Traditional Indian Ghee Butter

ghee-butter“Ghee” is a Sanskrit word that describes a form of clarified butter primarily used in Indian culinary traditions. It is a characteristic of a toasted, nutty quality.

Traditionally, ghee would be produced from the milk of the indigenous Indian buffalo. Today, it is common to see it produced from other varieties of milk. Whichever milk may be used in its creation is churned into standard butter, which is then boiled in a large saucepan or kettle.

A solid layer forms on the bottom of the vessel, while a thick layer of oil gathers in the center and the excess moisture in the butter gathers in a foamy layer on top. This top layer boils away, and the middle layer is spooned away and allowed to cool. It is this layer that becomes the ghee.

Though ghee is an animal-based fat, and therefore considered a saturated fat, some research has indicated that it is healthier than alternative fats like lard or margarine. This is because it can be better preserved without refrigeration for weeks at a time without spoiling, and does not require the use of hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils. Further, it is rich in vitamin A, vitamin E, and potent antioxidants, and its high smoke point allows you to fry with the butter without breaking it down into free radicals.

At Spice Route in Bellevue, you can experience the great taste of ghee butter with many of our South Indian-style dishes. Try our ghee dosa, our ghee masala dosa, and more.

Vada: The South Indian Doughnut

vadaA vada is a type of South Indian fritter that often resembles a doughnut. It is made from a dough based on either ground lentils or beans, which is mixed with seasoning ingredients like onions, green chilies, black pepper, curry leaves, ginger, garam masala, cumin, and other spices. It is generally served hot and crunchy, with a fluffy center and a savory taste that goes well with a lot of Indian food.

This dish can be traced back to the ancient Tamil people, as far back as 100 BC. The earliest known mention of vada comes to us from a Sanskrit encyclopedia known as Manasollasa. The text describes a recipe for “vataka”, a green bean paste is shaped into a ball and deep-fried into something very similar to the modern variations.

Today, vada remains a popular food item for people throughout India. Diners will frequently eat it as a side dish along with dosas, idli, or similar dishes. It is also a common snack and street food, particularly during the Hindu festival of Onam and similar events. Shoppers enjoy buying them fresh out of the fryer, then dipping them in curd, coconut chutney, sambar, or other dips.

If you’ve never tried a vada before, we have several delicious options available at Spice Route in Bellevue. Try a medu vada with sambar and chutney, a dahi vada with yoghurt, a spicy sambar vada, or our specialty rasa vada, covered with sambar and spices. Come and try this South Indian favorite today!

What is Papadum?

pappadumsPapadum is a type of bread originating from Indian culinary traditions. Occasionally, you may see it go under the name “lentil chips”, “appala”, or “papari”. It comes in the form of a thin, cracker-like food made from a dough that might be made from a flour of black beans, lentils, rice, or chickpeas. Often times, the dough will be seasoned with an assortment of Indian spices to give it an extra kick.

People will enjoy papadum in a variety of different ways. Sometimes it stands by itself as an appetizer or a snack, possibly dressed with chutney, raita, or a similar sauce. It may also be served along with a curry dish, where it might serve as a utensil to scoop up the main dish.

Those who are unable to handle the strong spiciness of Indian dishes find the bread handy for cutting the intensity of the curry.

In India, many small enterprises run by women have been built around baking papadum. Due to the ease of creating the bread and the minimal initial investment required in producing it for commercial purposes, it has proven to be an easy way for these women to achieve financial independence. Papadum has therefore earned a reputation as a symbol of women’s empowerment.

When you dine at Spice Route, you can partake of this old Indian favorite for yourself. Try our papadum and chutney, or our masala papadum topped with onions, tomatoes, and spices. It’s a great way to get an authentic South Indian cuisine experience in Bellevue!

How Heart-Healthy is Indian Cuisine?

Heart-healthy food is important for many people. Many of our modern diets are high in sodium and saturated fats, which serve to clog your arteries, raise your blood pressure, and invite heart attacks, strokes, and similar problems. It can be particularly problematic to find a heart-healthy meal when you dine out at a restaurant. So, how does Indian fare measure up?

There are many benefits to traditional Indian cuisine. You’ll find that most dishes are heavy on the grains vegetables and lighter on the animal-based proteins. This means that there is a lot of healthy, soluble fiber that helps to break down the cholesterol obstructing your blood vessels. Further, all of the potassium-rich foods, like the potatoes, green vegetables, and yoghurt, are helping to reduce your sodium levels and bring your blood pressure down.

