Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Great Things Will Come Of This

Pretty loud title, I know, but I am so excited! I have been dying for one of these things for ages, and now I finally have one! No, not my long-awaited degree, but close. It’s a masala dabba, or tiffin*. It’s a metal tin with little jars to hold the most commonly used spices in Indian cooking. There is a little metal spoon for scooping out the spices, and a tight-fitting lid to keep it all fresh. It totally beats opening seven little baggies in a row, and spilling, and inhaling… oh not good.

Sur La Table sells a masala dabba for an absurd amount of money, considering what it is. Don’t get me wrong, I would live inside a Sur La Table if I could, but come on! The one I am now proud to call my own is the genuine article, straight from wonderful, food-begetting India (180 rupees = $4. Ha. Oh wait. Combined with the cost of the plane ticket to India… Yeah, maybe it’s not such a bargain after all). It’s good to have friends in high places. Or friends who travel to India frequently, as the case may be.

My most awesomest friend’s Mom (Hi Auntie!) brought this tiffin back for me on her last trip. She is kind and patient enough to try to teach me how to cook whenever I come to stay with them. She may just be humoring the funny white girl that hasn’t gotten out of her way in the kitchen for the last decade or so, but I am ok with that. I think I am starting to catch on to the dal thing. Given a few dozen more tries, I am almost certain that my dal will resemble hers. From afar.

The spices that now live in my brand new tiffin, clockwise, starting with the very yellow on the left: turmeric, cumin powder, cumin seeds, coriander powder, garam masala (Auntie makes her own but I may be lacking a few genes necessary to pull that off), black mustard seeds, and red chile powder in the center.

* This I should clarify. A tiffin is (I think) a metal box that is sometimes stackable and is commonly used as a lunch box in India (I have seen Japanese people with a version of a tiffin as well). A masala dabba is a tiffin, but not all tiffins are masala dabbas.


JC said...

Those spices look so good, I love Indian food. I haven't blogged about it yet because of my stupid paper(s), but over Thanksgiving I ate at an Indian place. I had something called Chicken Bahaar. The funny part is that the place was called Dale's Indian Food.

amanda said...

man, i've never even heard of a tiffin before! that's awesome. crazy convenient. and let me just say i'm incredibly jealous of you! i wish i had someone from india to cook under! i've thought about trying to get a job at an indian restaurant to learn all the amazing secrets, but i just don't know if they would hire someone with no background in cooking indian food! damn it. you MUST share whatever you learn! :-) i demand it.

Ben said...

Very cool! Not to sound like an ass...but why couldn't you just put the spices in glass jars or something clear? I think that is a traditional vessel to put spices in, but wouldn't you rather have something see-thru so you can figure out what is in it with out openning it up?

Anna said...

JC - Dale's Indian Food, eh? Good food comes in strange wrappers sometimes. One of the Indian restaurants I like a lot is called India Quality. You would never think it's actually quality if they are called that, but it's good. Looking forward to reading about it. Hope the papers aren't torturing you too much.

Amanda - I am so lucky that I am almost jealous of myself! I will absolutely write about my future adventures with Indian food. I have to take a couple more trips to my friend's house to figure things out. It seems that so much of Indian cooking is intuition and that's really hard for me to learn.

Ben - I see your point, but I wouldn't want to unscrew 7 jars in a row when I need a teaspoon of each spice. It's a pain. And I can see what's in the jars once the top comes off. And all the spices are kept together in one place this way. There is a multitude of advantages! I am certain you will see things my way, someday :)

ben said...

Hmm. I will have to see it to believe it ;-)

What happens when you have one more spice? Where do you put it then?

Haha, I am so confrontational and skeptical.

Rachael said...

That is freaking cool!

izumi joi said...

Went to recent cooking Indian cooking class, and am on the search for a long-lasting masala dabba; teacher said get one of quality, cheapies get dented. But she didn't sell them yet. Any ideas where to buy a good one? And, Ben: you do have to see it to believe how much better it is. I have a basket and a turntable with glass jars, but looking down into the colorful spices, and the aroma is heavenly!! Can't get that w/the individual jars...and, tired of searching; the dabba will keep commonly used ones together :>D