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Sugar and rice and everything spice………….

November 22, 2009

I have been hearing about the spice market and I have desperately wanted to go. It sounded like a magical place where the sights were only rivaled by the smells. Where wholesalers bargained out of burlap sacks and the color of the spices lit up the canvas of the market.

Unfortunately, it felt a little drab – more like the streets of Oliver Twist rather than the hoped fields of the Sound of Music – but there were some beautiful sights to take in. The spices did light up the back drop a little – like the hushed tones of a sepia infused photograph. Quietly stunning.

On the way to the Spice Market in Old Delhi, the streets are lined with nut wallas – a walla is a merchant – so you guessed it – a nut walla sells nuts. There were dozens of them – one right after the other. Their displays were beautiful and tasty.

There was also a paneer walla. He sells blocks of paneer – think cottage cheese meets tofu – it is very popular here among the veg and non-veg eaters. And, yes, it bothered me a little that it was not refrigerated – but it did not seem to bother anyone else.

Along the way to the actual Spice Market, you see a lot of stalls with spices in them. But even though these are not the stuff that the official wholesale spice market is made of, they are pretty all the same.

There are also all sorts of pickled treats. I am a big believer in “when in Rome” so if this had been pasta, I would have surely tried it. But alas, I am in India and could not bring myself to taste these unidentifiable delights. The locals were not so shy and quickly savored them.

Now this is another story – take a potato, slice it, and fry it in some grease – and you have yourself a customer.

These are bags of rice and flour.

These are seeds for Lotus flowers.

Someone told me what these were but I cannot remember – some form of crystallized sugar – maybe molasses – I can’t remember – if you know, please do tell.

I wanted to go all Martha Stewart on these stars of anise and decorate them with glitter or at least a little paint. Wouldn’t they be pretty hanging on a tree with a ribbon?

These bowls were in the actual Spice Market. I did not know what all of them were – but there is surely curry, pepper, cinnamon, salt, coriander, ginger, chili powder, and many other yummy spices in these bowls.

I wonder how this works. These are red chili peppers. This is a wholesale market – so it is entirely possible that these bags get emptied every day. But what happens if they don’t all sell? And who is buying that many chili peppers?

This yellow root is tumeric. It is said if you grind it and add it to a warm glass of milk and drink that every day, you will fight off the swine flu.

And, no, I really don’t want to know why they are selling rat traps here.

These are dried rose petals for making potpourri. They smelled as lovely as they looked and reminded me of my grandmother’s bathroom.

This is what a typical stall looked like. Bags brimming with spices just waiting for someone to come buy them.

And really, truly, don’t blink or you might miss it. This is the sign above the alley that tells you that you have officially arrived at the Spice Market. It was a crowded place with lots of activity – not many tourists – and a lot to see. I am glad we found it!

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2012 12:20 pm

    Someone told me what these were but I cannot remember – some form of crystallized sugar – maybe molasses – I can’t remember – if you know, please do tell.

    I think those are ‘Edible Glue Crystals’, which are used to make ‘Laddoo’s..

  2. December 17, 2012 12:17 pm

    Someone told me what these were but I cannot remember – some form of crystallized sugar – maybe molasses – I can’t remember – if you know, please do tell.

    I think those are ‘Edible Gum Crystals’. These are used to make ‘Laddu’ in India…

  3. swarupa permalink
    August 21, 2012 3:11 am

    All different types of masalas which r used in veg curries separately and non-veg curries separately .All strong spices like cardomom,,cloves pepper,and normal daily used is mustard seeds,jeera,dhaniya

  4. March 21, 2012 5:17 pm

    Hi Ellen, This is a wonderful post. Markets in these old countries are amazing and you’ve really given us wonderful pictures. Amazing!
    I once stood in front of a stall in a seafood market in Hong Kong and realized that everything they had for sale was MOVING!
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Tottsmom permalink
    November 23, 2009 12:41 pm

    I think the star anise would make a great tree ornament. Not to mention one that smelled really good. Even the lotus flower seeds look like they would be pretty strung with some cranberries, although you might find it a bit hard to find the cranberries. What a great opportunity to do an unusual tree. I have a friend that puts up a “harvest tree” every Fall. It’s beautiful.

    • November 24, 2009 12:25 am

      You are right – cranberries would be beautiful with the flower seeds – I will have to get looking! Happy Turkey Day to you and yours!

  6. November 22, 2009 7:46 pm

    Very nice. I love the smell of spices.

    • November 23, 2009 1:03 am

      You would have loved this market then. It was really lovely – it was something like out of a movie.

  7. Sands permalink
    November 22, 2009 11:06 am

    :-) rat traps because there any tiny Mouses that do get in the house and their favorite place is the kitchen, so while someone is buying spices, they might as well buy the trap for that mousie who lives in the kitchen!!

    • November 23, 2009 1:02 am

      Unfortunately, I really do know why there are rat traps. Ick. I don’t even like to think about it! ;-)

  8. Bee permalink
    November 22, 2009 8:08 am

    Looks like you went to a whole sale spice market. Most cities have such stores where spices,lentils ,flour and sugar are sold in the open like that. With the high consumption of goods, this stuff doesn’t stay there for long. Yes, Paneer sitting openly, uncovered bothered me a lot. With the modernisation, this has changed. It is mostly kept in the refrigerated places. Whole red chillies are used in indian cooking. SOme make powder out of that. I was at Dulles expo craft fare last weekend and bought potpourri that was made from flowers from India. I bought a whole bunch. lol!
    I wonder why they have rat traps? LOL!

    • November 23, 2009 1:00 am

      I went to the spice market in Old Delhi – it was great fun but really busy. The paneer walla kept asking me if I wanted to buy paneer – I am not a big fan of paneer – but if it’s not even refrigerated there is NO chance I am buying it. It was kind of funny. He was a good sport about it. And, please don’t remind me of the traps. Good heavens! 8-)

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