Ancient to Modern: Indian food

The History of Indian Food

This is a small attempt to tell the huge and long story of Indian cuisine, how it came to be. Let us just stick to major, epochal sections for brevity.

When Aryans came to the subcontinent around 1500 BC, food was simple for this land-tilling, nomadic tribes. By 1000 BC, and settling in the fertile Gangetic plains, their food became more complex. Barley and wheat are the chief produce; cakes are made from them and eaten as staple and offered to the gods. As agrarianism grew, cattle and domesticated animals came into the picture and soon the Aryans became meat-eaters. When slaughtering the animals for meat got too costly, vegetarianism was born among the Aryans. With the arrival of Buddhism and Jainism in the 6th century BC, eating meat became taboo.

Until the early medieval period, vegetarianism was mainstream food in India – grains, fruits, vegetables, and milk. The warm climate allowed for growing herbs and spices and food became more complex. During this time Indian food interacted with foreigners – the Greeks, Romans, and Arabs who introduced coffee. Then Persian Zoroastrians came and gave India the Parsi cuisine, composed of hot and sweet spices. Then the Mughals came with their nuts and fruits and the art of elegant dining. Tomato, chilli, potato, and refined sugar came from the Portuguese. Hindu refugees from Afghanistan brought their tandoori. And then the British – the taste for tea and the art of using spoon and fork.

India’s interaction with these diverse cultures has so enriched its cuisine and its own unique blends carried and spread all over the known world, and continues to do so to this age.

Bellevue Indian Food: An evolution of Food

Let our Bellevue Indian restaurant, the Spice Route, share with you the richness and diversity of Indian cuisine right here in Washington. What we bring to your table is a food experience evolution of one of Asia’s oldest civilization.

In Search of Vegan Food in Bellevue

The Vegan Philosophy and Diet

While vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry or fish, they might eat dairy products, like milk, cheese, eggs, or yogurt. Their diet beliefs are varied and may include health reasons, allergic reactions, or respect for animal life. Vegans, on the other hand, are self-committed to a standard of living that totally respects animal well-being. Hence, they eliminate all types of animal meat and products, and that includes all dairy items. In many cases, this philosophy also embraces animal clothing, animal environment, and animal rights.

When it comes to food, what do vegans eat? There’s a whole lot of choices. Vegans eat lots of veggies, beans, grains, tofu, and fresh or dried fruits. For breakfast, they’ll have bagels, cereals, toasts, pancakes, and even non-dairy milk and veggie sausages. Lunch and dinner fares will include baked or mashed potatoes, stir-fried vegetables, soup or chili over pasta or rice, veggie pizza, veggie burger, seitan casserole or tofu lasagna. There’s a variety of no-meat sandwiches, non-dairy ice cream, vegan pie, cookies, or cake for snacks or dessert.

The world is catching up to this healthy and nutritious lifestyle and philosophy and many are becoming converts. It’s taking hold in supermarkets, hotels and restaurants where vegan ingredients and recipes are popular. World and ethnic cultures have adopted it as a way of life.

Bellevue Indian Restaurant serves Vegan

Specializing in southern Indian fare, both Spice Route and MokSha restaurants in Bellevue serve delicious vegan dishes to a multinational clientele. They have many vegetarian and vegan options, as well as meat options in both places for lunch buffet and dinner. Owner and Chef Tom Thanu is a vegan himself and shares his cooking expertise via a monthly vegan cooking class. Be vegan and learn vegan. Here at our Indian restaurant in Bellevue.

The Spicy World of India in Bellevue

The World of Spice

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While there are about 80 known spices grown in the world, 50 of those are from India alone. The lush and tropical climate of southern India produces some of the world’s best and enduring spices that characterize Indian cuisine. The saga goes back to ancient times when spices were used to flavor foods.

When European explorers came to Indian shores, they realized they’ve discovered something akin to gold, and brought the spices, herbs and other riches back to the New World. They sold, traded and grew the seeds wherever the clime is suitable.

In India, particularly the southern region, spice markets abound and are an industry in itself. With so many species grown, it is no wonder how southern cuisine got to be so spicy.

Let’s look at some popular spices that characterize southern Indian food and you’ll find some spices incorporated in multinational cuisines as well.

Cassia cinnamon, which has blood-sugar benefits, is a strong and hot spice. Cardon has strong, citrus taste and goes well with cinnamon in lamb meats. Coriander or cilantro, which is fresh lemon in flavor, is used as garnish to add color. Cumin has a licorice-like taste and a popular ingredient to add mild heat to curries.

India’s main spice produce, tamarind, sweetens as it ripens and used in juices. There’s no mistaking the anti-inflammatory properties of tumeric, an aromatic and bitter spice.

