Abhilasha Ojha goes shopping for exclusive varieties of cheese, sauces, sushi-making kits and frozen snacks at some speciality gourmet stores.
Select Citywalk, the mall in New Delhi, sees heavy footfalls even on weekdays. People here throng to Food Bazaar and Le Marche, stores which house ready-to-eat food products, an array of sauces, cold cuts, meats and what have you. But what catches our eye is Passion Cheese, a store so small it’s more like a stall that one finds in neighbourhood Diwali exhibitions. When we visit, the store has a group of ladies generously tasting varieties of cheeses on a complimentary platter.
“We want people to taste what they get,” the salesperson tells me, prompting me to try out feta cheese steeped in olive oil (Rs 230 for 200 gms). “It’s all cheese and only cheese,” he grins, while we sample the “100 per cent vegetarian” cheeses, including smoked gouda (Rs 220, 200 gms), feta with whole olives (Rs 260, 200 gms), emmental (Rs 230, 200 gms) and smoked Edam (Rs 240, 200 gms).
Even as gourmet stores sprout to spread flavours in different parts of India, stand-alone speciality stores like Passion Cheese are thrilled at the response they are receiving to their concept. “People are travelling and becoming foodies in their own right. So obviously, a speciality store concept can work well,” agrees Mrinmoy Acharya, who began his delicatessen Table of Content three months ago in Mumbai’s Bandra region.
While he rues the fact that Mumbai doesn’t have any super-speciality stores like Delhi, he’s observing how customers pick up Japanese mustard (Rs 110 for 50 gms), Japanese rice wine vinegar (Rs 218 for 300 ml) and even Swedish lingon berries (Rs 389 for 400 gms) from his outlet. “Customers know exactly what they want,” he says.
Chef Mako Ravindran of Mako’s Gourmet Food, a restaurant in Bangalore, confirms: “Bangalore, for instance, will have gourmet stores but no, I don’t think there are super speciality stores like the ones in Delhi.” He points to Yamato Ya as an example. “It’s very expensive,” he grins, adding, “With consumers finding so much delight in Japanese cuisine, I’m not surprised that the store is working so well.”
Yamato Ya is nestled in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave area. You might even miss the store, preferring to settle down in the bustling Café Coffee Day that is just a few steps away. Steep prices notwithstanding, Yamato Ya is a place where one needs to know ones Japanese cuisine well. Hidanka Konbu (Rs 2,500 for 1 kg), for instance, is a dry ingredient used in Japanese soups.
You’ll even find special Japanese knives for Rs 200 here, besides a range of sauces, including teriyaki, steak, hashed beef and oyster sauce (all in the price range of Rs 270 and Rs 300). Our pick is the store’s “sushi corner” where we find nori sheets (Rs 190, 10 sheets), rice sheets for spring rolls (Rs 355, 45 gms), dried sushi mix powder (Rs 288, 180 gms) and sashimi tamari (Rs118 for a bottle, tamari is thicker, richer and darker than soy sauce, an ideal accompaniment to sushi and sashimi, used for dipping, seasoning and for marinades).
There is rice vinegar with kelp (Rs 296 a bottle) besides radish and cucumber pickles (Rs 375 for a packet), while sesame dressing specially imported from Japan is available for Rs 310. What’s interesting are small printouts pasted at various intersections in the store that explain the basics of Japanese cuisine. There is, for instance, a quick recipe for Kaiso salad, a dish which uses dried seaweed (Rs 140 for 15 gms).
Packets of dried baby sardines (anywhere between Rs 160-217) and bonito shavings, which my colleague explains is a must for flavouring in Japanese soup stocks, are available for Rs 890 for 200 gms. The prices nevertheless are steep and one kg of dried shitake mushrooms, for instance, costs Rs 3,810. At Food Bazaar, 25 gms of the same will cost you Rs 225.
That apart, Yamato Ya stocks tiger prawns (Rs 380 for 270 gms), scallops (Rs 600, 250 gms) and salted salmon (Rs 280, 170 gms), besides cook-books on sushi (priced at Rs 880 and above). Incidentally, stores like Welworth Foods and Fresh n Fresh in Mumbai specialise in stocking both fresh and frozen seafood.
If Yamato Ya is the one stop shop for Japanese cuisine, A Mart, another spacious store in Delhi’s Mahipalpur area, claims to be the place for South Korean cuisine. The store will also be participating in a Korean festival to take place on October 5, 2008 in New Delhi’s Ansal Plaza. The store’s business development officer Jyoti Vardhan says that the response to the store has been overwhelming with clients from other metros and nearby cities coming down specially to buy products.
The store scores with its range of frozen food: shrimp nuggets (Rs 380 for 500 gms), momos and vegetable spring rolls (a pack of 10 costs Rs 350 or so) along with an array of dry powders; fish (Rs 370 for 50 gms), prawn (Rs 320 for 50 gms) and kimchi (Rs 70 for 50 gms), besides the traditional Korean sweet black rice (Rs 600 for 800 gms) and the special 21 grain legumes which South Koreans use widely in their cooking (Rs 1,300 for 2 kg). The store has over 30 varieties of ready-to-eat noodles (Rs 380 and above), besides dry anchovies used widely in South Korean preparations (Rs 400 for a packet) and pickles (cucumber, napa cabbage) fermented in a brine of ginger, garlic and chilli pepper (Rs 250 for a packet).
Speaking of pickles and spices, Sikkim Organic, a brand new store in Delhi’s GK I area, stocks pickled Nakema (a flower bud that grows in north-eastern India), cardamom and red chilli powder besides local fruit squashes and even tea (Rs 65 for 125 gms). “The best part is that within 10 minutes you can walk out of these stores carrying imported ingredients for that exotic meal that can be made at home,” says Ravindran, who likes to visit stores like the Gourmet Food Store in Bangalore. “For me, people opening up to global cuisine is an example of cultural evolution,” he adds.
I remember the Japanese pizza powder (Rs 110 for a tiny bottle) that I’d seen lying on the shelf at Yamato Ya. Somehow, I understand what Ravindran means.
6 months ago