2008_05_FoodPoodamEthnicIndian.jpgAt the Ethnic Market highlights international specialty foods and ingredients you're very unlikely to find at your local Gristedes.

Ask anyone who’s ever browsed the aisles of an Indian grocery store about Indian junk food and the first thing that comes to mind will most likely be packages of spiced peanuts, chickpeas and other crunchy goodies. But it turns out there’s a snack that’s more reminiscent of American-style junk food: Kurkure.

Kurkure takes its name from the Hindi word for crunchy. They’ve got the same texture as crunchy Cheetos, which is not surprising since they’re made by an Indian-based arm of Frito-Lay. That crunchiness is pretty much the only similarity between Kurkure and Cheetos though: The flavors and ingredients are purely Indian, and instead of mere corn flour Kurkure are made with rice flour and chickpea flour.

Masala Munch is slightly spicy and featured a recipe on the bag. Apparently the good folks at Kurkure run an American Idol-type contest called Chai Time Achievers, in which readers submit recipes that incorporate the snack into meals designed to be taken with tea. The recipe for “Mexican Bean Burrito,” was created by the Fab Four, a “trendy Punjabi family.” The copy on the bag includes the following gem: “Even real Mexicans couldn’t have made something this mast!” Check out Kurkure's web site for other bizarre dishes including a Mast Footlong Hot Dog created by a chap named Gandhok.

Tamatar Hyderabadi is supposed to taste like tomatoes and was slightly spicier than Masala Munch. Unfortunately Flushing’s New Subzi Mandi was out of Chutney Rajasthani Style flavor. Red Chilli Chatka Kurkure did have some heat, but hardly enough to warrant using the word chatka, which means burn in Marathi dialect. Too bad they didn’t carry the Xtreme Risky Chili variety.

It boggles the mind that Kurkure are intended to be munched on while sipping chai tea because they're just mast when washed down with ice-cold beer. If you can’t make it out to Flushing you can probably find this bizarre treat on the stretch of lower Lexington Avenue known as Curry Hill. (And if anyone knows exactly what 'mast' means, please translate in the comments.)

New Subzi Mandi, 43-53 Main St. Flushing, 718-463-0175