This past week I went to my local Choolaah Indian BBQ for a class on spices and to try a sampling of their menu. Now, I think of myself as a pretty knowledgeable person when it comes to cooking and baking. That was until spices were laid out on a table before me with no labels. I was able to smell, taste and feel the spices but that’s it. It may sound pretty easy to some of you–but let me tell you it truly was quite difficult to tell once spice from another. Thankfully, everyone around me also had a difficult deciphering which spice was which.
After our spice quiz, we made our own garam masala. We learned about each spice that goes into the mixture and what it adds. I stuck close to the recipe that we were given as I was nervous to go off course. However, my friend, Phil from Capital Moms, added a bit of extra heat to his garam masala. He is definitely more adventurous than I am.
Here are a few of the fun spice facts we learned in our class:
Do you know the difference between curry powder and garam masala?
Well, curry powder is actually a spice combination invented by the British used to flavor curries. This curry powder normally contains turmeric. Now, garam masala is a spice mix which is tailor-made to provide a dish its unique flavor. Every cook normally has their own version. So for example, say you live in a house with children who don’t like spice, you would omit the spice from your own version of garam masala.
We also learned about Ayurveda. If this is an uncommon term for you, you’re not alone. Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old system of healing based on the mind, body, and spirit.
Did you know that according to Ayurveda each meal you eat should have six tastes for a balanced meal and for a person to feel satisfied?
Did you also know that spices have antioxidants and healing properties and that they add flavor without adding any calories? Not only do they add flavor but spices also add aroma, color, and texture to the food we eat.
So now that you know those facts about spices, let me tell you a few facts about Choolaah.
Choolaah is a Cleveland-based restaurant group that according to Co-CEO Raju Sankar uses “a different approach to Indian cuisine. It is authentic yet accessible, wholesome yet lighter with no artificial colors or flavors.”
Some of the ingredients used by Choolaah include Bell & Evans chicken, salmon from the Faroe Islands, paneer cheese made by Amish cheese makers in Ohio and non-GMO tofu. One of the fun aspects is watching cooks stand over the 700-degree tandoor ovens in the open kitchen. Watch as naan bread and other ingredients are cooked and prepared before your very eyes.
Co-CEO Randhir Sethi and his wife, Simran, the company’s director of R&D and product development moved back to India for two years to reconnect with their culinary roots and to do research for Choolaah. They ate their way through India, from the most humble eateries to the most exclusive restaurants. They then visited many countries in Asia, the Middle East, and the UK. In London alone, they sampled dishes at 22 different spots in two days. The time, testing and tasting clearly paid off as Zagat recently named Choolaah a top five new BBQ spot in the DC-metro area.
Stepping into Choolaah is an experience in itself. The bright colors and artwork make you feel like you are in a museum rather than a restaurant. In fact, each piece of art is original to the restaurant which makes each Choolaah location visually unique and inviting.
I got to try my hand at making my very own naan bread and let me say it is much more difficult than it looks. Sticking your hand in a 700-degree oven is not pleasant and getting the dough to stick to the side of the oven is a challenge all of its own. See my naan bread skills by clicking here. For lunch, I was able to sample the Choolaah Salad with chicken bbq and it was out of this world. The salad features mixed greens, napa cabbage, roasted cauliflower, pickled onions, shredded paneer cheese, chickpeas, cucumbers, tomatoes, golden raisins, chicken bbq and wheat naan chips. The salad was huge and could easily feed me for lunch and dinner. I absolutely loved the combination of savory and sweet ingredients. In fact, I didn’t even need any salad dressing because the salad was so flavorful on its own. In my opinion, that’s when you know you have a great salad…when you don’t need to add anything extra to it. I also had an order of naan bread on the side that buttery, light, airy and absolutely perfect.
My son who unexpectedly came along for the day ordered a Cheese Naan Pizza with a side of chocolate milk. The whole time he was eating he was asking when we could come back and bring the rest of our family. He devoured the pizza with gusto and loved the chocolate milk as well.
As a Mother of two, I am so happy when I find a restaurant my whole family enjoys. Choolaah is very family-friendly and our whole family will definitely be all heading in for dinner soon.
I highly recommend Choolaah Indian BBQ. It is a unique take on Indian food in a beautiful and inviting atmosphere that the whole family will love.
Choolaah has locations in Sterling, VA, Fairfax, VA, Orange Village, OH, and King of Prussia, PA
East Liberty, Pittsburg location is coming soon!
To learn more about Choolaah Indian BBQ visit their website by clicking here.
My visit to Choolaah Indian BBQ was complimentary for the purpose of this review.
This has in no way affected my opinion.
This review is my opinion and has been written in my own words.