Indian Food Fun Facts You Didn’t Know

Amazing Details You Have To Know About Indian Food

Westerners are taken by the diversity, the naturalness, the strong definitive flavors of Indian cuisine. To those who think they are familiar with the cuisine might be surprised to find that there are a few details about Indian food that are little known. Let’s look at some.

There are not four, or five, but six different taste sensations recognized by the human tongue. They are sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and spicy, and astringent. While spicy is also known as pungent taste, astringent refers to dry and light such as found in legumes, raw fruits and vegetables, and herbs. A proper Indian meal should have a balanced meal containing all six.

A samosa is this delicious fried or baked dish with a savoury filling. It’s a very common Indian dish. Actually, it is not of Indian origin. It was claimed to have come from the Middle East, in what is now known as Iran.

India produces 70 percent of the world’s spices. No country in the world produces as many varieties of spices as India. Other top producers are Bangladesh, Turkey, China, and Pakistan. The southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh tops in spice production as of 2017.

The hottest chili in the world is found in India. The bhut jolokia, also known as the ‘ghost chilli’, grows in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur, and is more than 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce.

India consumes 50% of the world’s whiskey. Did you know that Indians consumed over 1.5 million litres of whiskey in 2014? In second place was the United States with a consumption of 492 million litres. While that’s not surprising, having almost a billion in population, Indian are still prodigious whiskey drinkers. Per capita basis, the French are heaviest, on 2 liters per person per year, then the Americans at 1.5 liters.

India has the world’s lowest meat consumption per person due to the high prevalence of vegetarianism (the largest in the world) and the limited varieties of meat available; this is owing to their religious beliefs. About 30% of the population eat meat on an occasional basis only.

Chicken tikka masala, the hugely popular Indian curry, is not Indian in origin. It was invented in Glasgow, Scotland by a Pakistani chef when a customer complained that his chicken was dry. So was born the recipe of chunks of succulent chicken doused in a creamy orange curry sauce.

And did you know that London has more Indian restaurants than Mumbai or Delhi? Something like 15,000 restaurants. A wild guess would be like: the chicken tikka masala has long been regarded as the favorite dish of the British.

Remembering South India in December

Festivals and Food from the South

There are many local celebrations happening in southern India in December. Tourists and locals come together in the cooler weather and festive atmosphere in this region. Bookings are sky-high, flights are heavy, and celebrating becomes pretty expensive. Nonetheless, there seems to be no better time to spend extra in hard-to-forget celebrations.

Tamil Nadu in December celebrates the Madras Season of Music and Dance. Everyday, carnatic music, the classic music of south India that dates back 2,500 years, will be played in several concerts all over Chennai City. Also, in Tamil Nadu, a 4-week dance festival, showcasing classical and folk dances will be held in an open-air stage with the magnificent Mamallapuram rock sculptures as backdrop. The Mamallapuram is the renowned and ancient 7th century centre for Pallava culture and art. Both events will run from December to January. Elaborate meals on banana leaves are served, notably are steamed rice, tomato rice, dal, sambar or lentil stew, kara kuzhambu (spicy stew with a coconut base or dal base), rasam (tamarind stew with other herbs and spices), curd, and plenty of vegetables, plus milk base or coconut milk base payasam.

In Goa, there’s the 3-day festival of music and dance and shopping. It’s called the Sunburn Festival. It’s an electronic dance music festival, with international DJs, held every year on the last week of December at Candolim beach of Goa. The festival is regarded as Goa’s best and the ninth best music festival in the world. Focus here is on the food and entertainment. Goan cuisine is mostly seafood-based; Kingfish (vison or visvan) is the most common delicacy. Apart from seafoods, rice, coconut, vegetables, meat, pork and the most intense of spices are some of the main ingredients of Goan food.

At Fort Kochi, in Kerala, the 10-day Cochin Carnival is celebrated at December’s end. There are games and competitions, culminating in a grand parade on the Portuguese New Year’s Day. The parade is the highlight of the carnival, with embellished elephants, costumes, drums, music and partying. On Dec 31, at zero hour, thousands will witness the burning of the massive statue, an effigy of a 35-foot old man named, Pappanji, symbolizing the welcoming of hope and harmony. There are fairs, cultural shows, food festivals, bike and cycle races, rallies, beach football, arts, and so forth to enhance the festive spirit. Kerala cuisine of is mildly flavored and gently cooked, characterized by the use of coconut. Food is a combination of vegetables, meats and seafood flavored with a variety of spices, and cooked mostly in coconut milk.

