Food is one of the greatest expressions of heritage, so by studying different cuisines and preparing recipes native to different parts of the world, one can literally take a bite out of various cultures.
The main obstacle to cooking a dish that’s true to its origin is often locating the proper ingredients, since many necessary elements are only available in specialty shops. Running from store to store, neighborhood to neighborhood, or borough to borough just to shop is exhausting—especially before focusing on the creation of a complex curry, sauté or tagine.
For those outside New York City, the chicken coop style scurrying about town might be unavoidable. But for those in this culturally rich city, all one needs to do is head to the corner of 28th Street and Lexington Ave.
The grocery store named Kalustyan’s, which takes up half the block, is a bastion of global gastronomy. Specialized ingredients are imported from more than 70 countries to stock a store renowned for both diversity and quality. Spices brought in directly from the markets of India share shelf space with goat brined yoghurt from the Middle East, freshly foraged fruit jams from Bavaria and dried teas from Asia. Over 40 types of rice are available, ranging from the Italy’s Carnaroli grain to various blends from China and the rest of Asia.
Along with dry goods, the deli upstairs offers delectable prepared bites, mostly of Indian and Middle Eastern origins. Whenever I visit I make a point to sample the mujadarra, a pottage of grains including lentils and rice simmered with onions, cumin and coriander that takes me right to my family’s kitchen in the Middle East.
Since food and health are intrinsically linked, Kalustyan’s stockpiles herbal supplements that are difficult to come by at even the most comprehensive health food stores. For instance, you’ll find Shilazid from India, a natural Viagra rumored to be more effective that its pharmaceutical counterpart, and black seed oil from Egypt, which is said to cure many an ailment.
The unusual goods, seasonings, ingredients at Kalustyan’s are hard if not impossible to find anywhere else, short of visiting the countries from which they come. Dubbed the “Willy Wonka” of imported foods, Kalustyan’s tantalizes the palates of those eager to explore foods of the world in the most authentic manner possible.
Featured image courtesy of Sarita Dan