Don't be too bamboozied by the range here, this traditional "mithai" shop sells a classic range of Indian sweets. There's gulab jamun, a condensed milk dough cooked in sugar syrup with cardamom and rosewater. We find it quite irresistible. Many of the sweets are topped with silver just for looks, such as burfi, also a condensed milk base but available in flavours such as besan (chickpea), almond, cashew, coconut, chocolate and carrot. Dowda, a north Indian delicacy made from lentils, is good, as is the halwa, a jelly-like dessert made from carrots. Their café next door produces curries and snack foods if savoury food is more your thing.
Dandenong, 52E Foster Street, 9793 8101, Daily 11am-10pm.
This import and wholesale business started in 1982 and since then has gone from strength to strength supplying the local Indian shops and customers with everything they may need for an Indian feast. Though it's not just Indian food they specialise in, you can also find the ingredients sought after by Pacific Islanders, Mauritians, South Africans and Sri Lankans. It's the spices, legumes, dried fruit, rice and flours that most people come for, along with prepared meals, pickles, kitchen equipment and curry pastes. Everything here is huge, from the 10 kg sacks of rice (think basmati, jasmine, red, Idli, broken, wild and even arborio) to the house-branded curry pastes for fish, pork and mutton.
Dandenong, 50 Greens Road, 9794 6640, Mon-Sat 8:30am-5:30pm, www.hindustan.com.au
India at Home
Mission statement: "It is an ongoing promise to all our customers that we will continue to give every single customer a value added service, friendly environment to shop, big product range, competitive pricing , neat and clean shops." This chain of shops, established in 2003 and now grown to six stores across Melbourne, certainly lives up to this promise. Customers are warmly welcomed and assistance is offered, but you may want to explore the huge aisles of groceries all by yourself. Aside from groceries there are frozen convenience meals, hot food to go, cooking equipment, serving ware, golden elephant statues, DVDs and cookbooks, plus a room filled with shrines and framed pictures of Indian gods and goddesses. Also at: see the website for location details.
Dandenong, 128 Cheltenham Road, 9689 5300, Daily 10am-10pm, www.indiaathome.com.au
India Bazaar International
While redevelopment work goes on around Dandenong's Little India shopping strip, it's business as usual as this great shop. Competition in the area is huge so expect good service and pricing on all the staples of Indian cuisine, though like all of these stores they also sell Sri Lankan and Pakistani food stuffs too. You can go all out on a 10 kg bag of rice, or the more convenient 1 kg option, ditto the lentils in every colour of the rainbow, plus dahl and huge buckets of yoghurt and paneer. The range of spices covers everything form ajwain seeds to turmeric, as well as biriyani blends and curry pastes.
Dandenong, 73-75 Foster Street, 9794 7010, Daily 10:30am-8pm.
Everything you might need for an Indian feast can be found here from the basics of rice, dhal, spices and ghee through to time-saving options such as packets of gulab, biriyani, kulfi or naan bread. Snack foods such as spicy broad beans, soya chips in all flavours, lentil-stuffed dried samosas and Bombay mixes with set you off on the right foot. Look out for their simmer sauces, curry pastes and spice blends to assist you in creating an Indian feast. Legumes such as chana, either whole, split or urid, sit next to lentils, chickpeas and beans as well as flours such as atta, besan, maize, mung bean and roasted red rice. Top-quality service completes the picture.
Dandenong, 187-189 Thomas Street, 9708 5518, Daily 9:30am-8pm.
Lo Margin has moved to bigger premises in the last year. As a bonus, parking is even easier and the service is even better, with more space and variety. They pride themselves on a range that includes authentic Indian, Sri Lankan, Malaysian and Fijian ingredients – good quality at good prices. The Indian food is the real star with everything from jaggery (palm sugar) and rice (in all colours of the rainbow) to flours such as moong dhal, semolina and burghul. Shelves are lined with vegetable oils, dried tapioca, grains and spicy snack foods, soft drinks, dairy foods and biscuits as well as utensils and cookware. Catch a movie as you shop or take one home to watch while you cook up a storm.