Celebrating December in Bellevue

We at Spice Route Cuisine celebrate December remembering the delicious and extravagance of South Indian cuisine. Allow us to bring you to the celebrations when you dine with us here in Bellevue.

Paneer: India’s Good Cheese

Vegetarian Delight: Combination Tasty and Healthy

India’s equivalent to cottage cheese is the well-loved paneer. It is an important part of Indian cuisine and Indian culture. It literally means ‘cheese’ in Hindi. The semisolid, cubed form of cottage cheese, the paneer, is popular in north and east India. It takes on the flavor of the spices in which it cooks and adds a rich and creamy flavor to Indian desserts, and also used in curries, Indian kababs and pan-fried Indian flatbread.

Made from milk, paneer is enjoyed in its several forms – as chunks, bhurji (small bits), fried, sautéed, barbecued, grilled, and more. It is an all-around dish that vegetarians love. Its popularity stems from its incredible combination of taste and health.

And what are paneer’s health benefits that even non-vegetarians love? Firstly, paneer is protein-rich. What vegetarians are missing from not eating meat products, they can get from paneer. 100 gm of paneer yields about 18 gm of protein needed for muscle-building and repair. Since paneer is also high in calcium content, it can help build teeth and bones to some extent.

Paneer can bridge those hunger pains being able to provide longer hours of satiety because it is protein. It releases energy slowly, not an instant boost that wanes easily, and not causing blood sugar level spikes.

It is a great source of conjugated linoleic acid – a fatty acid which helps lose weight by enhancing the body’s fat burning process. This is an ideal food choice for those who wish to lose weight.

Paneer is said to have some cancer-fighting capabilities by preventing the growth of cancer-causing cells in the body. It also protects against heart disease by lowering the fat deposition in the arteries.

A few controversial issues surround India’s favorite cheese though. Many believe that paneer is fattening, being high on the calorie meter. Each 100 gm of the cheese is equal to 293 calories. However, paneer is really ideal for people with an active lifestyle, or have an exercise regimen. They tend to burn their calories easily and yet gain the nutrients in their food choices. Nonetheless, moderation is key when enjoying paneer. Additionally, for health reasons, it is better not to fry paneer; best to keep its nutrients intact.

Enjoying Vegetarian in Bellevue

Love our soft and light paneer when you dine at Spice Route Indian Restaurant. We offer quality of dining options via only the freshest, healthy and sustainable ingredients that characterize our menu.

Rice Cakes and Rice Noodles in Bellevue

Cakes and Noodles Out of Rice

India’s staple food – rice – is a pre-eminent crop occupying large parts of the country for its cultivation. Feeding millions since the dawn of civilization and exported to the rest of the world, India’s rice have been cooked and served in a variety of ways. The things they can do with rice is quite amazing. Let’s look at two of their most popular rice variant dishes – the Idly and the Idiyappam.

Idli is a savoury rice cake made by grinding rice, urad dal (skinned black lentils), along with water. The resulting batter is left to ferment overnight before being steamed in an idli steamer. The dish hails from the southern part of India but is popular as breakfast food throughout India and neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka. The cakes can be pillow-soft depending on your fermentation process, batter consistency and ingredients with their ratio, depending on the weather. Traditionally a breakfast item along with chutney and sambar, idlis are also enjoyed as snacks.

The idiyappam is known as String Hoppers in the west, looking like delicate noodles. It is both a traditional Sri Lankan and South Indian food consisting of rice flour pressed into noodle form and then steamed. However, in South India white rice is used; in Sri Lanka both brown rice and white rice are used.

Most parts of South India eat idiyappam at breakfast and must have been so for 2,000 years, some claim. They have different names where you find them; it’s idiyappam in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, it’s nool puttu in Coorg and southern Kannada areas of Karnataka, and puttumayam in Malaysia. They are pretty much prepared the same way.