One of the other big benefits of Indian food is the heavy use of curry. It has been demonstrated that this Indian classic has many benefits for your heart. These benefits can vary from one form of curry to the next, but the primary benefit is that reduces inflammation. When it reduces the inflammation of your blood vessels, it decreases your chances of heart disease.

If heart health is of particular concern for you, simply look out for dishes that are higher in sodium and saturated fats. These include anything heavy in dairy, coconut milk, and ghee butter. Favor tandoor-based dishes and similar roasted foods. If you have any other dietary concerns, talk to your server at our Bellevue Indian restaurant.

The Curious Origins of Vindaloo

Vindaloo is a common staple of any restaurant that specializes in Indian cuisine. Featuring a powerful, spicy taste, it is well-loved by fans of the more fiery offerings of India. However, if we trace the dish back to its earliest incarnations, we find its roots far away from the Indian subcontinent.

The first ancestor of vindaloo comes from Portugal, where it was known as carne de vinha d’alho. This is a term that literally translates to “meat, wine, and garlic”. It came in the form of a preserved meat eaten by Portuguese sailors during long voyages. Ships would pack wooden barrels with alternating layers of a meat, usually pork, and garlic, all soaked in wine.

The Portuguese took their preserved meat with them to the Goa region of India at some point after Vasco de Gama first arrived in the country in 1498. The Goan people assimilated many Portuguese culinary innovations into their own traditions, and vindaloo was one of them. It was the Goans who added many of the spices we associate with vindaloo to the recipe, including chilies, ginger, coriander, and cumin.

The modern vindaloo is far removed from its earliest roots, mostly reflecting the contributions of the Goans. Further, though traditional vindaloo has not historically involved potatoes, most modern dishes do; this is based on a misconception based on the fact that the Hindi word “aloo” translates to potato.

At Spice Route, you can experience the great taste of vindaloo in the form of our chicken vindaloo, goat vindaloo, fish vindaloo, and shrimp vindaloo. Try it out today!

Parotta: India’s Favorite Flatbread

parottaA parotta, alternatively known as “paratha”, is a kind of flatbread originating from Indian culinary traditions. The name is derived from the words “parat” and “atta”. Together, these words literally translate to “layers of cooked dough”, describing the flaky, layered texture of the bread. This fine texture and the great taste has made the flatbread a big favorite both in India and throughout the globe.

The preparation of a parotta starts with whole wheat dough. Sometimes ghee will be added during the kneading process. Once the dough is smooth, it is formed into balls, allowed to rest for as much as six hours, and then rolled or stretched out into paper-thin sheets. A cook will fold these sheets multiple times in order to achieve the unique, crisp, flaky texture of the final product. If a filling is to be added, it is placed in the middle of the dough during this process. It is then baked in a pan, cooking a few minutes on either side.

Parottas represent one of the subcontinent’s most popular breads. Indians will commonly eat them either as a breakfast dish, or as a tea-time snack. They will either be eaten plain, or stuffed with a filling like mashed, spiced potatoes, lentils, greens, or paneer. Sometimes, the bread will be rolled up and used as a dipping food with tea.

At Spice Route in Bellevue, you can enjoy parottas in the form of our veg kottu parotta, our egg kottu parotta, our parotta and chicken kurma, and more. Come and try this classic Indian cuisine today!

What to Do When the Spice is Too Much

Bellevue Indian Food | SpicesSpice is not like other taste sensations, like bitter, sour, salt, and sweet. When a food registers as spicy with your tongue, it is probably because it contains a substance known as capsaicin. This substance, found in all spicy peppers, triggers the thousands of VR1 pain receptors in your tongue.

The capsaicin binds to the receptors and sends a signal to your brain, identical to the signal you get when your skin is burned by a hot surface. No actual damage is being done to your tongue, but this is a sensation that many people can’t handle in strong doses.

So, what can you do to reduce the burn when your Indian cuisine proves to be too much for you to handle?

The first instinct of most people is to reach for a glass of water. Unfortunately, since capsaicin is an oil, it can’t be washed away so easily. In fact, you’re probably just spreading the oil around to more thoroughly coat your tongue and make the sensation worse.

The best thing you can do to dilute the pain of spicy food is introduce another oily substance to your mouth. The oils are able to mix with the capsaicin and keep it from adhering to your pain receptors. Fatty foods are good for this purpose. A tall glass of milk can be a good option, as it quells the fire in your mouth with its fat and quells the fire in your stomach with its calcium.

At Spice Route in Bellevue, we offer milk and a selection of yoghurt-based lassis for this purpose. Come and join us for some quality Indian fare today!