Dandenong, 10-14 Princes Highway,9706 9791, Mon, Wed, Thurs & Sun 9am-9pm; Fri & Sat 10am-9pm, www.lomargin.com.au
This great little grocer in busy Hawthorn obviously serves the needs of students at the nearby Swinburne University. Right up front and in the spotlight is the array of snack and convenience foods; everything from Bombay mixes, flavoured soya chips and spiced legumes to ready-prepared meals. All the basics needed to produce an Indian feast are found here, from mung beans and lentils through to spices, curry pastes, simmer sauces and rice. Sweet lovers are well looked after with kulfi in the freezer and packet jalebi mixes on the shelves. Dried fruit, nuts, pulses, papadums, DVDs, chutney, yoghurt paneer and tea are all complemented by good service.
Hawthorn, 359 Burwood Road, 9818 0452, Daily 10am-10:30pm.
With several stores spread far and wide across Melbourne and beyond, Truspice offers a full range of Indian groceries, clean well-managed stores and good service – and have done for over 20 years. All the staples for your Indian feast are here, but if you're having problems simply ask a friendly staff member for help, they can also assist with cooking queries. It's all here: rice and flour, oils and ghee, pickles, spices, condiments; papadums and wadis, tea, coffee, soft drinks and snack foods; plus a full range of dried fruit, nuts, pulses and legumes – even fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs. Also at: 22 Station Street, Mitcham, 9873 8897; 140 Moorabool Street, Geelong, 5223 3333.
Clayton, 145 Carinish Road, 9544 1634, Daily 9:30am-7pm, www.truspice.com.au
All India Foods
On a hot day there is nothing quite like a cold coconut juice or mango lassi chock-full of mango pulp, milk and live cultures to cool down your core. Then there's badam milk, an almond drink complete with almond pieces – all are available in the refrigerator just inside the door. All India has all the staple ingredients you would expect from such a well-known store: rice, flour, beans, dried fruits, ghee, oils, pastes, pickles, papadums and spicies, and they sell cooking utensils too. Today we spied a lovely little gem – a puri press for making unleavened Indian bread.
Woolloongabba, 31 Balaclava Street, 3391 1420, Mon-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat & Sun 10am-5pm, www.allindia.com.au
Blends to Enjoy
We've given Nadia Collins' herb and spice blends a run for their money, and have found them to be a great pantry staple to jazz up any homecooked evening meal. Visit Nadia's website to order her spice blends online: think massaman curry, vindaloo, Madras or Korma. The blends aren't limited to curries, with mixed spice, pumpkin spice mix and spice cake mix blended and ready to add to baking. Nadia promises her spices are sourced from the very best; the blends are made from her own recipes and contain no fillers, preservatives or additives. Herbal teas such as echinacea and Siberian ginseng are on her menu too.
Chermside Spice Centre
We think the name sells it short. There's a great range of spices – especially if you're buying in bulk; but there's so much more to this orderly northside institution – all your Indian staples and snacks like hot banana chips, as well as locally made paneer, and yoghurt for raita. Make your own dosa or podi – they have both packet mixes and all the ingredients to make them from scratch, including the roti tava (pan). Or grab a packet of paratha or chapatti from the freezer. Choosing from the endless selection of pickle and chutney accompaniments could take some time.
Chermside, 763 Gympie Road, 3161 3983, Mon-Fri 9am-7pm; Sat 10am-7pm; Sun 2pm-7pm.
JK Spice Bazaar
You won't find a neater, brighter and better stocked Indian grocery shop in the suburbs than JK Spice Bazaar. Their main trade is wholesale and bulk buys, but customers come for the clearly labelled lentils, rice and spices. The range of lentils is impressive – vegetarians will delight in the variety available, and those with gluten intolerance will find a lot to smile about too, with a range of millet, sorghum, buckwheat, chickpea and maize to choose from. Select from high-grad Indian, Sri Lankan and Pakistani rice, mustard seed oils and a huge variety of spices, available ground or whole. The friendly staff will try their best if asked to help with explaining ingredients.