It is made of rice flour, salt and water. The ingredients are mixed in hot water, kneaded into a smooth dough, put into a press to produce the rice strings coming out of perforations and onto banana leaves, or straight into a steamer for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve your idiyappam with coconut gratings and coconut milk, or curry and coconut chutney, or even spicy curry. The noodles will absorb all these flavors, anywhere from breakfast time to dinner.

Vegetarians’ Choice in Bellevue

For breakfast or snacks or even for dinner, love our rice cakes and rice noodles at Spice Route in Bellevue. Either way, it’s a healthy choice and as traditional as traditional can be in southern India.

The Sacred Cows of India

Gentle Giant and Mother to All

Cows have been a fixture in India’s long history. During the Vedic period (1500-500 BCE) in Northern India, the time when the oldest scriptures of Hinduism (Vedas) were composed, the pastoral people then relied on cows for many needs. Cow milk was used for food, cow dung as soil fertilizer and fuel, and together with cow urine were considered also as disinfectants.

According to Hindu scriptures, cow’s milk is considered one of the highest forms of food, called Satvic, with great calming effect and medicinal value. Ghee or clarified butter, which is a milk product from cows, was used in fire worship, one of the highest forms of Hindu worship.

Perhaps ancient Indians ate cow’s meat before when they were first wanderers on the wide grasslands. However, when they settled along the Ganges river and their population started to balloon, they began to suffer from polluted water. They discovered that sickness and death claimed their numbers from contaminated water from their slaughterhouses and their leather industry. Taboos materialized then, otherwise believing that it was unfortunate or bad luck to kill cows. Following that, even the sacrifice of cows to deities for religious purposes was stopped.

The giant, gentle animal stood for all the goodness of the Hindu religion. Its calm and non-threatening nature is said to represent Dharma, the principle of cosmic order. Though Hindus do not worship cows, they are held in high esteem, they are respected or at least tolerated. Some of India’s goddesses take the form of a cow. You see cows undisturbed roaming the streets of India, being thrown vegetables to eat by street vendors.

There are also many institutions in India that take care of old and infirm cows. During festivals, they are beautified and garlanded and given special feedings, or given as gifts. The bond between a cow and its calf is also appreciated and revered; she is honored for her maternal and caretaker image.

Hence, slaughtering cows for their meat or consuming beef is considered sacrilegious for Hindus. Selling beef is banned in many Indian cities, and few Hindus would be ready to even taste cattle meat, for sociocultural reasons.

No-Beef Delicacies in Bellevue

Over at Spice Route, enjoy Southern Indian selections. We serve vegetarian and non-vegetarian, gluten-friendly, spicy and no-spice dishes for your complete dining experience. Certainly explore all our healthy, non-beef offerings.We’re one of the region’s best Indian eating destinations.

Andhra Pradesh: A Journey in Flavors in Bellevue

Rich Heritage and Regional Flavors

Andhra Pradesh is your state bordering the southeastern coast of India with one of the longest coastlines in the country.It is one of India’s beautiful destinations because of its natural freshwater lakes, caves, hill ranges and valleys and some of the largest trees in the world.

Hyderabad is its shared capital which is famous for its rich cultural heritage. And the state’s cuisine? Traditional Andhra Pradesh food is world-famous, inspired by regional flavors and recipes used by the royal courts of old India.

Andhra Pradesh is the largest producer of rice in the country and you will find that rice usually comes with many of this place’s vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. The food of Andhra Pradesh is characteristically spicy and tangy, actually one of the spiciest in India. Cooking Andhra dishes uses a lot of red and green chilies, tamarind, coconut and other Indian spices. Actually, even within Andhra Pradesh, different places have different flavors and styles of cooking, but mostly still rich in spices.

