We ended up in Liverpool one afternoon and walked around the neighborhood before heading off for Lebanese chicken at Albarakeh Charcoal Chicken. It was Sunday, it was raining and not quite time for lunch, so we did some exploring. Walking past one centre on Macquarie Street, we spied a large looking supermarket that beckoned us inside.
Endless rows of spices, shelves of chutneys and stacks of rice sacks fill Udaya Spices in Liverpool, possibly the biggest Indian and Sri Lankan supermarket we've ever been to in Sydney. The freezer section alone had an outstanding range of frozen vegetables, including the strange woody drumstick we tried at Abie's in Pendle Hill. There's also cookware, religious items and some fresh made sweets and samosas.
Wandering the isles, we had a challenge of restraint and tried to not buy everything in sight. A long walk back to our car also meant a small shop, so we found the smallest thing possible - mini papads and tiny dried chick peas.
Yes, tiny little pappadums! Kings Plain Mini Papad, $1.70. The packet states a weight of 200g, but a rough count of the contents will give you about 300 of these 'can't stop sticking them in my mouth' beauties. They are imported, shipped all the way from Chennai. Ingredients include lentil flour, rice flour, vegetable oil, salt and calcium carbonate (a common additive in doughs and bread).
Each little papad is only about 4cm (about 1 and a half inches) wide, smaller than a potato chip or water cracker.
To give you an idea of their miniature state, mini papads compared to large cracked pepper studded uncooked pappadums. They really are a quick little mouthful of crunch.
The cracked pepper pappadums are from our favourite brand we get from the Fiji Market in Newtown. We call them 'Evil Rabbit' or 'Donnie Darko' brand. Don't try feeding pappadums to rabbits please or the giant pink rabbit will haunt your dreams.
We experimented with microwaving vs frying the little papads. You can sometimes get away with microwaving pappadums, but frying by far gives the better flavour. Without the added hit of a bit of vegetable oil, they tasted dull and uncooked, plus the added colour makes them far more tempting. Clockwise from the top: microwaved, fried and uncooked.
Watch out when frying these guys, they took only a few seconds to get really brown and burnt (we found out the hard way). Also, make sure you fry more than you need as you are guaranteed to eat a large amount before they even get to your guests. There is enough in the packet to fry up a lot, you would probably get bored frying before you got to the end.
Although the fried papads were tasty enough on their own, a good bit of pickle adds even more spice. Alison has been trying in vain to find a cashew pickle she tried a few years ago, but was excited to find this garlic pickle ($2.95) and hoped it would be similar to the garlic curry we tried in the Sri Lankan hill country in Ella.It was a close match in flavour, although a whole lot oiler.
The range of pickles at Udaya was outstanding: green tamarind, mango, lime, coriander, mint - all except cashew!
In the garlic pickle the garlic bulbs are cooked whole (turning soft and sweet) and coated in a orangey red sauce of spice, not chilli hot at all. The papads were hardly big enough to carry bulb to mouth, but did a valiant job. You could mix this pickle in with a little bit of plain yoghurt if you didn't want it as strong.
The selection of dried beans and dhal at Udaya was also extensive. More miniature food was found with this kilo of dried chickpeas for $1.75. Tyson chick peas are a smaller, darker version than the usual big and buttery kind. You could use them in a vegetable curry or side dish, they might give a different flavour to hummos and falafel and other chick pea dishes (still to try that out).
They are quite a bit smaller and browner than the standard whiter ones more commonly found tinned or dried.
Cooking dried chick peas is really not so hard. Our tip is to do a big batch at once and freeze what you don't need in 'tin sized' portions. Soak overnight or for at least 12 hours and cook up on a lazy afternoon when you are pottering about the house doing other things. This lot is destined for a vegetable curry, or possibly a spiced carrot and chick pea soup.
Udaya Spices is at 186 Macquarie St Liverpool (the old Spotlight building). Phone: 9601 5859. It's so huge, it goes all the way through to the street at the back. Don't make our mistake - park close by so you can shop without restraint.