If you're seeking out a hard-to-find taste of home or just broadening your food culture, ethnic grocery stores are essential.
But how easy is it for people seeking out ingredients and spices from overseas in Minnesota? There's no better person to ask than Raghavan Iyer.
Born and raised in India, Iyer creates his James Beard Award-winning Indian dishes right here in the Twin Cities.
Use the audio player above to hear Iyer's chat with All Things Considered host Tom Crann, and see a recipe from Iyer below.
Recipe for Garam Masala
Makes 1/3 cup
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds (removed from the green or white cardamom pods)
2 medium-size dried bay leaves
2 dried red cayenne chiles (like chile de arbol), stems discarded
1 cinnamon stick (about 3 inches in length), broken up into smaller pieces (see Extra Credit)
1. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. While you are waiting for that to happen, quickly combine the coriander and cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves, cardamom seeds, bay leaves, chiles, and cinnamon stick in a small heatproof bowl.
2. Once the skillet is hot (when you hold the palm of your hand close to the bottom of the skillet you will feel the heat), usually after 2 to 4 minutes, sprinkle in the spice mixture. Toast the spices, shaking the skillet every few seconds, until the coriander and cumin turn reddish brown, the cloves, peppercorns, and cardamom turn slightly ash black, the cinnamon and bay leaves appear brittle and crinkly, the chiles have blackened in spots, and the mixture is highly fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.
3. Immediately transfer the nutty-smelling spice blend back to the small bowl to cool. (The longer the spices sit in the hot skillet, the more likely it is that they will burn, making them bitter and unpalatable.) If you don't allow the spices to cool, the ground blend will acquire unwanted moisture from the heat, making the final blend slightly " cakey." Once the spice blend is cool to the touch, place it in a spice grinder (or coffee grinder) and grind it to the consistency of finely ground black pepper.
4. Store the spice blend in a tightly sealed container, away from excess light, heat, and humidity, for up to 3 months.