Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ethnic Markets and Cookbooks II

An Indian market was the glaring hole in my February post about local ethnic markets and cookbooks to bring for inspiration. Along with a small Tere's Latin Market on Rte 40, I found friendly, accessible Desi Market in Columbia, and I plan on returning over and over to explore. Also, I found an African market on Rte 175, although that place wasn't accessible on my first visit. I'll go back to try again, but I can't say that I knew what to buy or even to ask.

(Update: Check out a comprehensive list of ethnic markets in Howard County.)

West African: Afia International Market
I would love anyone else's suggestion about Afia International Market in Jessup -- in the shopping center on Rte 175 just east of Rte 1 that My Organic Market calls "Columbia East."

The store seemed filled with dried goods and packages from Nigeria and Ghana, but it wasn't accessible for me. I don't know the cuisine, and, honestly, the smell set me back. More like a butcher in Bangkok than in Columbia, and the smell made the sight of carved goats seem far more off-putting than the same display at Lily's or the Laurel Meat Market. Then, no one said anything as I circled the shelves under the blare of televisions bolted above. The talking stopped as I came near, then started again as I passed. I retreated.

I want to go back. Can you suggest anything? A cookbook? A treat like the samosas that I suggest at the Desi Market? A staple to try? The first time that I went into Aladdin, I had only a few minutes and endured a similarly cold experience. For the second, I brought a recipe and took my time to inspect the shelves and to ask questions. It has been welcoming ever since, although I still haven't finished the pound of roasted watermelon seeds that I bought on the owner's recommendation. (Nice crunch, little flavor other than salt. I can't eat more than a handful at a sitting. Still cheap at $3.49 to connect with the owner.)

Afia International Market
7351 Assateague Drive
Jessup, MD 20794

This is actually the address for My Organic Market in the same shopping center.

NEAR: IT's on Rte 175 just east of I-95. There is a large shopping center on the right just after you cross Rte 1. Look for the Starbucks. Turn right into the shopping center, then turn right and go past the Starbucks and the Rita's Italian Ice. Afia International Market is around the far side next to the Goodwill.

Indian: Desi Market in Columbia
The Desi Market should be a Bhutanese market because it is hidden in a commercial area north of Rte 108. But instead of selling food from the "Hidden Kingdom," the market offers everything that you need to have fun with Indian food. Mangos ready to eat in the car. Samosas ready to be baked tonight for dinner. Frozen foods. Flours, rose water, and spices.

Spices are the bedrock for Indian food and the first reason to visit Desi Market. You'll get a far wider supply than any supermarket. You'll also get a bag of spices for the price of a 1 ounce tube by an American spice company. Start with whole peppercorns, whole mustard seeds, whole cumin, whole coriander, and cardamom -- either whole pods or the tiny seeds already broken from the pods. If you like those, branch out to tumeric, fennel, cloves, or fenugrek. Or ask for tamarind pulp, a tart part of cuisine from India through Thailand that you can store in your pantry.

If you want to start with Indian food, borrow or buy Mangoes & Curry Leaves by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid. They're Western photographers who have travelled in Asia for 20 years and have been writing cookbooks since 1985. Their site. Their book Mangoes & Curry Leaves has recipes that range from simple to complex and that cover almost every Indian food that I have enjoyed. The recipes are clear and written for an American kitchen, using the tools and the ingredients that you could get at Desi Market -- with substitutions that you could get anywhere. It has the most beautiful photos and short writings. By general rule, I discard photo-heavy cookbooks as precious and not useful. This book is the exception that makes me question the rule entirely.

Desi Market is just as friendly as the Mangoes & Curry Leaves. The young couple running the place were friendly and talkative. They answered questions. They suggested a recipe for a refreshing drink. If you walk in with a cookbook, I think they'll help you locate ingredients and even suggest what else you could buy.

Buy spices. Buy a bag of frozen naan. Check out the vegetables or stop somewhere to buy your own. You could be cooking Indian tonight. But while you're there, try a samosa -- either fresh or a box of frozen. Try the papad that I wrote about. Pick a bottle of rose water and Indian-style yogurt for the lassi recipe below. If you have a friend from India, buy a $1 bottle of Limca, the lemon-lime soda that Coca-Cola sells there. The glass bottles were on the floor facing the freezer case, and they're a nostalgic moment for anyone who has stood next to a Bombay vendor drinking soda from a straw.

If you are looking for Indian groceries, also check out Food Cravings a few blocks from Desi Bazaar and Apna Bazar or Eastern Bazaar in Laurel. And in the comments below, check out Askok's comment about Food Cravings.

Sweet Lassi from Mangoes & Curry Leaves
2 c. plain yogurt (full- or reduced-fat)
2 c. plain cold water
pinch of salt
sugar to taste
1/2 tsp. rose water

Whisk the yogurt and water together in a deep bowl until frothy. Add the other ingredients and beat in. Serve cold over ice. (Variation: Replace the rose water with 1 or 2 coarsely chopped bananas and mix all the ingredients in a blender.)

Desi Bazaar
9179 Red Branch Rd # H
Columbia, MD 21045
(410) 997-8400

NEAR: This is in a commercial area off Rte 108 just east of Rte 29. You can't see anything from Rte 108. You turn north on Red Branch Road at a traffic light, and Desi Bazaar is in a commercial building on the right. The parking is actually before the store, so we had to U-turn and go back.

There is another Indian store on Red Branch Road, but it was even harder to find out where to park. I had frozen food in my car, so I didn't go in.

Mexican: Tere's Latin Market
Tere's is a small Mexican market on the south side of Rt 40 in Ellicott City. It has a basic supply of spices, tortillas, and vegetables like plaintains, onions, tomatoes and avocados. It's a great stop if you need dried peppers -- costenos, japones, guajillo, chipotle, arbol, all on the back wall -- and the woman working when I visited was solicituous in fluent English. She would have answered any questions.

But Lily's Mexican Market in Columbia has far broader offerings with extras like the meat counter and larger freezers. Tere's -- with its supply of Mexican pharmacy and cleaning items -- is probably just as useful to a person who grew up with Mexican food and needs the basics. But there is less to explore.

Tere's Latin Market
8525-A Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21043

NEAR: Tere's is on Rte 40 east of Rte 29. Just east on an Acura dealer is a shopping center that faces Rte 40. Tere's is next to a Quizno's.


Janice said...

YAY! Thanks - I'll be stopping by Desi Bazaar tonight! Appreciate the tip. :)

Fabiana Sanches said...

GREAT BLOG! Do you have any tips of restaurants & markets of this kind in NYC? Chinese , african, mexican....


HowChow said...

Fabiana -- I"m so sorry. I don't know markets outside DC. I always assume that NYC has the most of *everything*.

Ashok said...

the other indian grocery store in red branch road is called Food Cravings( not a typical name for an indian restaurant eh ? ).
It has apparently been in business for at least 10 years.
It has more non vegetarian frozen food and also they make fresh biriyani and chapathy that you can carry out. Definitely worth a visit.