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Lassi & Spice, a 'love letter to India'

Going out for Indian food in Downtown Seattle is mainly a tour of the classic curries, like Butter Chicken or Paneer Tikka Masala. But there's much more to Indian food — so much more it would be difficult to know all the different types of foods and delicacies within the country.

Susanna Dhamdhere, owner of Lassi & Spice, a modern Indian cafe in South Lake Union and Wallingford, is taking on the challenge of bringing Indian dishes from all parts of the country to the residents of Seattle. She called Lassi & Spice her love letter to India.

"Lassi & Spice is born of love for my mother-in-law, who introduced me to Maharashtrian cooking: simple, light and delicious," wrote Dhamdhere on the Lassi & Spice website. "It's born of my longtime passion for coffee and tea, and fascination with global cuisine, and from an ever-present search for great Indian food in Seattle. Lassi & Spice is about building the place I always wished existed."

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The best part about Lassi & Spice is how casual and accessible it makes learning about different dishes from India. It can be tempting to walk into Lassi & Spice and go for things that look and sound the most familiar to you, like a latte or a baked good. But Dhamdhere challenges you to try something different like traditional Indian Chai.

"Many Americans are familiar with chai as it's served in most coffee shops: a concentrate that comes out of a tetra pak, which is diluted with milk and steamed in a pitcher," said Dhamdhere. "In my experience, this chai is too sweet and lacks the complex flavors of the homemade variety. And after seeing chai prepared at home and on the streets in India, it became clear that the tetra pak misses the whole point."

Below I share a little bit about my favorite dishes from Lassi & Spice in hopes that the next time you walk by, you give yourself a taste of some of their remarkable dishes.

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1. Vada Pav

A popular snack you can find on nearly every street in Mumbai. Vada Pav is essentially a mini burger made with a fried potato patty and topped with Indian chutneys, green chili pepper and a spicy peanut crumble. It is my favorite thing on Lassi & Spice's menu. I highly recommend pairing it with a cold Mango Lassi.

2. Upma

Upma is a popular breakfast dish that originates from South India. It's a warm and hearty savory wheat cereal flavored with onions, ghee, green peas and roasted peanuts. It's a very simple and satisfying dish that pairs perfectly with Lassi & Spice's sweetened Karak Chai.

3. Idli Sambar

Idli Sambar is another popular South Indian breakfast item. Idli refers to a fluffy steamed rice cake. These rice cakes are eaten with various sweet and savory condiments in India. At Lassi & Spice, they are served with two classic condiments, sambar and coconut chutney. Sambar is a hot spicy lentil soup, and coconut chutney is a cool, lightly spiced coconut sauce.

I highly recommend breaking the Idli into little pieces, immersing it in sambar for a few seconds, and then topping it with a dollop of coconut chutney for maximum flavor. It's the only way to experience all the flavors of this dish in every bite!

4. Pav Bajji

There it is again! That word Pav — which means bread. Pav Bajji is a spicey veggie stew served with bread. It's an Indian comfort food, similar to grilled cheese and tomato soup. It is the perfect lunch or dinner item on a rainy Seattle day.