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A spice route on Broadway

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Garam masala A view of the spices on sale at Broadway
Garam masala A view of the spices on sale at Broadway

Looking for regular or rare spices? Step into some of the quaint spice stores at Broadway

Think Broadway and one of the most eye-catching images that spring to mind is the Gujarati-run masala shop. Step into ‘Masala Centre’, opposite Mampilly Dispensary and you are surrounded by bottles of well-stacked condiments and dry fruits. Yes, even the exotic ones are all found under one roof. Spices, you name it-they have it!

Metal-rimmed glass boxes hold spices and dry fruits. One might perhaps need an introduction of sorts to a few of the rarer names. The shopkeepers are helpful and hands one a list of spices with their names in different languages. Cashew nuts are painstakingly arranged upright in neat horizontal rows. Masala coated fried ones are sure to make your mouth water! Sure tempts you to indulge, just a little!

The dozen or so varieties of multi-coloured supari (betel nuts) or mouth-freshners have a festive, party look! Bright red cherries, fiery orange mace, translucent rock candy besides green pistachios, cardamom and tawny sultanas ensure that you cannot leave without an eyeful! The woman behind this successful venture, Kamala Ramesh Kumar, known to many simply as “chechi”, started off decades ago, selling spices by the wayside. Today her spices business has grown to the size of a well-run shop that stocks most of what your mind can conjure up! She states, “We sell masalas right from 10 grams right up to one kilo, as the customer’s need may be.” Ten grams? A comforting thought to novice-cooks in these times of inflation!

As she talks, a handful of people drop in, all asking for different items and she pauses to hand them the balance. “You get all the masalas of the world here,” declares Dileep, one of the helpers. Rings true enough, given the variety available.

Hanging inside the shop are slotted containers with half a dozen condiments. Chechi calls them ‘gift boxes’. Turns out that, depending on the size, you can take home one of these for Rs. 100 or Rs. 200.

So, who are the people who make such a venture such a success? The local citizens, tourists and at times, hoteliers.

Spices are sourced from Bangalore, Mumbai and from Kerala itself. Regular components of garam masala, bay leaf, saffron and khus- khus, both black and white, are also sold here.

Dry fruits

Dry fruits including almonds, apricots, pistachios, figs, dates and walnuts are from Delhi, informs chechi. Packets of big-sized pappads, coffee powder, small sachets of single and assorted whole spices fill a portion of the wall. Turns out, the specially prepared chicken, fish or biryani masala powders also have their takers. Green tea, Darjeeling tea as well as masala tea powder find shelf space here. The list is literally endless...

Says Sunil of General Traders, another Gujarati masala shop, “ Spices have a medicinal value too. Take the case of cloves, cinnamon, black pepper or nutmeg, all the spices are 100 per cent pure.” Sunil adds, “We Gujaratis have been here for the past four decades. Now there is more awareness and demand for all sorts of spices. However, supermarkets add to the stiff competition these days.”

As people try to weave their way in to ask for that special spice , be it the masala-coated peanut or the pepper or even the garlic-coated nuts , it becomes obvious that these spice stores are doing brisk business.

So, if you were looking for diverse things like black salt, white pepper, or even a sandalwood and saffron soap- anything remotely spicy, well... your search ends here in these North Indian masala stores!

Variety is indeed the spice of life!

PARVATHY MENON

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