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  Corkscrew Issue 40, April 2006   
Indian Cooking and WineIndian Cooking and Wine  Contents 
Issue 39, March 2006 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 41, May 2006

Indian Cooking and Wine

The cooking of a country rich in charm and delicious dishes, not only made of rice and curry, in which every region has its gastronomy and its typical bread. A cooking which can be matched to wine

 India is considered by many the country of one hundred nations, one hundred dialects, one thousand religions and two thousands gods. It is also a country with a rich gastronomy, different from region to region and from family to family, considered an art rich of social and religious rites. It is the country of spices and curry. Whoever believes Indian cooking is made of rice, curry and chutney only, can certainly be surprised. There is not a specific culinary style, neither a national dish, but an incredible variety of ingredients and preparations. Indian cooking is simple, balanced, made of millenary recipes and principles. Ayurvedics, for example, transcends every composition. A pretty robust and heavy dish will always be attenuated by an acid and digestive base, such as tomatoes, vinegar or lemon. Mixtures of spices play a fundamental role.

 

Indian Culinary Traditions


Rice and lentils: two fundamental
ingredients of Indian cooking
Rice and lentils: two fundamental ingredients of Indian cooking

 By comparing the cooking of north to the one of south, it will be noticed a higher presence of bread, grilled meat, a lesser presence of sauces, a higher consumption of yogurt, as well as the characteristic of cooking with ghee, a sort of butter. In the cooking of the north are also found influences from other eastern gastronomies, such as in biryani (dishes made of rice and stuffed with spices, meat, vegetables and sometimes fish) as well as kebabs. In Rajasthan - near the border with Pakistan - it is typical the breeding of sheep. The famous tandoori - also very popular in western countries - is typical in Punjab, and in particular in Delhi, where it was originated from. The cooking of meat in the north provides for marinading, then it is grilled in the tandoor - a sort of oven - usually accompanied by yogurt sauces. Kashmir, in the upper north of India, is famous for the recipes made of meat, chickpeas and its pretty spiced dishes. Here it is found the highest chili pepper production of the country, which use - according to Indian tradition - allows the heating from “inside”, and to diminish this effect it can be used some yogurt.


 

 The culinary culture of south India is mainly oriented to the product of the earth, therefore vegetarian, with a considerable consumption of legumes and cereals. In this area the cooking of ingredients is mainly made with oil, dishes are usually accompanied by rice in which are being added different sauces. The preference for the consumption of foods of vegetal origin is also favored by the abundance of fruit trees, in particular cashews, bananas - the red variety, in big and small sizes, very sweet, called butter bananas - lemons, guavas, bred plants, mangoes, papayas and tamarinds. In the southern part, in the tropical coast beginning from Goa, it is common the consumption of fish, crustaceans and seafruits, usually cooked in oil and spiced with curry. The western part of southern India - in the state of Kerala - is famous for coconuts, pineapple and red bananas, as well as for the production of cardamom seeds, one of the most used spice in India. Tamil Nadu, in the eastern part, is famous for its dal - name with which in India are identified about 60 different varieties of legumes, such as lentils, chickpeas, soybeans, peas and beans - prepared with tamarind.

 The most complex cooking in India is probably the one in the state of Maharashtra, which capital city is Bombay, which makes use of countless ingredients. Famous are achar or pickles (hot pickles) and chutneys, the famous sauces used in every type of food, from rice to bread and to meat, in order to create a very particular contrast of flavors. There are different types of chutney: some are fresh, acid and aromatized with mint or coriander, other are similar to hot and sweet sour jams. Fruit and vegetables are usually spiced, cooked with vinegar and sugar, allowed to rest for some days in order to accentuate aromas. Famous are also kachumbars, salads made with not more than two or three vegetables, in which it is usually found raw onion, seasoned in a pretty simple way, aromatized with mint or coriander. The cooking of western India is sweet, with a moderate use of spices and turmeric. In the eastern part - where are located the states of Bihar, Western Bengal and Orissa - the cooking is characterized by fish and sweets. Typical is the use of the pith of banana tree served as a vegetable.

 

The Tandoor

 The tandoor is the typical oven of Indian cooking, made of earthenware, whose origin is probably from Central Asia. Tandoor looks like a large jar, with a narrow neck buried in the ground. Before using it, wood pieces are placed on the bottom and then they are ignited. When the sides become incandescent and there are no more flames, the foods to be cooked can be finally inserted. The borders of breads and buns are stuck to the hot side, under the neck, in order to suspend them over the heat. In this way, bread increase its volume, in particular in the borders, while becoming light and the borders get a golden color. The cooking of meat and of fish is usually made by using long skewers in which the meat to be cooked is being spiked, by leaving it in the upper part, and then are propped against the neck of tandoor while making sure the meat is about 30 centimeters away above from embers. During the cooking - which usually requires short times - the meat is sprinkled with melted ghee and its marinade. The typical coppery color of tandoori dishes is caused by spices. This cooking technique - typical in the northern parts - is usually defined dietetic as it makes no use of fats. However, the secret consists in the long times of marinading in yogurt, lemon and spices.