Some of the more popular traditional Andhra dishes are Pulihora (tamarind rice), Poppadams or Papadum (dough from black gram flour), Andhra pappu (stew with lentils), Gongura chutney (hibiscus leaves with pacchadi or relish), Pesaratu (crepe-like bread with green gram), Pulusu (curry-like stew), Avakkai pickles made of raw mango, GuttiVankaya Kura (seasoned eggplant), Rasam (soup with tamarind juice), Sambar (lentil-based vegetable chowder), Payasum (sweetened milk with raisins and cashew), and different types of curd dishes. Andhra Pradesh snacks are also famous, like Chekkalu (rice crackers), Guggillu (chickpeas), and the much loved Bondalu, small dough snacks with various ingredients, as black gram.

Mainly vegetarian, Andhra cuisine is also known for its tasty and fresh seafood made of prawns and fish, being a coastal region. There are also favorite swets with their distinct texture and taste, many from pure desi ghee. The capital city of Hyderabad is also known for their slow cooking cuisine. Many dishes, such as the Biryani with Bagharebaigan or mirchkasalan, a meat dish, is world-famous.

Also, a lot of dry fruits garnish Hyderabadi food, balancing its mostly spicy flavors with sweet streaks. If you desire fine dining experience, the capital offers many such eating opportunities. Remember Andhra Pradesh food is a rich amalgamation of regional dishes that gives it the uniqueness and flavors it is known the world over.

A Taste of Andhra Pradesh in Bellevue

Come to Spice Route in Bellevue and indulge in the magic of our Andhra Pradesh cuisine. Experience flavors and experience traditional in Bellevue. It is like going back to the rich heritage of the coastal south of India.

Most Popular Vegetarian Dishes of India

India’s Top Non-Meat Wholesome Delights

Rich in plant life, India is one of the world’s most diverse cultures where vegetarianism thrives. It is said that almost 40% of the population is vegetarian. Even Indians who are meat-eaters are vegetarians infrequently. For cultural reasons, less than 30% are regular vegetarians. This lifestyle has been existing in India since ancient times. Today, far from the crude and traditional preparations of plant-based meals, many dishes are more appealing with the influx of outside influences on India’s remarkable cuisine.

Let’s look at the top 5 of India’s favorite veggie meals.

Take Malai Kofta, it’s vege balls in thick sauce. Malai refers to cream from whole milk, heated to 180F for an hour and the top fat skimmed off. The balls consist of mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, paneer, cream and spices, and afterwards fried and mixed with the malai. It’s deliciously healthy, a special occasion food, made with love’s labor because of the time it takes to prepare it.

Palak Paneer is a favorite North Indian dish consisting of soft paneer (cottage cheese) cubes in a thick paste made from puréed spinach (palak) and seasoned with garlic, garam masala, and other spices. It’s a healthy choice. If a no-dairy version, opt for potato or cauliflower.

Rajma is red kidney bean curry. It consists of cumin seeds, onions, ginger and garlic fried in oil. Green chilies, tomatoes, coriander, cumin, turmeric and garam masala powders are added, fried until the oil separates. Red kidney beans, cooked until soft and mashed, thicken the gravy. Delicious with hot rice and coriander, and Kachumbar salad on the side.

Mutter Paneer is peas and cottage cheese curry. Onion and tomato paste, ginger and garlic paste are added to golden, stir-fried paneer. Coriander, cumin, turmeric and garam masala powders, finely chopped green chillies and peas are added. Served with chapati, paratha or naan or even on a bed of plain boiled Basmati rice make this a frequently ordered meal.

Indian Black Lentils (Kaali Daal), also known as Mom’s Lentils, consists of overnight soaked black lentils cooked with spices, tomatoes and cream. The lentils and water will provide the thick gravy-like consistency. Serve hot with a vegetable side dish and naan. It’s quality comfort food.

Loving Vegetarian in Bellevue

Ask about vegetarian dishes at Spice Cuisine in Bellevue and have healthy, wholesome non-meat dishes.

The Magic of One of India’s Strongest Spices

India’s Asafetida: Just a Little is Enough

Asafoetida is one of India’s most pungent spices, so strong that Europeans dubbed it as ‘devil’s dung’ and sometimes ‘stinking gum.’ Asafoetida (or asafetida) is derived from the Latin for fetid. If you are unaccustomed to it, you’d act negatively to its mix of sulfur and onion aromas. Its Hindi word is Hing or Heeng, a dark brown resin-like substance from the roots of ferula, giant fennel plants that grow wild mainly in India, but is also found in Afghanistan and Iran.

