Patel Brothers

Patel Brothers supermarket in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the things I miss most about NYC. I jump up and down a little bit when I go in. Or sometimes a lot.

It’s a massive Indian supermarket, and it has basically everything. Any kind of spice you could want. Whole dried coconuts that look like brown monkey heads. Five-pound bags of whole garam masala or ground cumin. Giant bags of all kinds of lentils, beans, and rice. Canned pulp of Alphonso mangoes, the best kind of mangoes whose season is the occasion for a mango craze in India, which you can rarely if ever find fresh in the US,

a giant section of many chopped and frozen exotic vegetables including frozen cut lotus root,

and most exciting, an awesome fresh produce section full of all kinds of things that are totally unfamiliar to me:

Patra leaves are leaves of the genus Colocasia (one species, Colocasia esculenta, is called Elephant Ear, and the root is also eaten as the vegetable taro). The leaves are rolled up with chickpea flour (gram flour) to make a really really delicious Gujarati dish that is sold at Rajbhog Sweets around the corner from Patel Brothers.

So when we stopped by Patel Brothers recently, we stocked up on some fresh curry leaves and fresh turmeric (my picture of turmeric was blurry, so check out this one). Fresh turmeric! I always thought turmeric was just a powder, or I guess I might’ve thought it came from a seed, like powdered cumin does, but no! It looks like mini fresh ginger, but bright orange inside.

And finally, I was standing there admiring these tiny striped cucumbers, and a woman began filling a bag with them, so I asked her what to do with them. So I got some, and I cooked them, roughly according to her instructions, and I’ll tell you about it in the next post.

Weird fruit 1

These round green fruits were hanging out outside a bodega on 37th Ave. between 73rd and 74th Streets in Jackson Heights, Queens. Just about here. Woohoo! A fruit I’d never eaten before! I’d never seen anything like them and I had no idea what they were.

They’re about the size of a golf ball. This is what one looks like inside.

It tasted good: like an underripe peach, with a little bit of quince. The texture was crisp, and a little gritty like a pear. What was it, though? I asked the cashier and he said, “voroi.” At least I thought he did. Ian thought he’d said “boroi,” and Ian turned out to be right. They are…

Jujube (also called boroi or kul), scientific name Ziziphus mauritiana.

They’re mainly eaten raw, and grown in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Africa. According to the Wikipedia article, “In Ethiopia, the fruits are used to stupefy fish.” How, I couldn’t say.

Lots of exciting jujube pictures here (fresh! dried! green! yellow! red!)