I never return from INA market with money in my pockets. No, there isn’t a gang of pick pockets–I just end up walking around it like a kid in a candy store, except my mom isn’t there to pay for what I pick up.
Now, INA market has a few great hole-in-the-wall restaurants, but I’ll leave those for another time. Right now, I just want to talk about the glorious groceries you can get there.
INA (which stands for Indian National Army, BTW) markets been around for about 30 years now, and since then has acquired a very cosmopolitan feel. It’s thronged by foodies and expats looking to get a fix of their favourite goodies (where else in Delhi can you find goose fat?).
Even though chains like Nature’s Basket and Foodhall have emerged, nothing can beat the variety and the low prices of INA. Plus you can even practice your French here–many shopkeepers speak two or even more languages.
I tend to stay away from the jack of all trades, master of none kind of shops. My favourite stores are the ones that specialise in a particular kind of item.
INA market is my wonderland–there are shops with refrigerators lined with cheese, some have tables strewn with the most delectable candy and shops with walls of every kind of sauce imaginable (well almost–it’s impossible to find the green topped bottle of sriracha anywhere).
Once you get past the shops selling bottled, canned or otherwise packaged food and if you have enough money (make sure to take cash, the nearest ATM is a ten minute walk away), you’ll find yourself amidst a wall of colour.
Every imaginable fruit and vegetable is available to buy, from the reddest, ripest vine tomatoes to passion fruit to bhut jolokia, the hottest chilly in Asia. Don’t get too carried away though, I usually have trouble cooking everything I buy before it rots.
At the green grocer’s, inspiration struck me in the form of beautiful bok choy and spring onions. I can’t wait to whip up something delicious with those.
After stocking up on your veggies, it’s time for some protein. This section of the market houses some of the city’s oldest butchers, and it definitely isn’t for the squeamish or those with easily offended sensibilities.
There are carcasses hanging everywhere, and there’s a definite Jack the Ripper vibe with all the blood and effluent flowing down a narrow central drain. I love it. These people who voluntarily work here have been the backbone of our restaurants for decades now.
I guess there is a special type of person who enjoys the chaotic gore of a meat market–I don’t know too many people who spend more than 10 minutes here. Just a note here–INA is NOT good for pork, go to PigPo in Jorbagh (10 minutes away) for quality pork products.
Anyway, I picked up some young mutton, and some freshwater prawns from the back of the market. On my way out, I picked up some Indonesian instant noodles, and spent the last of my money on a can of Mangosteen juice.
INA will never provide the sanitised feeling of a chain supermarket, but there’s a very large chance you’ll fall in love with its uniqueness. Give it a shot.
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