Indian food shopping notes
Buying and storing spices
The best places to buy spices are usually Indian grocery stores, as the prices will be much lower than western-style supermarkets. If you live in the south bay or penninsula, India Cash and Carry has locations in Sunnyvale, Fremont, and Foster City. These stores are very large and carry a wide variety of groceries, including lots of pre-packaged spices. Another good chain of Indian grocery stores is Namaste Plaza (we named our website before finding the store, by the way). Namaste has stores in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Belmont, Dublin, and Fremont. In the East Bay, Viks Retail has very good quality packaged spices. If you want to buy small quantities of spices, Milan Bazaar (990 University Avenue, Berkeley), has open bins of spices and you can buy as little (or much) as you like. Milan has the widest variety of spices we've found anywhere, another plus.
To store spices, keep them in a cool, dark location. Stored properly, ground spices stay at their best for only about 3 months, while whole spices keep well for a year or more. Spices kept too long start to lose their flavor.
Try adding some rotis (chapatis) to your diet
Many Indian dishes taste very good with rotis, also called chapatis. These are whole wheat flat breads that look somewhat like small tortillas. Most Indian grocery stores carry them in packages. We freeze the packages, so we always have rotis on hand. To heat them up, put the frozen rotis on a plate, wrapped in a cloth or paper towels, in the microwave. We usually heat about 5 rotis at a time, in a stack, which takes about 1 minute. Serve immediately after heating them. (You can also serve them wrapped in a napkin, to keep them warm and soft for a little longer.)
The quality of the rotis available varies greatly. The best are usually made with just flour, water, and a small amount of oil, but some brands add all kinds of other suspect-looking ingredients. We particularly like the Gujarati Phulka rotis made by Kokila's Kitchen. They come in a silver, resealable packet. (We have found them at the India Cash and Carry in Sunnyvale.)