However sharply pungent is its smell when raw, Asafetida or Hing is extremely fragrant when added to hot oil or clarified butter ghee to temper the aroma of certain dishes. Some refer to its aroma as that of leeks.

Hing can be paired with turmeric, added to lentil curries like dal or khatti mithi dal, and other vegetable dishes like broccoli. It is used to balance foods that are too sour, sweet, salty, or spicy. It must be used judiciously, just a pinch may be enough to flavor a pot of lentils. It is so pungent that it should be kept in airtight plastic bottles. However, once cooked, it makes dishes very pleasant.

Hing is used primarily for its helpful digestive properties. When added to foods that by nature are gas-producing, like beans and curries, Hing helps their digestion. In India, the spice is believed to have medicinal qualities, anywhere from kidney stones, asthma, bronchitis and even painful menstruation.

It is a cure for ulcers and whooping cough in Afghanistan, while it is considered a diuretic in Egypt. Elsewhere, the spice has been used for non-food purposes – as a tree killer, fish bait, moth trap, or as spirit repellent.

You can get Asafetida or Hing from Indian spice stores or larger supermarkets. The brown powder is full-strength and tiny amounts are enough. The yellow variety has been diluted with flour or rice flour and turmeric, but it must still be used sparingly. The spice works best when first fried for 5 to 10 seconds in hot oil. There is no harm done if you should use more, just have to cook longer until the pungency diminishes, with your windows open.

It can also be used in place of onions and garlic. The fresher the spice is, the more pungent the odor. Just remember the airtight containers, or have a housefull of its smell in just a few hours.

Wonderful Flavors in Bellevue

Ask your favorite Indian restaurant in Bellevue, the Spice Route, about the wonders of Asafetida or Hing, or how great flavors can come from small things.

Long Life with Lentils in Bellevue

India’s Most Common Lentils

Lentils are members of the legume family of vegetables. Because of their high nutritional values, they make a perfect meal with rice as it is the case in India. Do you know that India produces a quarter to half of the total world production of lentils? It’s close to 1.5 million tonnes a year, just behind Canada’s, and most of India’s lentils are consumed locally.

However, going to any of the Indian markets, you can confuse yourself easily with the endless arrays of lentils, varying in sizes and colors. It is good to have a grasp of the most common ones.

The Chaan Daal is the largest Indian lentil, one of the oldest cultivated vegetables in the world. Yellow in color with a sweet nutty flavor, it is one of the most popular and versatile lentils in the Indian diet. It cooks very quickly, under 10 minutes, after first being soaked in water. In spite of its sweet flavor, this lentil is excellent for diabetics. High in protein and fiber, it has almost no effects on blood sugar.

The Moor Daal is probably the most known to Westerners, also eaten in the Middle East, Africa and the rest of Asia. They are the color of salmon and cooks quickly after soaking in water. Becoming golden when cooked, they turn into a mushy, creamy texture with a warm and earthy taste. They can be mashed and added to other dishes for thickening, such as in soups and meat stews. The lentils are very good for bile reflux and also improve blood circulation.
Continue reading

Southern Sweets from India in Bellevue

Popular Desserts from South India

The word mitha means sweet in the Indian language, and so, all Indian sweets are collectively called Mithai. There are many varieties of Indian sweets that come from original sweets recipes.
As in other cultures, a sweet dish or drink is the final course of a meal. Most Indian desserts include milk or ghee as its main ingredient and you can find them in Indian bakeries.

There are also desserts made with fruits and nuts. In South India, desserts are served first to celebrate sweet beginnings of the occasion – like birthdays, weddings, house-warmings – as well as at the end of the meal.

Let’s look at some popular desserts much loved by Indians from the south, and you will,too. Like the Gulab Jamun, popular also in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Gulab (rose) jamun gets its name from the rose colored jamuns (dumplings) that are soaked in sugar syrup. The sweet dumplings made with milk solids are very light and melts in the mouth.It is made out of milk powder, flour, semolina, lemon juice and ghee or butter. Its sugar syrup has rose essence and cardamom. Delicious whether served warm or cold.

Continue reading