When it comes to cuisine, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles vie for the top spot. But Chicago is always in the mix - and even won the coveted “best restaurant city” spot in 2017. Since then, it’s remained one of the top five food cities in America.
Along with its iconic deep dish pizza, burgers and gastropubs, Chicago also serves food that is atypical to Americana eats. One of these is its Indian cuisine.
This article will discuss where you can find authentic Indian spices in Chicago and why MirchiMasalay is highly ranked for people seeking traditional Indian flavors.
MirchiMasalay Spices and Food
MirchiMasalay is one of the largest online Asian grocer that offers food and spices sourced from all over the world. The store not only provides Indian spices, but it also sells other ethnic ingredients for your various kitchen experiments and even personal care products.
In addition to Indian spices, MirchiMasalay sells halal meats. They deliver directly to your home in the Chicagoland area and ship to anywhere in the country.
Importance of Sourcing Ingredients
Because the world is a delicious place, MirchiMasalay believes in sourcing ingredients from different places. Americans, especially Chicagoans with their typical pizza, burgers and hot dogs, are not accustomed to Indian cuisine. However, MirchiMasalay sees international food as a way for us all to appreciate each others’ shared humanity and the biodiversity of the planet. Sourcing the world’s seasonal food is a more nutritious and secure solution.
MirchiMasalay is always sourcing new produce and new store categories because they know you are evolving as a cook at home. You like to try new things, and they accommodate their produce to your growing palette.
Ordering Indian Grocery Online
Ordering Indian spices and other groceries is relatively easy on MirchiMasalay’s website. Simply select the item(s) you would like to purchase and choose a delivery date. And, because of the huge variety of options, you can try new spices every month! If you live within the Chicagoland area, you can have your Indian spices and other ingredients delivered to you as soon as the next day.
Using MirchiMasalay’s Indian Spices
So, you ventured out of your food comfort zone and purchased MirchiMasalay’s Indian spices. Now comes the real challenge: How do you use them?
Spice mixes can be complicated, but they shouldn’t be intimidating. By treating the spices correctly, you can maximize their flavors and get the most out of them. There are three main ways to use Indian spices, which will be discussed below.
Dry-roasting is a great way to use your MirchiMasalay Indian spices because it drives off excess moisture and makes the seeds and spices crisper, allowing them to grind easily. However, dry-roasting also changes the spices’ flavor. When spices heat, they release a strong aroma, and these smells can break down and recombine to form new smells and flavors. Ground spices and moisture are enemies, so make sure you store your Indian spices in a dry place.
The best spices that are used for dry-roasting are dry red chillies, cumin, coriander, curry leaves and fennel seeds.
Frying in oil
Unlike dry-roasting Indian spices, frying spices in oil enhances the original flavors of the spice, instead of creating new ones. Spices that are fried are bolder, brighter and fresher.
Fried spices are the opposite of spices used for dry-roasting. They are often called ‘wet masala’ because of the liquid oil and the other moist ingredients in their mix. As a result, these Indian spices are meant to be used immediately.
There are three main ways to fry spices, which are listed below:
- Fried in a small quantity of oil, then ground.
- Slowly fried with onion, a process known as bhunoog.
- Made into tadka, which is when spices are quickly fried in hot oil and used as a finishing touch on a dish.
Using whole spices
Lastly, you can use Indian spices whole in tadka, which translates to tempering. This method, as previously discussed for frying spices, is commonly used in Indian cooking. It involves the heating of whole or ground spices in hot oil or ghee, and being added to a dish. Indian tempering is done either at the beginning or ending of the cooking process.
Other Essentials to Buy at an Indian Grocery Store in Chicago
In addition to Indian spices, there are other ingredients that you should consider purchasing when you visit an Indian grocery store in Chicago.
Rosewater, Orange Flower Water and Kewra
These three essences are staples in Indian cooking, but are not available everywhere. However, MirchiMasalay carries all three.
Rosewater is typically used in Indian desserts and is also used as a natural face-toner.
Orange flower water is important to European, Middle Eastern and North African cuisines and is a byproduct of distilled bitter orange blossoms.
Lastly, Kewra, also known as Keora, has a floral taste with notes of fruit and honey. It is used for Indian desserts and Indian meat stews.
Dried Pulses and Lentils
Indian spices pair well pulses and lentils. If you are unfamiliar with pulses, they are legumes, such as chickpeas, beans and split peas. You should store your pulses and lentils in a cool, dark spot in your pantry.
MirchiMasalay sells a wide array of Indian snacks. These include biscuits, candies/mukhwas, fresh Namkeen and other miscellaneous sweets.
Yes, this may sound strange, but contrary to its name, this Jell-O does not contain carrots, peas or broccoli. Typical Jell-O is made with gelatin, which is an animal byproduct. Because India has a large vegetarian population, their Jell-O removes this byproduct. People typically enjoy mango, pineapple, and orange Indian vegetarian jelly.
Chicago’s Little India Neighborhood
While MirchiMasalay is an entirely online grocer, its Indian spices, halal meats and other Indian food offerings can also be seen in the authentic Little India Neighborhood in Chicago. This major Indian food hub is found around Devon Avenue, and could be the backdrop for a Bollywood film. Along with the smells of curry and Indian spices, this area in Chicago showcases mannequins draped in colorful saris and posters announcing Bollywood blockbusters.
The possibilities for authentic Indian cuisine are limitless in Chicago.