Get Thee to an Indian Spice Shop

Beirut, Markets

My tutorials in Indian cuisine have continued this week – I have a total of four recipes tucked away and a jar of Pav Bhaji Masala spice mix in my cupboard. I’m learning so much about spicing in particular, as this is what I think is at the heart of Indian food. Every time I go downstairs, jar after jar of colorful spices are pulled from the cupboards. A pinch here, a spoon there, and not too much chili because Mrs. Modgil knows I can’t take the heat! I’ve been introduced to black cardamom, mango powder, asafoetida powder, various masalas….now I need to get myself over to the Dora traffic circle here in Beirut, where I hear there is a Sri Lankan grocery that just might have some of these magical ingredients (tomorrow). She’s even advised me of the different brands available (in India) and which are the best (the ones from the South aren’t as good).

Tuesday night we had the honor of sitting down with my teacher and eating the Pav Bhaji (pictured above) we’d made together earlier in the day. It’s a vegetarian street food dish topped with lots of butter and eaten with bread. And if I described how it was made you’d likely be unable to imagine it as it’s unorthodox by my standards. However, it’s delicious. Mrs. Modgil and Gita are both vegetarians…however they cook meat for their families. On this particular evening, she’d also prepared a dish called Keema (photo to the left), maybe the best ground meat dish I’ve ever tasted. Full of delicate spices, peas, and topped with boiled eggs, I fell in love. As soon as I get myself some black cardamom I’m trying it!

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