Spice for Health at Bellevue Indian Restaurant

The health roles of spices have long been studied – such as aiding digestion, lowering of blood pressure, diminishing stroke incidences, and fortifying resistance. Here at our Indian restaurant in Bellevue, it’s a good thing to know that what you find delicious and flavorful are also good for the health.

Bellevue Southern Indian Food Experience

South and North Differences in Cuisine

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Southern Indian food is commonly characterized by its use of rice and coconut. Sauces like chutney and curry, which make up many popular dishes, are made from coconut. Dosas and idlis, on the other hand the most popular breakfast cakes in the south, are made from rice.

The cuisine is more vegetarian-friendly; the use of nutritious lentils, peas and beans characterize their food.

Southern flavors are intense and usually are incorporated in rice dishes. They don’t favor creme unlike cuisine from the north of India and instead use coconut for their gravies. That makes Indian food from the south a lot healthier, aside from the fact that coconut is a beneficial ingredient.

In terms of spiciness, southern variety is much spicier. Consider their spices – green and red chilies, cumin, coriander, pepper, turmeric and fenugreek seeds.

About cooking methods? The south prefer more to steam, boil, or pressure cook, while the north are more into frying, marinating, or roasting. Do you see the benefits?

An Evening of Southern India Dining

Enjoy the unique flavors of southern India dining in our Indian restaurant in Bellevue, considered one of Puget Sound’s best Asian restaurants and one of the best buffet spots that offer specialty southern cuisine from India by chefs of the region. The way we choose and prepare our ingredients make for healthier and delicious offerings. We serve vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes cooked separately from our meat and seafood menu. That is to preserve the natural flavors of healthy southern dining.

Indian Food at the 2016 Olympics

The Rio Olympic Games

Indian food is about more than just a great taste to Indian people. A proper Indian meal is so important that, when proper fare was not available during the 2012 Olympic Games in London, it apparently affected the performance of the Indian athletes. After the resulting controversy, the Indian Olympic Association wrote to the organizing committee to assure that authentic Indian food would be available to the participants from India.

spice-route-tandoori-chickenMore than one hundred Indian athletes are expected to participate in the upcoming Summer Olympic Games in Rio. In order to be on the top of their games, they will require good, nourishing, vegetarian fare.

To accommodate them, the organizing committee has assured the Indian Olympic Association that no effort will be spared to provide them with Indian-style dishes. Rakesh Gupta, India’s Chef de Mission for Rio Olympics, said that the IOA is not taking any chances this time around, and is continuing to communicate with the organizing committee on this issue.

Rio’s Olympic Games, representing the first time that the international sporting event has been held in South America, is scheduled to kick off on August 5th and run until August 21st. If you’re a fan of quality athleticism, don’t miss out on this year’s games.

If you’re a fan of quality Indian cuisine, come and visit Spice Route at our Bellevue location; after a hearty dish of curry, vindaloo, samosas, and more, you’ll see why the Indian athletes have such a hard time going without their favorite foods!

The Many Benefits of Chili Peppers

chili-pepperThe chili pepper is surprisingly dense in valuable vitamins and minerals. In a single, 100 gram serving, you get 240% of your recommended vitamin C, 39% percent of your vitamin B6, 32% of your vitamin A, 13% of your iron, 14% of your copper, 7% of your potassium, and more.

The nutritional benefits of a diet rich in chili peppers are many, and include all of the following:

  • Heart Health: The capsaicin found in the peppers serve to reduce your cholesterol and triglyceride levels, protecting your heart from damage. It also helps your body break down fibrin, which is important for the formation of blood clots. It has been observed that cultures that eat a lot of hot peppers have a significantly lower rate of heart attacks and strokes.
  • Lower Blood Pressure: The high vitamin content of the peppers facilitate healthy, elastic blood vessels that are better able to deal with pressure fluctuations. Eating peppers also promote sweating, which removes sodium from your bloodstream.
  • Weight Control: The thermogenic properties of capsaicin stimulate your body’s natural fat-burning processes. This prevents the formation of adipose tissue and generate heat and promotes weight loss.
  • Metabolic Health: A scientific study demonstrated that capsaicin prevents stomach ulcers, kills harmful bacteria in your digestive tract, and may serve to cure inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Anti-Inflammation: Capsaicin is a potent anti-inflammant, helping your body fight pain associated with inflammation.
  • Cancer Prevention: It has been found that capsaicin kills off malignant cancer cells in the prostate.

Red pepper powder is a big part of South Indian culinary traditions. If you would like to make this healthy pepper a bigger part of your life, come down to our Bellevue Indian cuisine restaurant tonight.

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!

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!