Tuesday, September 8, 2009

SpiceMonkey Adventures in Little India

I dragged Charles to Little India last year to explore these few mysterious blocks in Artesia, but it didn't take us long to figure out that we had Nooooo idea what we were looking at. I needed a guide. A couple weeks ago, I finally found my sherpa: my cooking cohort from SpiceMonkey (who prefers to remain anonymous). She is Indian and has lived in the Los Angeles area for years, but has never been to Little India. But, her family had a number of recommendations for us, the first being Woodlands Restaurant. This is one of the few Indian restaurants that serves South Indian food - most places serve North Indian recipes which is where you'll find Tikka Masala and naan. Each region of India has very different kinds of food and I'm just beginning to learn about them, but one of the things to look for in Southern Indian cuisine is the dosa.

I can't help but compare Indian food with Mexican food. It's beans and rice wrapped in an Indian-style tortilla to me. Ok, I'm half joking. Indian food is more complex than that. But I still think of dosas as Indian burritos.

Don't ask me what the curries are, but they were very good!

Again, I have no idea what this is. It's not fried eyeballs, that is all I know. [edit: they are called Gulab Jamuns]

Chapati, I think. But it looked really cool glowing in the light! [Not chapati after all: these are papads a.k.a appalams a.k.a. poppadoms]

After our South Indian lunch we walked around the four blocks that make up Little India between 183rd St. and 187th St. I love the store windows of the sari stores...

but the demon-children freaked me out a little. Yes, that little boy does have glowing red eyes.
Being girls, we couldn't resist looking at the saris. Whether cotton or silk,the fabrics are beautiful, bright, and elaborately embroidered. And my friend persuaded me to try one on, even though I was sure I'd look silly. Even in India, saris are not cheap. And if you're a white-girl like me standing in a shop in Little India, the price goes waaaay up. I'm saving my rupees for my trip, but this was a good test run. At least now I know I can wear bright colors and still look pretty good. Then we hit the Indian grocery stores - plural. There are a lot of them.
I love the "farm fresh" "Gripe Water".
Fairy soap! The perfect gift for the guys in our lives.

Real sugar jam in mango and passion fruit.

The bags of spices are huge. It takes me over a year to go through my small store of turmeric; this bag would last me at least 5 years.
Betel Nut: surprisingly decorative. I want to put it in a potpourri bowl with some dried coconuts - my friend thought this was a funny impulse.

I love how the "Special Masala" chick is pointing at me. Like, You are SO COOL - Check YOU out! You're buying the SPECIAL Masala! It's an ego boost in a bottle.

Indian sweets. Ok, now I've tried Japanese sweets, and some of them are a little weird. Like green tea flavored caramels (which are actually really good). But Indians, I don't think they get it. Their snacks taste a bit weird to my American taste-buds. However, I will return to this place for further exploration of Indian snack foods.

Does this look like fried chow mein noodles to anyone else?

Thus ends the first Spicemonkey foray into Little India. I'm sure my friend will have comments and reminders of what some of this stuff is, so this post may be edited substantially in the near future. Namaste!


march said...


HI:nice to meet you!

Thanks to friends all over the world to Taiwan to help the flood of support and also wishes everyone peace and happiness!













Pocketmouse said...

YAY! excellent recap. btw I need to go again.....I'm craving dosas again damnit! *salivates*

Ok the fried eyeballs = Gulab Jamuns.

Gulab literally means Rose. the fried dough balls are immersed in a sugar syrup flavored with rose water, ergo the name..and jamuns are just round fruits/balls (I'm wagering a guess here).

The "chapati" tag is wrong. Chapatis are more like naans, i.e. they are flat and pan fried and like bread. these are papads (north indian pronounciation) or appalams (south india representin')/poppadoms (as you brits call it).

Also I have to say it again, you look absolutely stunning in those colors. I really hope you buy a lot of stuff in India.
and this is the store i was talking about http://www.fabindia.com/ you only get cotton and silk-cotton stuff and there is a huge price range. Also since you will be going to jaipur, i dont think you will be able to resist the local markets and hand-made jewelery and embroidered fabrics. they have unbelievable craftsmanship.

Ah yes, the fairy soap. hehehehehehehe

Pocketmouse said...

Oh and ya...next time we need to go for tea/snacks at Surati. It's not the stuff you saw on the counter but stuff you order..that in itself is another class of indian cuisine called "chaat" not chat like chatting but ch-aaaah-t.

wiki knows all.

Heather on her travels said...

I thought Gripe water was what our mother's used. Like the Sari although I'm afraid you won't pass for Indian, even wearing it.

jessiev said...

YUM. i love indian food. what fun, that you have so many resources where you are. thanks for sharing!

Wanderluster said...

Oh - I'm so jealous that we don't have a Little India here in Seattle. That looked like an amazing day of Indian fun!

marina villatoro said...

oh my god, I haven't eaten indian food in so long. there is no indian food here at all. My mouth was watering!