Vaishali’s Super Store: Indian Grocer

Finally found an Indian grocer that has all the ingredients for the cooking that I want to do (and more)! I’d just about given up. Vaishali’s Super Store is located in the west end of Ottawa, at 62 Wylie Avenue, in a little strip mall, perpendicular to Carling Avenue. You’ll miss it if you blink while driving past; it’s just across the street from the big Famous Players Theatre complex, near Bayshore.

The variety of spices and herbs is mind boggling, as are the legumes, pulses, and rice. Fridges and freezers contain a small number of fresh vegetables/fruits/peppers, curry leaves and fresh herbs, as well as a large selection of prepared foods and meals, condiments and ingredients. Rows of shelves contain jarred, canned, dried, and powdered pickles, condiments, sauces, and other ingredients and foods. I was especially pleased to find Surati Sweet Mart treats at a very good price (half the price of my local health food store)! In addition to food items, one can find cooking utensils, incense, movies, and cosmetic products.

The owner was particularly helpful and kind in helping me find the items that I was having trouble locating. I appreciated that he expained the proper pronunciation of the words that I pointed to on the shopping list that my friend had written out for me, and that he told me a little about the products (especially spices) that he was helping me find.

I enjoyed our trip to this store very much, and we will make it a part of our regular shopping!

UPDATE: On our most recent visit, we purchased freshly made pakoras, samosas, and kachoris from the front counter display — absolutely delicious!  We didn’t even get as far as home to eat them with condiments 🙂  They smelled so incredibly  divine that we ate the pakoras while sitting in the car in the parking lot, then had to go back into the store to buy some more!

Ant Moats at Lee Valley Tools

I plant flowers in my perennial beds specifically to feed the hummingbird families that come back summer after summer, but I also like to hang hummingbird feeders in the front and in the back of the house. I discovered this clever Ant Moat at Lee Valley Tools that solved my problem of unintentionally feeding the nearby ant colonies:

No matter where you hang your feeder, the ants cannot get to it as long as you keep the umbrella full of water! No more ants in the sugar-water reservoir, no more ants crawling up the pole or the walls of the house to get to the feeder…nada!

UPDATE:  Not only do our Ant Moats keep the Hummingbird feeders ant-free, but they provide the small birds in the neighbourhood a perfect place for a drink or a quick bath!  An unintended but enjoyable dual function 🙂

Chickadee Enjoying Hummingbird Feeder Ant Moat

Egli’s Sheepskin

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Egli’s Sheep Farm in Minnitaki, Ontario (near Dryden) makes this wonderful sheepskin steering wheel cover. It helps to keep my hands warm in the winter, and cool in the summer, and it doesn’t smell or off gas like synthetic materials do.

My first cover lasted for many, many years before it needed replacing; upon purchasing a new cover recently, I was surprised to find that the price was only $19.   Egli’s Sheep Farm and Animal Park carries a mind-boggling array sheep products that are manufactured both on and off site.

Arghand Soaps

soaps1g.jpgArghand soaps are gorgeous to look at, beautifully scented, heavenly to use, and are carefully created by hand at a co-operative formed in Afghanistan to try and rebuild this war torn country. The artisan soaps resemble stones, and feel lovely in the hand. The lather is rich, creamy, and profuse. Update: This soap is incredibly long lasting! It does not disappear or dissolve quickly like so many handmade soaps tend to do, making it very economical.

Sarah Chayes, a former war correspondent for American national public radio, is the founder of the co-op. One of the co-operative’s main goals is to wean dependence on the opium poppy onto local licit crops which are used in the production of Arghand Soap. In a Guardian interview, Chayes is quoted:

in the long run, “this is the only way to beat heroin,” she says. “We have to re-weave the economic fabric of the country … so that people will have too much to lose from a return to war.”

“The Power of One: Making a Difference in Afghanistan“, World Vision’s page dedicated to Chayes and Arghand includes audio interviews. “Life After War” is a documentary film, shown on CBC Newsworld which chronicles Chaye’s journey.

The Arghand web site has a list of retailers in Canada, and the USA. I purchased my first order of Arghand soap via mail order from Planete Monde, a company in Montreal which has just begun to sell via their bilingual web site. My order arrived extremely quickly, it was well packaged, and the customer service was superb. I found it interesting to note that Planete Monde’s business partners opened their brick and mortar store after hearing Sarah Chayes being interviewed on CBC radio! Oresta’s Organic Confectionary in Ottawa also sells Arghand soaps via their web site. Oresta’s packaging includes a lovely little tag describing the Arghand Co-op and the ingredients, as well as a colourful photographic bookmark with the same (which makes for nice gift giving). Oresta’s service is extremely quick and friendly; I will be a repeat customer!

The New York Times has a blog written by Sarah Chayes: A Voice From Kandahar. At the time of this writing, the most recent post was dated August 1, 2006. The updated Arghand web site offers the writings of Cheyes from May 5, 2005 up to the present in a link entitled “Notes from the Field”; it is incredibly worthwhile and enlightening reading.  Update: Ms. Chayes now has a web site that consolidates much of her writing (unfortunately as of August 2011, the site seems to be gone).

Stash Tea’s “Double Spice Chai Black Tea”

Yum! A combination of black tea and spices, with double the amount of cloves, cinnamon and whole cardamom as their regular chai tea. Available as loose tea, and as tea bags. It’s almost as good as the masala tea from my favourite Indian restaurant!

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The ingredient list:

Blended black tea, ginger root, cinnamon, cinnamon oil, clove oil, cardamom oil, allspice, nutmeg, clove, cardamom, and coriander.

Bhusu and other delicious stuff

60 year old Surati Sweet Mart (Surati International Food) makes the most addictive, delicious Oriental/Indian snack food I’ve eaten. I crave it.

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My favourite is Bhusu, which is a spicy, crunchy mix of chickpea twigs, crispy rice, nuts, raisins, and other bits and shapes. You’ll even find the odd hot pepper. They recommend it for a morning or evening snack, but I will eat it at any time!The parent company makes a wide range of other products. Their organic whole foods are made from traditional family recipes using natural ingredients, with no preservatives, no artificial flavours, colours, or MSG.