) have discovered its not just veg, but also made from the channa dhal (chickpeas) they adore (a friend's husband once did a calculation of the besan being consumed in Gujarat and it was an amazing figure and none too promising for the average health of the Gujju community). I would certainly be too diffident to discuss it on the Middle East forum, all I do is soak and pressure cook channa till its falling to pieces, blitz them and mix with tahini (now readily available in plastic jars from the Middle East), garlic paste (Dabur's Hommade is the best), lots of lime, some salt and of late lots of roasted cumin as well. No exact quantities, I just do it to taste,

Vikram

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