Upper Mt Gravatt, 1965 Logan Road, 3349 2111, Mon-Thurs 9am-8pm; Fri & Sat 9am-6pm; Sun 10am-5pm.
Kumari Spices n Things
Welcome to the world of spices! This cavernous outlet is home to a great range of Indian, Sri Lankan, Pakistani, Middle Eastern, Islander and a smattering of South American products. Browse the neat aisles for unusual spices: sichuan peppercorns, bundles of cassia, prickly ash, annatto seeds, dried green mango powder, green and black cardamoms and ajwain seeds, to name a few. Rice enthusiasts will love the range of basmati and red rice. Cooking a whole kid for dinner? We're talking goats here! Kumari has a stack of huge stainless-steel pots and pans, and a range of Indian cooking utensils to choose from.
Virginia, 1/8 Shannon Place, 3265 2099, Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat 8:30am-4pm; Sun 9:30am-4pm.
Maha Latchmi Indian Sweets and Catering
The dazzling hues of traditional Indian sweets are a feast for the eyes in the otherwise drab environs of the McWhirters building. Velvety, bright red halva, generously studded with cashews, contrasts with bright greens of pistachio in creamy, milk-based barfi. Kaju katli, or "Indian diamond sweet", is a supersweet cashew-based favourite finished in pretty silver foil, and the syrupy-dumpling dessert gulab jamun is always a crowd pleaser, if not quite as beautiful to look at. They'll cater for parties and functions, and there's a small selection of savoury vegetarian dishes worth investigating, including chana bhatura and masala dosa.
Fortitude Valley, Shop 24T, Level 2, McWhirters Centre, Warner Street, 3216 0142, Mon-Sat 9am-5pm; Sun 9:30am-5pm.
Spice Merchants of Aussie India
The enticing aroma of cardamom, turmeric and ginger wafts out to greet you before you're even inside. The range may be a tad limited compared to the stores, but in these parts it's the best spot to buy not only spices, but mango and lime pickle, frozen gourd, okra and haricot beans for curries, dhal, chapatti, paratha and samosa to mop up the sauces, as well as locally produced fresh paneer and yoghurt. Curries are time-consuming – cut a few corners with the Haldiram range of packaged sweets for dessert: choose from nutty pinnis and panjiri ladoo, or fudge-like kaju (cashew) burfi.
Indooroopilly, Shop 4, 100 Coonan Street, 3878 4878, Mon-Fri 6am-7:30pm; Sat 7am-7:30pm; Sun 10am-6pm.
Aum Spice Centre
While spices are the name of the game in this predominantly Sri Lankan food shop, there are plenty of other goodies too. At the counter, you'll find fresh chapatti and laddu (sweet chickpea balls); in the fridge, there are homemade sambar and idli (fermented black lentil cakes), frozen okra, paratha (flatbreads) and bulk boxes of samosas. The shelves are lined with instant packet mixes for classic south Indian breakfast dishes like dosa and idiyappam (string hoppers), while those who don't like to cut corners, stock up on cardamom, fresh curry leaves, curry powders, burnt-orange Kashmiri ground chilli, as well as sambals and chutneys.
Croydon, 19 The Strand, 9744 1177, Daily 9:30am-8pm.
Grahame's Place/Sultan's Choice Foods
It might look a little shabby from the outside, but after 25 years Sultan's Choice is allowed to be. Owner Grahame Sadler has long been an evangelist for subcontinental food – he was selling curry trees back in the day when you couldn't find the leaves – and is the exclusive importer of Daawat brand basmati rice. These days, Grahame says he's selling a lot of specialty Mauritian products, including smoked snoek fish, vanilla trees, various pickles and cassava biscuits. The full range of Indian products is still here, however, including a lot of spices and a large selection of flours. If in doubt, ask Grahame – he's as famous for his knowledge as his friendliness.
