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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Fast or slow, spices get things cooking

Posted on Thu, Jul 22, 2004 at 4:00 AM

Cooking Indian food at home can be a leisurely, luxurious experience. Hours spent grinding spices, chopping vegetables and slowly simmering curries and kormas are ideal for getting to know a cooking partner, affording as they do plenty of time for wine-sipping and conversational digression. There's none of the flash and sizzle or the split-second timing required by some other ethnic cuisines.

But sometimes you just want a quickie. Whichever you prefer, House of Spices – in the Laxmi Plaza across from Woodlands – is there to help.

This Indian/Pakistani grocery can provide the raw ingredients for those unhurried cooking journeys. There's a whole aisle of spices, from the mundane (black peppercorns) to the exotic (whole turmeric, four different forms of cardamom), and every sort of dried bean and legume your Indian recipe book might call for. There's also a truly impressive selection of pickles and chutneys: I felt lucky to find a jar of lime pickle, but was delighted to be able to choose between seven different kinds of lime pickle.

Also helpful for the home cook, House of Spices has a small produce section stuffed with hard-to-find veggies like bitter melon, fresh okra and curry leaves, along with some of the freshest, juiciest ginger root I've ever seen.

And for those quickie moments, an entire section of the store is devoted to MREs – no, not Army rations, but precooked shelf-stable curries and soups – and the freezer is well-stocked with naan, paratha and frozen desserts. Fling one in the microwave, toss a thawed naan on the griddle and you'll be devouring a tasty meal in less than five minutes.

Bonus: Like most Indian groceries, House of Spices carries a selection of British foods. Sweet-toothed customers will find the full range of British candy bars (from Flake bars to Yorkies) and all those yummy cookies (HobNobs, Jaffa Cakes), as well as basic necessities like Horlicks cocoa and heavenly Heinz vegetarian baked beans.

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