Food for thought

Step foot into any Indian restaurant and the vibrant colors of the décor and strong scents from the kitchen will immediately kickstart your senses.

The culture’s food is known for its jam-packed flavor.

“Indian cooking is really spicy but not hot spicy,” said Mohammad Alam, owner of India Spices on Valleydale Road in Hoover.

Alam and his wife opened the specialized grocery store almost seven years ago after leaving a job with Southern Company. They purchased the property from another woman who had run the store for more than a decade. Alam said a large majority of their customers are families who have moved from India to America.

“Mostly Indian, Pakistani or Bangledesh people live in Hoover but come here because we try to maintain quality food,” Alam said.

But every once in a while he said he has the adventurous American cook who just wants to try something new.

“They come in with an Internet recipe and ask if I can show them how to make it. I have to refer them to my wife,” Alam said. “I don’t really know to cook, I know to eat.”

Alam’s wife Shahida said Indian cooking isn’t as difficult as people might think. Although, names like chicken biryani or Moussaka may not immediately cause mouths to water or tastebuds to tingle, the ingredients that go into these tantalizing dishes should ring a bell.

Almost all recipes include ginger, garlic, yogurt and coriander. Plus, some of the most popular dishes include chicken.

“It’s very simple cooking but we use a lot of spices … without spices Indians cannot eat it,” said Shahida. “With the spices we use, you can take chicken and make a different dish each night.”

The store also carries Bhel Mix, an Indian snack similar to trail mix that’s made with puffed rice and chickpea flour. In the freezer sits ready to eat meals that just need a quick pop in the microwave if you aren’t prepared to take a stab at cooking gosht pasanda (a dish often cooked with lamb) yourself.