I get a lot of questions (and a few complaints!) from people through my Instagram and in real life asking where they can buy some of the spices listed in my recipes. I love collecting spices of all kinds and have a well-stocked spice cabinet throughout the year, so I never actually stopped to think this could be a problem, but because of all the questions I’ve received I wanted to write a post about this topic.
I usually source a lot of my spices directly from spice sellers in Sri Lanka during our trips there or when we have friends and family visiting. Sri Lanka is a major producer and exporter of many spices (like cardamom, cinnamon and pepper, to name a few) so it makes sense for me to stock up on many of them while visiting. In between trips when supplies run low, however, there are a few places in New York that I frequent to keep my kitchen stocked. I’ve listed some of them here, along with a note on some spices they carry that are hard to find elsewhere.
In general, you will find whole spices like cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, cinnamon and ground spices like chili powder, turmeric, cumin and coriander in the spice aisle of most supermarkets. Most supermarkets in New York will also carry fresh herbs and spices like cilantro and ginger, and you can usually substitute serrano peppers found at stores for Indian green chillies in most recipes.
Some spices like black mustard seeds, fenugreek, cumin seeds, asafoetida, nigella seeds, “panch phoron” (Bengali five-spice mix), kewda water (pandan essence), tamarind, fresh Indian green chillies, javitri (mace), gur (jaggery, or date palm molasses) and certain types of lentils you may be able to find easily at any Indian grocery stores near you or at specialty supermarkets that have large international food sections. A few things you may also find at Middle Eastern grocery stores (such as rosewater, saffron, cardamom, etc.) and others at Thai grocers (things like hot chillies, ginger and garlic pastes, etc).
Bengali & Sri Lankan Spice & Grocery Stores in New York and New Jersey:
Kalustyan’s in Murray Hill — this store is a spice lovers’ dream, stocked with virtually every spice or condiment you could want. They carry curry leaves, Sri Lankan un-roasted curry powder and you will also find Bengali cooking staples like panch phoron, and really anything else your heart desires. They also have an online store that ships to locations all over the US (although, things like fresh curry leaves are only available in store).
You will also find fresh curry leaves and a lot of the spices needed for Sri Lankan and Bengali cooking at the Dual Specialty Stores on the Lower East Side. You’ll also find Sri Lankan Lion Lager here! (If Sri Lankan food is already on your mind, it’s tempting not to grab one and head straight upstairs to Sigiri restaurant to take advantage of their BYOB policies and spicy Lankan food.)
You’ll find fresh curry leaves and most of the other spices I listed above at Patel Brothers, another haven for spices & South Asian groceries located in Jackson Heights, Queens. You won’t find Sri Lankan curry powders here, but you’ll find a lot of South Indian curry powders and other spice blends that can work as a substitute. You’ll also find a lot of Bangladeshi spices and cooking ingredients at Patel Brothers, like mustard oil, kalijeera rice and they now also carry specialty Bengali ghee.
For more specific Bengali spices and groceries (things like ilish maach, certain fresh or frozen vegetables like laal shaak or jaam fruit, etc.) you can head to one of the following stores in various locations in Queens: Mannan Halal Supermarket in Jackson Heights (they also have locations in Jamaica, Queens), Arham (formerly Ittadi) Grocery Store, Bonoful Supermarket and Ittadi Cash and Carry in Astoria. Trade Fair is another great option throughout Queens as they carry many South Asian spices and grocery items, including some Bengali staples at specific locations (for example, you’ll find frozen hilsa fish at the 30th Avenue, Astoria location).
I’m told that Sahadi’s is the place to go for all kinds of spices in Brooklyn. An online search shows that Bangla Nagar Supermarket and Dwip Bangla Grocery are likely to carry all sorts of Bengali groceries in particular, as both are located in a neighborhood heavily populated by Bangladeshi immigrants.
You will find most Sri Lankan spices, including the curry powders I mentioned, at certain Sri Lankan grocery stores on Staten Island in New York. A lot of these are located along Victory Boulevard, such as Lanka Grocery.
For Bengali/Bangladeshi staples, including a variety of Bengali fish, I hear New Hilsa Grocery (owned by the same family who run the wonderful Bangladeshi restaurant Korai Kitchen in Journal Square, NJ) is a great place to shop. I have not been there but I am so smitten with Korai Kitchen and the way the restaurant is run that I am certain the grocery store is also great even without having stepped foot there.
For Sri Lankan spices and groceries in New Jersey, head to Lanka Asian Market in New Brunswick, NJ. I have also not been to this store but from the reviews it seems like a good option for most Sri Lankan cooking basics.
Online in the US
I’ve never purchased any of these items online but seems like many things are available online from Kalystyan’s or on Amazon.