The Reason Some Indian Restaurants Give Out Candy-Coated Fennel Seeds

Do you love Indian food? If you're anything like us, you often crave this complex, beautifully seasoned cuisine known for dishes including chicken tikka masala, lamb vindaloo, and breads like naan and papadum (via MasterClass). As detailed by The Kitchn, Indian food is often flavored with a variety of spices including cumin, cardamom, and mustard seeds that make the dishes absolutely delicious.

As much as we love to make Indian recipes at home or even pick up frozen options from the grocery store, we most often satisfy our Indian food cravings at restaurants. If you've ever dined in an Indian restaurant, you've likely noticed an interesting tradition: On the way out, there's often a little self-serve dish of brightly colored, sugar-coated fennel seeds that you can help yourself to before leaving (via The Takeout). Maybe you've tried them, maybe you haven't, but either way, you've likely wondered why they're there.

Fennel seeds are a traditional digestion aid

The typical Indian dishes you'd find at an American Indian restaurant vary widely, ranging from light vegetarian options such as palak paneer to heavier, dairy-laden meals like butter chicken. On restaurant visits when you enjoy your fair share of these delicious foods with paratha on the side, you might find your stomach feeling a little gurgly.

But never fear! That's where candy-coated fennel seeds come in. They are typically available in a little dish near the entrance for you to take as you leave the eatery after your meal. So other than their pleasant licorice flavor and sweet crunch from the candy coating, what are these seeds for? According to The Takeout, they're a traditional Indian remedy for gas, bloating, and indigestion. Healthline backs up these claims, noting that the tiny, fragrant seeds contain antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory compounds that can soothe stomach irritation and promote good digestion.

So there you have it: Those sweet Indian fennel seeds are prized for more than just their flavor. Next time you dine out, savor a handful and let them work their magic on your gut.