I buy my groceries at different stores depending on what I need to buy. I usually buy fresh produce at Market Street or Central Market while I buy supplies and packaged goods from Wal-Mart or Target.  The last few times I was in my favorite Indian grocery stores to pick up spices, I purchased some of their vegetables so I wouldn’t have to make additional stops. Each time I was stunned when the storeowner rang up the sale and gave me a total that was less than I expected! The prices for common items in Indian food like red onions, eggplant, cauliflower, ginger and garlic were far lower than those in chain stores.

 

I purchased the items below at the New Diamond Grocers, Wal-Mart and Central Market. I included Wal-Mart because it is reported to be the low price leader and Central Market because it is a high priced foodie haven owned by HEB. (I have to admit that I absolutely love the wide variety of the most beautiful food options they provide and shop here often.) Here is what I found:

 

Item New Diamond Grocers Wal-Mart Central Market
Cauliflower 1.99 ea 2.78 ea 2.99 ea
Eggplant 1.45/lb 1.78/lb 1.78/lb
Fresh garlic 1.49/lb 2.78/lb

2.50/lb

(.50/head)

Fresh ginger .99/lb 2.38/lb 1.99/lb
Green onions

.11/oz

(.33/3 oz)

.23/oz

(1.14/5 oz)

.35/oz

(.69 – 5 ea)

Okra 2.49/lb NA 2.99/lb
Red onions .69/lb 1.45/lb 1.79/lb
Roma tomatoes .99/lb 1.14/lb 1.49/lb

 

 

On average, the prices at New Diamond Grocers was 39% lower than Wal-Mart 40% lower than Central Market. This difference is amazing. By purchasing basic fresh produce from your local store, you can definitely make a positive impact on your budget!

 

My next money saving quest will be to see how much I can save on dried spices. That may be a no brainer.

 

Instead of waiting until Small Business Saturday why not help out the small mom and pop stores all year long!
 

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When Alex Easo opened his new National Imports store in Carrollton, Texas, I thought I would try out the fresh produce he sold in his inviting market display. The first items I bought from him were red onions, ginger and garlic. 

 

Tasty red onions, ginger and garlic from the Indian store.

Tasty red onions, ginger and garlic from the Indian store.

 

I was amazed at the petite size of the red onions. Grocery store red onions are so huge that just a fraction of one is required for most recipes. The rest has to be stored in my fridge (stinking up the vegetable drawer) for future use. Often, it spoils and is just wasted. Indian store red onions are just the right size for Indian recipes without any waste. The best part about the ones from the Indian grocery is their mild flavor. I can use them raw on a salad and won’t be overwhelmed with onion breath. I asked the owner of my local Indian store about this and he reported that they are different varieties.

 

Fresh ginger is sold in pieces in both stores. I noticed that the pieces in the Indian groceries are larger but that is due to the amount that is used in recipes at home. The flavor, texture and color of the ginger carried in both stores are different. I learned that the ginger at chain groceries is from Mexico while the ginger in Indian groceries is from China. The skin is a little darker and the texture is stringier on the Mexican ginger than that from China. When mincing the Chinese ginger, I didn’t notice as many long fibers which make it more desirable for cooking.

 

In addition I purchased a package of 5 heads of garlic. The heads as well as the cloves are smaller. I noticed right away that the cloves inside are more consistent in size. The flavor of the garlic from the Indian grocery is milder so it doesn’t leave the same amount of garlic odor on your hands.

 

Which store sells fresh produce at the lowest price? Wal-Mart? Central Market? Or my local Indian grocery? Come back next week to read my report.

 

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I have always spelled the word for the hot little green vegetable that I put on nachos and in Indian sauces as “chili”, not “chile.” In researching the heat of some of these little devils, I ran across an article that was posted in the LA Times back in November 2000 that identified and analyzed the debate on the correct spelling of the word.  The author checked a very widely used and respected dictionary. There he found three spellings and all of them have the same definition. That sounds like circular logic to me. The Associated Press and the LA Times had conflicting standards for the correct spelling.

 

The head of the Chile Pepper Institute at the New Mexico State University, Paul Bosland, has declared that the spelling is “chile.” Previously unaware that an organization existed that was dedicated to “education, research, and archiving information related to Capsicum.” With a source like this, it must be correct. 