What is an Ootappam?

lentils-riceOotappam, alternatively spelled as uttapam, is a type of flatbread that traces its roots back to South Indian culinary traditions. It is similar in many ways to the more familiar dosa, in that it is made from a dough comprised of rice and lentils that it allowed to ferment.

What makes it distinct from the dosa is that it is thicker, and more frequently is made with chopped vegetables.

When preparing the dough of an ootappam, the chef starts with two parts rice, generally basmati, and one part lentils, usually gram dal. Both of these are ground together and mixed with sugar and salt, then set aside to ferment for between four and fifteen hours. After the fermentation is complete, it is poured out in disks of about four inches across onto a griddle or pan, in the same way one might prepare a pancake.

As it cooks, the chef may sprinkle it with olive oil and vegetables. It will be allowed to cook until the surface begins to bubble, and then flipped over to cook on the other side.

In South India, ootappam is a common breakfast dish, as well as a favorite dish to serve during fasting days. It will often be served with a curry known as sambhar, made from lentils, onions, coconut, and eggplant, or a coconut chutney. At our Bellevue Indian restaurant, you can enjoy this old favorite with ghee, onions, onion chilli, masala, or vegetables. Come and experience the taste of this old South Indian favorite today!

The Many New Year Celebrations in India

diwaliIn India, New Year’s Day is one of the most popular celebrations. This is a time when people will put on their most colorful apparel and gather with their friends and family to indulge in fun-filled activities. They will sing together, play games, dance, and throw lavish parties. Many people will also flock to the country’s restaurants, movie theaters, night clubs, resorts, and amusement parks.

The familiar New Year held on January 1st on the Gregorian calendar is very popular throughout India, but a number of traditional alternatives are also recognized by different groups. These include all of the following:

  • Diwali: One of the most significant religious events in India, this is recognized as the New Year celebration by the Marwari. This day falls on either October or November.
  • Bestu Varas: This is the new year recognized by the Gujaratis. It occurs on the day after Diwali, and involves exchanging gifts and sweets among friends and relatives.
  • Vishu: The Malayalam New Year, Vishu usually occurs in early April. The most important part of this celebration is the Vishukkani, wherein followers arrange symbols of prosperity so that they are the first things they see on the new year.
  • Gudi Padwa: Falling at some point around March or April, this is the New Year celebration of the Marathi. It is on this day that Marathis will erect a special, decorated flag over their homes to invite good luck in the coming year.
  • Losoong: The New Year for the people of Sikkim, Losoong marks the end of the harvest season, usually in December. The colorful dances and celebrations attract many tourists every year.
  • Vaisakhi: This is the harvest festival for the Punjabi people, which usually occurs in mid April.
  • Puthandu: The Tamils mark the start of the new year on this day, which takes place on the 14th of April. This is a day for visiting temples and paying tribute to important deities.
  • Cheti Chand: India’s Sindhis celebrate this day on either March or April. This day is devoted to honoring the water, and Sindhis will visit the bank of a nearby lake.
  • Ugadi: This day marks the beginning of spring on either March or April, representing the Telugu New Year. Observers will ritually take part in oil baths.

The Value of Fish and Omega-3

omega-3Omega-3 fatty acids are an important part of any diet. There are various ways to get the omega-3 your body needs, though fish is the most highly-recommended source. Whenever possible, try to get your omega-3 by eating fish two or three times a week, rather than taking dietary supplements.

The benefits of omega-3 are many, and include the following:

  • Heart Health: Omega-3 serves to lower the levels of triglycerides in your blood, reducing your risk of heart disease.
  • Reduction of Arthritis: The anti-inflammatory properties of omega-3 reduces the stiffness and joint pain associated with rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Reduction of Asthma: A diet rich in omega-3 can reduce the symptoms of asthma.
  • Prevention of Mental Decline: Research has indicated that a regular diet of omega-3 fatty acids serves to protect you from age-related mental diseases, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Meanwhile, it may prevent the gradual memory loss associated with aging.
  • Reduction of ADHD: It has been indicated that children with ADHD experience a reduction in their symptoms, as well as improved cognitive skills, when they get enough omega-3 in their diet.
  • Improvement of Mood: Cultures that eat omega-3-rich foods tend to have lower rates of depression. The acids also seem to enhance the effects of antidepressants, and reduce the depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder.
  • Infant Health: Eating omega-3 while pregnant facilitates the development of your unborn child.

At Spice Route in Bellevue, you can get the omega-3 fatty acids you need from our various seafood dishes, including our fish vindaloo, our shrimp curry, and more.