I left India in 1983 to study in the States, having grown up in Madras, now Chennai, in the South. For all the years in between, I've only on rare occasions been able to find South Indian food - In Brooklyn Heights on one occasion, and of course in London.
One or two restaurants in Edinburgh have purported to offer South Indian fare (they shall remain nameless!), and it was, quite frankly, appalling.
So imagine my delight when I stumbled upon Janatha Stores. I simply wanted some cellotape and happened to be in a pub round the corner and popped into what looks like any other convenience store, but in side has three rows of shelves of South Indian provisions.
The owner, Jaidas, told me he was from Kanyakumari, which is the tip of the Indian peninsula and so he stocks food provisions from both Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The supplies range from frozen seafood, especially fish that is typically used in our South Indian Curries, to base materials to make a whole range of starchy foods like idlis (steamed rice cakes - for which you will need to buy an idli maker as well, unfortunately), dosais, vadas, iddi appams, appams and much more. Don't know what these are? Hey, try them, you'll like them, I promise.
I love their instant Uppuma - a kind of savoury cream of wheat like dish. It's a great filler dish if I'm too lazy to make something properly. Even their tinned curries are excellent - I tried two - Kerala Kaalan Curry and another - expected them to be dire as most tinned curries are, but they were really good.
A whole range of pickles and other spicy additives like Sambols - that lie outside of the more mundane offerings of other asian food stockists. Two of my favourites are Gonkura and Chilly pickle and something that is likened to a Gooseberry but is slightly different. Can't remember the original name, I'm afraid.
They also have South Indian curries and rice dishes that are sterilised and vacuum packed so contain no preservatives. 2 minutes in the micro and they are yours - but I have to confess some of these are good but some were not to my taste. Try and see - they are all of £1.49 if memory serves, and many of the things I mention above are even cheaper.
Last and definitely not least, my beloved Murrukku can be found here, however they do have two brands and one I found too hard - rice murrukkus seem to be the best here but they are often sold out of them.
Am on my way right now to try and see if they have fresh stock! See you there?
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