 

Just think! I have been spelling it incorrectly for a very long time! There is speculation that my Yankee upbringing might be the reason for my lapse in education. Living in Texas for half of my life, one would think that I would make the connection. But no, I didn’t. Effective now, I will spell the word with an “e.” 

 

Can someone tell the technical staff at Microsoft that they don’t need to flag the word “chile” as misspelled? Maybe I was right after all?

 

References:

http://articles.latimes.com/2000/nov/19/local/me-54396

http://www.chilepepperinstitute.org/

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The latest trend which I discovered in Chennai is the use of sugar from coconut trees rather than refined sugar because it has a lower glycemic index. It has the same number of calories but it has much more nutritional value with more vitamins and minerals like potassium, iron and zinc. It tastes slightly different with a more butterscotch flavor making food or drinks prepared with it taste richer (like using brown sugar) because it is not bleached like refined sugar. One more thing to note: since coconut trees produce at least twice as much sugar as sugarcane per acre, it has less impact on the earth.

I will look for it in my local grocery stores and let you know what I learn!

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I was always taught that using coconut oil and eating (a lot of) coconut was bad for your health because the oil was high in saturated fats which are bad for health.

Fresh coconut, both pieces and grated.

Fresh coconut, both pieces and grated.

Since I love the taste of coconuts, I was thrilled to hear that their saturated fats actually ARE healthy because they increase the ability of the body to absorb nutrients and may reduce cholesterol. They also contain lauric acid which has been shown to help fight viruses. In addition, they increase the production of ketones which are good for the brain. In fact, research is being done with coconut oil as a possible treatment for Multiple Sclerosis, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. 

Kerala cooking uses a lot of coconut in the food. From Coconut Chutney to Puttu, it is used on a daily basis. I am thrilled with this news and look forward to continued frequent use of coconut!

Visit KachisKitchen.com for Indian recipes and cooking tips.

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I asked my husband last week what I should pick for this month’s special recipe. He immediately suggested I use Bindi’s Mint Chicken recipe.  I’m not sure why it popped into his mind since I had never made it before but I am really glad that he did. I think you will like it very much.


 

Mint Chicken

Mint Chicken with Rice

The first time I tasted the Mint Chicken recipe was during a dinner at my sister-in-law’s house about 20 years ago. It had the most delicious blend of spices and herbs that I had tasted in a long time.  Chicken and mint are definitely intended to be cooked together. It is not a hot dish in the least. The first time I tested the recipe, I knew that without some Indian chili powder, it was needed. If you don’t like any heat at all in your food, this is a good recipe (without the chili) for you.


This is an ideal recipe for a busy weeknight dinner. Preparing the marinade requires just a few ingredients and 15 minutes of time. After you come home from work the next day, just grill the chicken and fry the onions. Dinner will be ready in no time. It is also good for a summer dinner with friends when the chicken can be grilled outside. Serve it with a salad and some grilled vegetables. Your guests will be impressed.


 

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Kerala is known as “God’s own country” due to the moderate temperatures and the heavy rainfall which make the whole area green with luxurious vegetation.  Rice is the staple food of Kerala and the people prefer boiled rice (which has been boiled and dried) to raw rice (which has not been boiled and takes longer to cook).

 

Most of the people in Kerala have paddy fields. In the harvest season, August or September, the paddy, or rice crop, is brought home where the first step in making boiled rice begins.  After the grains are removed from the stems, the grains are put into a big flat bottomed copper pot called charaku that is filled with boiling water.   This vessel is put on a homemade stove that is constructed on a temporary basis just for the harvest.  After it is boiled for one hour, the water is drained off and the wet grains are spread on large bamboo mats to dry in the sun.  After two or three days, the grains are sent to rice mills to remove the husks.  This rice is now ready for cooking and it is called boiled rice.  This is similar to Uncle Ben’s rice which is available in grocery stores.

 

To make Aval, the boiled rice is sprinkled with water and pressed in a special mill.  Aval can be purchased in small packets at any Indian grocery store.  It looks a lot like oatmeal because each grain has been flattened hence the name beaten rice. Aval does not require any further cooking so cooking with it is quick and easy.  Because Aval is so easy to prepare, it is thought of as a household staple similar to mashed potatoes in the U.S. and is often used in Indian cooking. Many tasty dishes can be made from it including the Tiffin, Aval Uppuma, and the Sweet dishes, Aval Kuzhachathu and Aval with Jaggery Syrup.

