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Stock Up on ‘Indian-ish’ Cookbook Author Priya Krishna’s Pantry Staples

Topo Chico, chutney powder, the perfect black tea, and more products the food writer pledges allegiance to

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Like so many people, Priya Krishna has found herself hunkering down with family during the novel coronavirus pandemic, meaning the kitchen at the Indian-ish author’s disposal is in Dallas and belongs to her parents. But turns out it’s not so different than her Brooklyn setup. “Without even realizing it, I have built a pantry that is functionally exactly like my mom and dad’s,” said Krishna. So she gave Eater an Instagram tour of a few pantry staples, items she and her family swear by whether cooking in Texas or New York, as part of Eater at Home.

Topo Chico Mineral Water

  • $99

Prices taken at time of publishing.

“I’m in Texas, where the king of sparkling waters is Topo Chico,” says Krishna. The beloved mineral water, which has been around since the late 1800s, isn’t actually made in Texas; it’s sourced and bottled in Monterrey, Mexico. But it’s a “very important pantry staple” in Texan households, says Krishna, joking, “I feel like one of the reasons they make the Topo Chico bottles so big is that they know Texans have big pantries...”

Tetley Classic Blend Black Tea

  • $23

Prices taken at time of publishing.

“Chai is something that we have all day, everyday,” says Krishna, “so we always need to have our favorite brand of black tea to make our chai.” That black tea is Tetley, a rather affordable, ubiquitous classic. “It has a real flavor to it but it’s mild, so it’s going to stand up nicely to the flavors of the spices” for chai, says Krishna — which in her family, is 100% cardamom.

MTR Rice Idli Mix

  • $4

Prices taken at time of publishing.

“This idli mix is awesome,” says Krishna. A shortcut for making the savory rice cakes that are a popular South Indian breakfast food, this mix can be used in the microwave. Just mix with water and yogurt and pop in the microwave, and in a matter of minutes, you have steaming idlis. “They’re very fluffy, and they’re very delicious,” says Krishna. “In Brooklyn, I have at least five packs of these at all times.”

Diaspora Co. Single Origin Aranya Pepper

  • $12

Prices taken at time of publishing.

“These black peppercorns are from Diaspora Co., a really awesome company aiming to disrupt the traditional spice trade,” says Krishna. Founded in 2017, Diaspora is all about working directly with partner farmers and focusing on sustainable, ethical agriculture. These black peppercorns are grown by the Parameswaran family in Thirunelly, Kerala, in India. “So if you buy these spices, they benefit farms — and they’re also really high quality,” says Krishna.

Kashi Cinnamon Harvest Cereal

  • $4

Prices taken at time of publishing.

“I feel like since being in quarantine, I have had random cravings for things that I didn't crave before, and one of those things is packaged cereal,” says Krishna. “So my mom bought my three boxes of Kashi Cinnamon Harvest, because in college I just ate bowlfuls of this stuff.” The organic cereal has a veneer of healthiness to it, which is a plus — “It’s not too sweet,” says Krishna, and it’s got just the right amount of crunch.

Guittard Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Bars

  • $36

Prices taken at time of publishing.

“My boyfriend, who loves to bake, got me super into super nice chocolate,” says Krishna. That includes Guittard, a favorite of pastry chefs, which makes chocolate chips, bars for baking and eating, cocoa powder, and more. Krishna likes the dark chocolate bars and chips, the latter of which you can stick in the freezer for optimal snacking: “It’s great to bake with, it’s great to snack on.”

MTR Chutney Powder

  • $7

Prices taken at time of publishing.

“I think that this might be one of my absolutely favorite packaged condiments of all time,” says Krishna of MTR’s chutney powder. “It has this nutty, earthy, tangy, spicy taste... it kind of hits all of the flavor sensations.” Sometimes referred to as “gun powder,” Krishna says there are few things she doesn’t use it on. “I mix it with some ghee or olive oil and pour it over roasted vegetables, eat it with idli, basically anything...”

Badshah Chat Masala

  • $2

Prices taken at time of publishing.

This spice blend — containing dry mango, black salt, cumin, coriander, chili powder, and ginger — is a go-to for sprinkling on... well, tons of things. Sandwiches, soups, roasted vegetables, salads — there are few things that won’t get an umami lift from this mix. As Krishna has written, “I would go so far as to say that chaat masala is the single most-used seasoning in my pantry.”