 

The Beverages of India

 Lassi is one of the typical beverages of India consumed during meals. It is prepared with boiled pasteurized milk, to which it is added lemon and it is allowed to rest until the day after. The whey is then mixed to dahi - salted yogurt - mint leaves or coriander and rose water. Tea and coffee are always consumed off meals, in the morning or in the afternoon, preferable with milk. Tea, served without milk, is generally consumed hot in the evening, in order to favor digestion, the way it is suggested by sacred books. Indians consumes lots of fruit juices, coconut water, that is the liquid inside the coconut and not to be confused with coconut milk, diluted flower syrups, and refreshing beverages - sometimes salted and sweetened at the same time - aromatized with lemon or rosewater.

 

Bread: A Fundamental Food

 In India bread is a food impossible to replace with anything else and it is always present in the table. In ancient times, Indian bread was flat, with no yeast, known as roti. The subsequent influence of Muslims has introduced a variety of leavened breads, including the famous naan. There are also leavened roti, such as the ones from Kashmir and Bombay. Among the most common types of breads are mentioned:

 

  • Naan - It is the typical bread of Sikh tribe in Punjab. It is prepared with a leavened dough, in which the yeast is usually obtained from curdled milk and yogurt. The dough is flattened by passing the dough from one palm of the hand to the other, until obtaining a thin and oval bun, slightly thicker in the borders. Naan is traditionally baked in tandoor oven and sprinkled with oil or ghee. Naan, before being baked, is usually sprinkled with poppy or sesame seeds, whereas the dough can be sometimes enriched with minced onions or finely minced coriander leaves. Naan can be stuffed with cheese, vegetables or meat curry
  • Roti - It is a grilled bread, prepared with finely milled whole wheat, millet or sorghum flour
  • Rumali - It is a grilled bread, also known as handkerchief bread, typical in the eastern part. It is made of many layered sheets of dough folded like a handkerchief
  • Poori or Fried Bread - Small breads traditionally consumed at breakfast, typical in Bengal. Poori is cooked in oil, in which it is completely steeped allowing the increasing of volume. This type of bread is also stuffed with spinach, potatoes and tamarind juice, made in small loaves in order to be eaten in just one bite therefore avoiding the spilling of the juice
  • Chapati - It is prepared in the tawa, a special pan made of iron with a slightly hollow shape, cooked dry at a high temperature. In the modern version, the dough is being leavened for about one hour, whereas in traditional India, it is preferred to allow the leavening for seven or nine hours in order to get a smoother texture
  • Paratha or Ghee Bread - It is a rich and crunchy chapati baked in a table with ghee. Very thin, paratha are stacked one on another. In the dough are usually added mint leaves, salt and paprika. There are also stuffed paratha with red lentils and spinach, cauliflower and ginger, white radish and green chili pepper, meat and yogurt
  • Idli - It is a round and sweet bread of the south, prepared with fermented rice and urud flour (a type of white dal), put in a mould and steamed
  • Dosa or Dosha - Bun prepared with a mixture of flours, rice, wheat, lentils, very thin, usually stuffed with spicy ingredients
  • Poppodum, Pappad or Hopper of South India - with the terms papadam, pappadam, puppodum, pappad are called the buns made of rice or dal flours, kneaded and cooked by steeping in hot oil. Pappad is a grilled bread instead of fried. In some cases are enriched with black pepper or hot pepper, as well as with a mixture of spices
  • Uppama - Bun made of semolina, consumed with onions, hot pepper, ginger, mustard seeds, walnuts, different vegetables, usually accompanied by slices of green lemon
  • Chiura - Bun of fried rice flakes and sprinkled with ground walnuts or peanuts
  • Murukku - Bread similar to a big biscuit enriched with pepper and coconut
  • Bonda - Small chickpeas balls

 

Matching with Wine

 Despite Indians are used to match their foods with fruit juices or water, it can be however used a good wine as well. As always, it is necessary to understand how a dish was made in order to choose the right enogastronomical matching. Indian cooking is rich in spices - ingredients that will increase the aroma of the dish as well as a basically bitter taste - therefore it will be appropriate to choose an aromatic and dry wine produced with aromatic grapes, such as Gewürztraminer and Muscat Blanc, and characterized by a good roundness. Other wines which can be generally matched with Indian cooking are rose wines, crisp and aromatic. Rose wines also have the advantage of a higher structure than white wines, which will be useful in the matching with more robust dishes and with all the preparations made of legumes, cereals and flours. As for the cooking of meat in tandoori, it can be matched red wines, even with a good structure and good roundness - and according to the type of meat - however are also pretty interesting the matching with Sangiovese and Pinot Noir wines.

 




 Events  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Corkscrew column Not Just Wine 
  Corkscrew Issue 40, April 2006   
Indian Cooking and WineIndian Cooking and Wine  Contents 
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