Yagoona, 9 Angus Crescent, 9743 8278, Mon-Fri 10am-6pm; Sat 10am-5pm.
India Bazaar Parramatta
The heady aroma of spices that greets you upon entering this small but well-stocked Indian grocer will instantly have your tastebuds tingling. India Bazaar is a long-time resident of Sydney's "Little India", Harris Park, and customers come from afar to stock up on pulses and spices. Run by Sharine and Kamal Chandra, India Bazaar has recently added a range of Fern's chutneys and simmer sauces, a favourite with their non-Indian customers. Basmati rice, in 5 kg and 10 kg bags, is popular, as are pappadums and bread mixes. Spice enthusiasts can shop online but will miss out on the friendly service and sensory experience of an in-store visit.
Harris Park, 100 Wigram Street, 9635 8935, Daily 10am-8:30pm, www.indiabazaar.com.au
Like Maya on Cleveland Street, Jaipur Sweets is a restaurant that is well known for its excellent lunchtime menu as it is for its confectionery. The Elizabeth Street branch of their three outlets sells a typically glamorous array of Indian sweets by the kilo, including the usual dairy treats of gulab jamun and the self-explanatory milk cake. For something different, try the Karachi halwa, a sugary orange-coloured slice filled with nuts, or indulge in some Raj era decadence with kaju ladoo, sweet balls of ground cashews bound with milk and sugar, and kaju rolls, which are pretty much the same thing in a different form ... with more butter. Also at: 108 Church Street, Parramatta, 9635 1777; 89 York Street, Sydney, 9299 0006.
City, 188 Elizabeth Street, 9280 1111, Daily 10:30am-10:30pm, www.jaipursweets.com.au
Maya Indian Sweet Centre
Perhaps better known as a superb vegetarian restaurant, Maya is also the go-to destination for Indian sweets in the city. Sparkling in the glass cabinet is a full range of treats in a fantasy spectrum of pink, green and silver. Most famous at Maya are the milk-based options, such as gulab jamun – deep-fried paneer dough soaked in syrup – and the soft balls of ras malai – a north Indian specialty consisting of balls of paneer soaked in clotted cream and syrup and flavoured with cardamom. Also tempting are the luminescent orange twirls of deep-fried jalebis – a squiggly, crispy doughnut batter soaked in syrup. Most are sweet enough to wake you from a diabetic coma, so don't act like we didn't warn you.
Surry Hills, 468-472 Cleveland Street, 9699 8663, Daily 10:30am-10:30pm.
Sunil's Spice Centre
City dwellers have been known to make the pilgrimage to Sunil Ranasinghe's restaurant in Sydney's North West in search of authentic Sri Lankan flavours, but it's his retail shop tucked behind the eatery that is the true mecca for spice aficionados. The shelves are heavily stocked with hot pickles, chutneys, dried chillies, several varieties of rice and even Sunil's own blends of curry mixes. In the freezer, you'll find ready-made curries, mackerel cutlets and diced goat. Don't worry if you're a novice to the cuisine, there's always friendly advice on hand to tell you how to get the best from your ingredients.
Thornleigh, Shop 2, 4 Station Street, 9484 8241, Mon-Sat 10:30am-8pm; Sun 10:30am-7pm, www.sunilsspice.com
Tara's International Trading
An Indian supermarket with a Fijian bent, Tara's is tightly packed with a big range of spice pastes, pickles and everything else you need for a subcontinental feast. The stars of the show here are the rows and rows of bulk bins packed with every grain and pulse you could ever want, including such specialty items as Bengali puffed rice. As well as Indian products there is also a smattering of West African goods, like fufu (pounded yam), and some other oddities including salt-cured chillies and the perennial Kiwi favourite, L&P soft drink. And if you've ever wondered what happened to UFO Chips, then wonder no more – they're being made in Fiji and sold here.
Liverpool, 214 Northumberland Street, 9822 7555, Fri-Wed 9:30am-7pm; Thurs 9:30am-8pm.