One of the most intimidating things about trying a new recipe is sourcing the sometimes hard-to-find ingredients, so we wanted to give you a cheat sheet on where to find them, based on our 7,000 years of experience tracking things down for classes.
Let's start with Kosambri, a traditional South Indian carrot salad; the recipe comes from Chitra Agrawal's excellent blog, The ABCD's of Cooking. I've been lucky to have this salad several times in Chitra's class, and it's absolutely worth whatever effort is required to grab the spices.
Luckily, most of the ingredients are things you can easily pick up at the neighborhood supermarket - here's the full ingredients list from Chitra's recipe:
8 cup yellow moong dal- soaked from night before
1 tablespoon of chana dal- soaked from night before (optional)
3 large carrots – shredded
1/2 cucumber – peeled, seeded, chopped small
little plum tomato chopped
1 shallot – chopped small
handful fresh coconut
juice of half a lemon
salt to taste (I find that putting a good amount brings out the flavor well)
1-2 green chilis chopped (optional if you like it hotter)
Vaggarne (Oil mixture)
2 teaspoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seed
pinch of hing (asafoetida)
3 fresh curry leaves (or dried curry leaves)
1 dried red chilis – broken in two
From that list, there are a handful of ingredients that will require a special trip.
If you're intent on sticking in Brooklyn, you'll be able to get all the specialty ingredients at Patel Grocery (4th Ave. at 53rd Street, Sunset Park). For a full Indian grocery shopping guide that covers NYC and beyone, check out Chitra's guide.
Otherwise, you can grab things piecemeal at the places below, mostly on a strip of Fulton Street between Bedford and Nostrand in Bed-Stuy. There are three or so small stores that sell a selection of Indian groceries.
Here's a map:
View Sourcing Indian Groceries in Brooklyn in a larger map
And a breakdown:
Yellow moong dal - Moong dal is made from mung beans, and these are yellow because the skin has been removed. For this recipe, you'll soak them and add them straight to the salad without cooking. You can easily find them at the strip of stores on Fulton Street.
Fresh frozen coconut - This stuff is great, and really different than dried coconut. Hopefully one day soon you'll be able to buy it at your local Associated, but until then, the shops along Fulton Street have it as well. I've also read that they have it at health food stores, and potentially Whole Foods, but I haven't had any luck with that.
Black mustard seed - Black mustard seed is more pungent than regular yellow seeds, and for Indian cooking, there isn't really a substitute. Luckily, they're easily found on Fulton Street strip, and sometimes Sahadi's has them as well.
Hing powder (asafoetida) - Here's one thing you definitively can't find along Fulton Street. Luckily, Sahadi's sells it in the spice section and almost always has it in stock.
But what is it? Hing powder is made from a tree resin and is super pungent. It makes things more savory, which is great for vegetarian dishes. For further reading, Serious Eats has a great post.
Fresh curry leaves - These are the really troublesome things to find, and, in Brooklyn, I've only gotten them at Patel Grocery. But they do freeze well, and you can even grow a plant if you find yourself using them a lot.
A word of warning though; the internet likes to talk about Helichrysum italicum being a "curry plant," but you're actually looking for Murraya koenigii.
And that's it! Happy cooking!