At Café Spice, our motto is “Spice Up Your Life!” We believe that adding a touch of spice to foods can make a difference not only in the pleasure of eating but also in waking up the senses, improved mood, and enhancement of physical and mental health.
The foundation of the many cuisines of India is its spices. At Café Spice, each dish has fresh-ground spices that are unique to that particular recipe. Here are just a few of the spices we use, with facts about the health and healing benefits, regional specialties featuring these spices, and their engaging aromas and flavors.
Saffron, the most expensive spice in the world, prized for its intense rich color, subtle flavor and medicinal properties is a key ingredient in our signature Saffron Basmati Rice. Saffron threads, are the delicate stigmas from a beautiful flower, Crocus sativas, that are handpicked and dried. Valued for its anti-oxidant and health promoting properties, saffron is also a good source of minerals such as copper, potassium, manganese and iron.
RED CHILI POWDER:
Chili powder is one of Chef Hari’s three favorite spices. It contains capsaicin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. Chili has been associated with everything from pain relief, reduced congestion, and the prevention of stomach ulcers to weight loss and improved cardiovascular health.
Chili powder gives our Café Spice Bombay Lentil Soup its subtle bite, punching up the lentil/spinach and tomato blend. You might expect to find red chili powder in our Café Spice Chicken Vindaloo, but did you know that it also flavors Café Spice Saag Paneer? That’s versatility!
Chef Hari Nayak counts cardamom as one of his three favorite spices. Here’s what he has to say about it in My Indian Kitchen: “This versatile spice, used in a wide range of dishes from Indian curries to desserts and teas, is believed to counteract stomach acidity, stimulate appetite, ease nausea, cure bad breath, and relieve gas and bloating. Cardamom has also been used as an aphrodisiac.”
Cardamom is widely used in Indian food and is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin C. Its richness in potassium makes it useful for controlling heart rate and blood pressure. Cardamom accents the sauce for our Vegetable Korma and Chicken Vindaloo main dishes. If you haven’t tried our Saffron Rice, the accompaniment in many Café Spice dishes, you’re in for a treat—whole cardamom pods!
Chef Hari Nayak tells us that cinnamon is the dried inner bark of the laurel tree. A major ingredient in Indian food, it is used to flavor and add fragrance to curries, rice, and teas. Studies suggest cinnamon is an antioxidant, reducing inflammation, and fighting bacteria. Cinnamon can be found in many Café Spice items, such as Café Spice Chicken Vindaloo and Chicken Curry, Channa Masala, and Café Spice Saag Paneer. Our Café Spice Vegetable Korma has both cinnamon powder and cinnamon sticks!
Chef Hari Nayak uses turmeric in Café Spice’s recipes to give our food a warm aroma, bright color, and nutritional punch. For thousands of years, turmeric has been used to promote health. More recently, numerous studies have shown that the curcumin in turmeric quiets inflammations that lead to many debilitating illnesses such as arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, cancer, high cholesterol, pain, and depression.
Turmeric stars in our Café Spice Bombay Lentil Soup, warming up the lentil/spinach and tomato blend. What would our Café Spice Chicken Tikka Masala and several other signature dishes be without it?
The unopened, dried buds of the evergreen clove tree. Chef Hari Nayak uses this spice to add fragrance to Café Spice rice and grain recipes and as an ingredient in garam masala, a spice blend frequently used in Indian food. In addition, cloves appear in the sauces of our signature dishes, including Café Spice Saag Paneer and Vegetable Korma.
Oil extracted from cloves can have many health benefits and is often used in sore throat remedies for its anti inflammatory properties.
A member of the parsley family, it is used in both savory and sweet dishes. The seeds are often sugar coated and eaten as a snack to aid in digestion. Fennel plants can be seen growing on roadsides in many parts of the world and are nibbled by travelers as a snack. Chef Hari loves fennel and counts it as one of his three favorite spices.
Chef Hari Nayak uses the licorice-flavored seeds found in the star-shaped pods of star anise to add flavor and aroma to savory or sweet dishes. It definitely gives them a shot of star power!
Cumin “grounds” dishes with a slightly smoky, earthy flavor. Many of Café Spice’s meals and soups contain this special ingredient that subtly adds character, including Madras Squash, Chicken Mulligatawny, Bombay Lentil, and our sofi-award nominated Beetroot Rasam Soups! Cumin is also a secret ingredient in both Café Spice Beef Tamales and Chicken Tamales with Charro Beans, lending a deeply satisfying flavor note.
This has been called the world’s most popular spice, used in cuisines throughout the Western and Eastern hemispheres. The leaves are known as cilantro, and can be found in Café Spice Bombay Lentil Soup, balancing the hotter flavors. The seeds are called coriander, and add dash to our Chicken Mulligatawny Soup. Café Spice Chicken Tamales with Charro Beans feature both coriander, in the tomatillo sauce on the chicken, and cilantro, in the Charro Beans.
Café Spice Beetroot Rasam Soup contains ground mustard seed, a spice that evokes the beauty of a waving field of mustard on a midsummer’s day. It’s no wonder that this beet soup, chock-full of nutrition and flavor, has become a finalist in the Specialty Food Association’s sofi awards competition! Chef Hari uses black mustard powder in curries and pickles, while he uses whole toasted black mustard seed in many other dishes.
Fenugreek gives Café Spice Saag Paneer just a hint of green aroma. It’s also an ingredient in the sauce for Vegetable Korma. With its slightly bitter taste and distinctive scent, fenugreek rounds out and balances the sweet and savory notes in an Indian dish, Chef Hari writes in The Café Spice Cookbook.