Indian food is one of my favorite comfort foods.
It’s not a cuisine that Jake and I grew up eating, but one we’ve sought as adults. Our mothers’ casseroles and wild rice and chicken soups will always taste like comfort food, but we also seek solace in spicy Indian foods like saag with paneer and vegetable korma.
When you think of Fargo, ND, you might not think of Indian food, but we routinely visited the city’s two Indian restaurants that stacked up against our favorite in the Twin Cities. Both restaurants served dishes in the most complex and compelling sauces and honored requests for “extra-spicy” and we loved them for it. There were also a couple of stores that sold Indian spices in big bags that I’ve brought with me to Iowa.
There isn’t an Indian restaurant or grocery store in Mason City (yet), so I’ve tried to make a few dishes at home. They taste flat compared to what we remember ordering, so I need to keep practicing.
We’ve tried a few brands of shelf-stable, prepackaged Indian foods available at our grocery stores. They’re far from homemade, but sometimes taste better than my attempts at Indian food and are decent meal options for when I don’t want to cook. I serve them with steamed basmati rice, pita, and yogurt sauce I make from combining plain or Greek-style yogurt, garlic, onion, salt, pepper, lime juice, cucumber and grated carrot.
Here’s what we thought:
Tasty Bite Jodhpur Lentils & Punjab Eggplant: I picked-up these bags for $2.96 each from the clearance end cap at Target. Of these three brands, Tasty Bite struck me as the least spicy. Both Jake and I liked the Punjab eggplant the best out of all four products. I liked its creamy texture and the flavor didn’t become one-note. I thought the lentils were just ok.
Jyoti Dehli Saag: I’ve found the JYOTI cans in the natural food sections of many grocery stores. They cost between $3-4 and typically cost a tad more than the other brands. I’ve tried a couple other varieties of dishes from this brand and find them to be more intensely flavored than the other brands.
This spinach and mustard green saag was the most intense of the four products. It also tasted the most salty so I diluted it with some water. I liked its kick of heat, though the Kitchens of India Mashed Vegetable Curry may have tasted a tad spicier. The mustard greens in the saag lent a funky flavor that I struggled with through the meal. We have yet to touch the leftovers.
Kitchens of India Mashed Vegetable Curry: This was our second favorite product. We liked the shimmer of spicy red oil. The ingredients include potatoes, tomatoes, green peas and onions, though it was difficult to identify exactly what we were tasting since the curry’s texture was like a thick sauce. This curry avoided having a one-note flavor and we finished the pouch.
All of these were products cost between $3-4. As positives, these products contain a surprisingly short list of ingredients free of strange chemicals and preservatives I can’t pronounce. As negatives, all of the products have pureed textures like baby food. Have you ever tried shelf-stable Indian food? Which ones do you consider hits and misses?