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The Wine Guy, Eddie McDougall: Pairing Indian food and wine

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong
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Indian cuisine has a staggering variety, the taste of meals differing from region to region and even from village to village. Throw in wine and this intimidatingly vast array of flavours becomes even more complex. How does one even begin to grapple with pairings?

Rather than stare aimlessly down the barrel of a blazing tandoor oven for answers, I opted to go to India to receive some culinary enlightenment from India’s top chefs at Christ University in Bangalore. After some quick lessons it became apparent that cracking the Da Vino code for Indian food would require a thorough grasp of India’s regional cuisines. Only then would I be able to introduce the elements of wine into my meals. A tough ask.

To help on this mission impossible, I enlisted Sandeep Arora from Central’s New Punjab Club to share his views on how to bring this exotic combo to life. Witnessing Sandeep’s enthusiasm for integrating wine with Punjabi cuisine was impressive, as he firmly stood by the fact that wine works. It was evident Sandeep’s philosophy was modern, well-thought out and tested, which helped greatly to fill in the gaps in my own knowledge.

Now the hard work is done, I’m happy to present The Wine Dummies Guide to Indian Food Pairing. The wines listed here are all tried and tested so don’t hold back!

Punjabi and Northern India
Influences from India and Pakistan, tandoor oven baked fish and meat, high levels of infusion with butter, ghee and garam masala spices.
Classic dishes: Keema lamb, tandoori meats or fish, masale wali lamb chops, korma
Drink with: Mitolo ‘GAM.’ Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia

Southern India  
Features soupy lentils, rice, stews and vegetables. Often uses huli pudi (sambar spices), tamarind and dried herbs.
Classic dishes: Dosa (crepe-like), idlis or vadas fried accompaniments for soups, chutneys or dried masala curries
Drink with: Bollinger Special Cuvée, Champagne, France

Eastern India
The region that’s the king of Indian sweet delicacies and fruit based dishes.
Classic dishes: Sandesh (paneer/milk curd and sugar), rasgolla (sweet syrup dumplings)
Drink with: Neudorf Pinot Rosé, Nelson, New Zealand

Western India
The cuisine that packs the most heat. Protein sources come from both land and sea. Traces of a Portuguese spin on ingredients – vinegar, wine and garlic. Majority of signature dishes use coconut-based milk or oil.
Classic dishes: Vindaloo, Goan fish curry, Bombay duck (not actually a duck but a fish dish)
Drink with: Hugel, Gewürtztraminer, Alsace, France

Until next time, drink up! Eddie McDougall

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