Aval, Beaten Rice

Aval, Beaten Rice


The Indian Recipe of the Month for March will have Aval as the primary ingredient.

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I picked my Kotayam Pepper Chicken Fry recipe for the Indian Recipe of the Month. Since we are in the middle of yet another winter snowstorm with high temperatures in the teens, a hearty dish that would warm us up from the inside is a smart selection for dinner. On the side, just serve a simple rice dish and a vegetable for an American style dinner. It can be served with rice and pappadams or the layered Malabar parathas for an authentic meal.

Kotayam Pepper Chicken Fry

Kotayam Pepper Chicken Fry

 

A few days ago I was chatting with some of my high school friends about the use of onions versus shallots in Indian cooking. This recipe uses 7 shallots in the marinade and 4 more in the masala in addition to 2 red onions. I promised my friends Joni and Mary to select a recipe this month that is “hearty and healthy and tingly”. I think that when served hot, this dish accomplishes all three of the objectives. I hope they tell me what they think.


About the recipe…

 

Kachi created the Kotayam Pepper Chicken Fry recipe a few years ago after her brother, Naraynan Nair, told her about a fantastic dish he had eaten in a restaurant while on a business trip in Kotayam which is a small town in Kerala between Cochi and Trivandrum. He liked it so much that he told her what he thought the ingredients were and described the flavor so Kachi could replicate the recipe. It has a lovely mild but rich flavor.


I had this dish for the first time a few weeks ago after Kachi returned from a visit to my sister-in-law’s house. I absolutely loved it and plan on making it for dinner this evening. Check for the picture to be posted tomorrow.

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Fresh drumsticks

Fresh drumsticks

Now that I have your attention, drumsticks are definitely edible.  In fact they are a special fruit that come from trees grown in India. Since I met my husband 25 years ago, he has told me (repeatedly) how he loves these odd fruit in many of his favorite dishes.


They are called drumsticks (even in India) because they look like drummers’ sticks. The fruit is about 20 to30 inches long and a half inch wide. The green outside has hard ribs running the length of the pod with delicious white flesh and small seeds inside. It is the insides that are eaten.  When you pick a piece of drumstick out of a curry, slide it between your teeth as you would with an artichoke leaf. You will be able to enjoy the taste and texture of the fruit. Simply set the outer skin aside. (By the way, this is not sweet like a fruit; it is used like a vegetable.) Some people describe the mild taste as similar to asparagus.


During the time that I was taking the pictures for my first cookbook, I just missed the window when fresh drumsticks were available.  I had to settle for a bag of frozen, cut drumsticks.  Even when I started looking for them this year, one vendor told me that I should just use the frozen ones as they taste better and are more reliable.  I think he just wanted to make a sale since he didn’t have any in stock.  Since they are only available during a few weeks in January, I would definitely make the effort to use the fresh variety.


Drumsticks are a key ingredient in South Indian lentil-based vegetarian recipes including Sambar, Ericherry, Spiced Drumstick Masala and Avial (recipes are in Kachi’s Kitchen). They are also found in Rasam, several different vegetable curries and a few pickles.

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Tellicherry peppercorns

Tellicherry peppercorns

At Costco today, I bought a new jar of black peppercorns.  I had never before given their origin a thought.  I noticed that they were called Tellicherry peppercorns.  Next to it were jars of Malabar peppercorns.  Since I knew that the Malabar Coast runs along the southwest corner of India in Kerala and that Tellicherry is a city in the Malabar Coast, I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about these peppercorns.

 

The word for pepper is originally derived from the Sanskrit word pippali. This small dark fruit has been grown and traded for thousands of years.  It was high in value since it was used not only as a spice in most countries but as a medicine. Peppercorns are usually identified by their land of origin. It turns out that Tellicherry and Malabar are two of the most well known types of black peppercorns.
 

In fact both spices come from the same plants; Tellicherry pepper is considered superior since they are left on the plant longer so they become the largest and ripest fruit from the Malabar plants (about 10 percent of the total). India is the second largest exporter of pepper in the world.
 

A jar of Kirkland brand Tellicherry peppercorns

A jar of Kirkland brand Tellicherry peppercorns


 Look for the spicy flavor Tellicherry or Malabar pepper can bring to every dish!

 

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