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!

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 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.

A Brief History of Mulligatawny

curryMany people in the United States recognize the name mulligatawny as that of an Indian-style soup. However, this is technically not the case. Depending upon whom you ask, mulligatawny is either not Indian or not a soup.

The word “mulligatawny” comes from a pair of Tamil words, “mulliga” and “thanni”. These translate to “pepper-water” or “pepper-broth”, a name based on the fact that the original dish was made primarily with peppers. In India, the term was applied not to a soup, but to a sauce. This sauce would be served with rice, much like other curry-style Indian dishes.

Mulligatawny became a soup during the late 18th century, during the time of British colonialism in the country. The British stationed in India developed a taste for a lot of local dishes, many of which made their way back to their home country and throughout the Commonwealth. The British East India Company was responsible for introducing England to a dish inspired by India’s mulligatawny sauce.

Early versions of the dish probably consisted of a chicken and lamb broth, fried onions, and some form of curry powder. It was adapted over time to suit English tastes, going through different incarnations and gradually gaining popularity as a soup throughout the world. The people of Australia had a particular liking for the soup, and are responsible for much of its popularity in its current form.

Today, mulligatawny is often served in the form of a thick, spicy soup made with curry powder, vegetables, nuts, and rice. You can experience the taste of this long-time favorite at Spice Route in Bellevue.

Vegetarianism in India

vegetarianismVegetarianism is a big deal in India. Back in 2007, a UN FAO study determined that the country had the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world, with as much as 40% of the population identifying as some form of vegetarian.

Even among those who do eat meat, less than 30% will eat it regularly. Most traditional cuisine prepared in India nowadays will make use of no animal products, with the exceptions of milk and honey.

Vegetarian diets are so important in India that the country devised a color-coded system for food vendors to clearly indicate what diets their offerings accommodate. Food marked with a green dot in a green square will be strictly vegetarian, while those featuring a brown dot in a brown square will indicate that it contains milk, honey, or other animal products.

The motivation behind vegetarianism in India is based in a big part on religious beliefs. Many dogmas practiced in the country forbid, or at least discourage eating meat. According to ancient Vedic scriptures, “There is no sin in eating meat… but abstention brings great rewards.”

In the modern day, Hinduism teaches its followers to avoid meat, a practice that scholars believe came from influences from the strictly vegetarian belief system known as Jainism.

For many, practicality plays a big role in their vegetarianism. Eating beef fell out of practice, since the animals are highly valued for their milk, the fuel created by their dung, and other products. Even when it was common to eat beef, the milk cows were not butchered.

Join Us for Our Diwali Buffet!

diwali-spice-routeDiwali, the “Festival of Lights”, is one of the most important times on the Hindu calendar. In honor of this holiday, Spice Route will be preparing a special Diwali Buffet for our diners. Join us on Wednesday, November 11th to celebrate with a selection of quality, South Indian-style dishes!

The roots of Diwali go back to ancient India, when it probably started out as a harvest festival. Different belief systems will attach different lore to the first Diwali; to some, it is the anniversary of the marriage between Lord Vishnu and Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Others associate it with the return of the god Rama, his wife and his brother from exile, as described in the ancient Hindu tale titled Ramayana, or the return of Pandavas as detailed in Mahabharata.

Various groups in various parts of the world will mark the occasion with different customs, but, in whatever form it may take, it is always a celebration of the triumph of the forces of good over evil.

Preparations for the festival start weeks in advance with various religious rituals. People will decorate their homes and businesses lavishly with flowers and colorful diyas and rangolis. Diwali itself arrives either on October or early November, depending on the phases of the moon. When the festivities begin, people will gather together with friends and families to partake of traditional feasts and sweets.

The night of the full moon is the most important night of the five-day celebration; it is here, on the darkest time of the month, that communities will light up the night with candles, lanterns, and firework displays. It is from this that the celebration gets its name, as well as its reputation for being the biggest and brightest festival in India.

No matter who you are or where you come from, Diwali is a time for people to come together in the name of peace, kindness, and charity. Come celebrate at Spice Route in Bellevue!

Enjoy India’s Popular Lassi

moksha-gallery-1215Lassi is a popular drink in the Indian Subcontinent that is made from yogurt, water, fruits and spices. The drink can either be made into a sweet lassi containing sugar or fruits to sweeten the drink or a salted lassi. Lassis can be enjoyed as a summer refreshment to cool off from the hot weather.

Other than the classic lassi, other popular flavor is the Mango lassi. It’s made from the original ingredient with the addition of fresh mango or mango pulp.

The Mango lassi is enjoyed all over the world and is a summertime favorite because of the cold and creamy consistency, similar to a smoothie. Just like a smoothie, Lassi drinks can be made at home with a few simple ingredients.

Ingredients
The base ingredients include: plain yogurt, water, and flavor such as salt, sugar, honey, fruits, spices, etc. There are alternatives such as coconut milk for a vegan option. Some people add in alcohol, mint leaves, nuts, flaxseeds, cream, or even butter to change up the classic recipe.

Health Benefits
Since the drink is a yogurt based drink, it contains many beneficial bacteria that aides digestion and decreases the harmful bacteria.

Try our Mango Lassi, one of the popular and top selling beverages at our Bellevue Indian restaurant.