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Spice Room, an Indian restaurant in Highlands, has been a fan favorite for north Denver locals since 2017. With an expansion to a second location on East Colfax this past October, more hungry patrons across the city can now access its extensive selection of curries, soups, street food, and boozy yet flavorful cocktails. But what makes Spice Room stand out among many local Indian eateries is the curated selection of decadent desserts, all of which are made in house several times a week.
Owner and operator Kal Pant says that developing the dessert menu wasn’t a tough task. Pant and his team prioritized takeout-friendly desserts that keep well (in case customers want to take them home as leftovers) and can be made vegan or gluten-free. For example, the kheer, a version of rice pudding, is a staple dessert that can be traced back to 2,000 years ago in the eastern Indian state of Odisha where it was used as an offering to Hindu gods. Pant’s team at Spice Room makes the sweet pudding with cinnamon and raisins, and it’s gluten-free and can be made vegan upon request.
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“We started doing this vegan night a while back and I realized we didn’t have any vegan desserts,” Pant says. “Gluten is usually easy to avoid in Indian food, but it did take some trial and error to find ways to make the rice pudding dairy-free.”
The kheer is not the only gluten-free option. Pant also recommends the carrot pudding—carrots, milk, and sugar cooked over a low heat and garnished with raisins and chopped nuts. The dish, also called “gajar ka halwa” in Hindi, was likely introduced to India in the 13th century from the Middle East, according to historian Colleen Taylor Sen in Feasts and Fasts: A History of Food in India. Today, it’s traditionally enjoyed during Indian festivals like Diwali and Holi.
“It’s really sweet yet savory and is cooked for nearly four hours, so all of those flavors really come out during the cooking process,” Pant says. “Plus, you can have it cold or hot; it tastes great either way.”
All of Spice Room’s desserts are available for online ordering as well as through its new catering service, like the banana pakora. A common dish in South India, the banana pakora is made by deep frying chunks of bananas coated in the same chickpea-based batter used for savory pakora appetizers more commonly seen on Indian menus. “It might not be the healthiest thing,” Pant says, “but desserts don’t have to be. And it’s delicious.”
If you’re hankering for something savory, try Spice Room’s sweet potato korma or salmon tandoori. Or opt for one of the lesser-known menu options like aachari, a tangy, spicy curry, and batata vada pav, a bun stuffed with fried potato fritters. But don’t leave without having something from the dessert menu. “They’re honestly all good, I’d recommend any one of them, Pant says.
3157 W. 38th Ave.; 3100 E. Colfax Ave.
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