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.
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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.

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The Continuing Evolution of Naan

A Short History About Naan

Naan is a leavened, oven-baked flatbread found in Central and South Asian cuisines. Nan or non is a Persian word, and the bread is Iranian in origin but the term ‘naan’ is spoken of in those parts of Asia as the English spelling of this flatbread in early 19th century.

In Iran, naan is just any kind of bread, while In South Asia the naan is a specific kind of a thick flatbread (another well-known kind of flatbread is chapati). In western countries today, the naan they are used to are from the South Asian varieties. It typically consists of dry yeast, all-purpose flour, warm water, sugar, salt ghee and yogurt.

Just like pita, naan is leavened (with yeast) or unleavened. It is cooked in a tandoor, a clay oven, from which tandoori cooking takes its name. This distinguishes it from roti, which is usually cooked on a flat or slightly concave iron griddle called a tava. Typically, it is served hot and brushed with ghee or butter. It can be used to scoop other foods or served stuffed with a filling.

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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.
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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.
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Interview with Tom Thanu

22 October, 2016 By Sarah
Original Article from Fried Dandelions

chef-tom-interviewLast spring Irving and I had the opportunity to take a vegan cooking class at Spice Route in Bellevue, WA. The class was taught by Tom Thanu, head chef and owner of both Spice Route and Moksha restaurants. Spice Route is in east Bellevue. It’s a fairly casual, buffet style Indian restaurant, specializing in southern Indian cuisine. Moksha is located in downtown Bellevue, right in the center of the swanky shopping area. Moksha is a somewhat fancier restaurant, with glittering lights, beautiful decor, and a more upscale feel to it. Both restaurants prepare delicious food, with many vegan options available.

Back to the class—We were lucky to attend a small class with just four of us in attendance, so I got to chat away and ask a ton of questions. We watched Chef Tom prepare several dishes for us, and then got to sample everything. The foods were delicious! As we got to chatting I told Tom about my blog, and invited him to participate in this interview series. A few weeks later I returned to the restaurant where I had the chance to ask him a few questions.


FRIED DANDELIONS: Are you vegan or vegetarian?

CHEF TOM: I am a lifelong vegetarian, eating only minimal amounts of dairy, mostly yogurt.

FD: If you could only have 10 food items in your pantry to cook with, what would they be?

CT: lentils, rice, wheat flour for bread, salt and pepper, red chili powder, turmeric, coriander powder, cilantro, cumin seeds, fennel seeds

FD: You serve vegan dishes at both of your restaurants, Spice Route and Moksha. Tell us about one of the popular dishes. Do you find that vegans seek out your restaurants because of your vegan offerings? Do you find non vegans ordering the vegan dishes, maybe without even thinking about it?

CT: Popular is very subjective, because I may like something and someone else likes something else, but from my point, I like the dal fry—urud dal cooked with spices. It’s very mild, not spicy. A misconception that people have is that Indian food is spicy because it’s cooked with spices. It’s not hot hot, it’s flavorful hot. Indian dishes can be made less in terms of heat, but very flavorful.

FD: What do you think about the vegan scene in the Seattle area? Do you think the diverse population creates a bigger demand, or availability of vegan options?

CT: One thing is that the people are much more exposed than the midwest or the south. The diversity of cultures that have been here for a long time—Indians came to the US in the 1850s for farming, and they’re still doing it in California. They’ve brought their own cultures.


READ THE FULL INTERVIEW HERE