Indian Curry and Wine Pairings

The most important fact about Indian curry is that there is not one spice named "curry" in India, though we find "curry powder" on our grocery shelves. Curry is actually a mixture of spices, usually cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry powder, fennel, fenugreek, mace, and peppercorns, in different amounts and combined with other spices, depending on the region of the country and the cook. In India these spice mixtures are called "garam masala".

In researching curry recipes, one finds that India being such a vast and diverse country, the range of curry recipes are quite extensive. In the broadest terms, one could say that the northern curries tend to be like the ones we commonly find in restaurants in this country--quite a bit of dairy used, in the form of ghee (clarified butter), cheese (especially paneer--a soft cheese usually in cube form), and yoghurt. The familiar samosas, Tandoori meats and korma curries come from the north.

The south has more stew-like curries called rasams, kootus and sambars. A good source for recipes is the book "Dakshin Vegetarian Cuisine From South India" by Chandra Padmanabhan. I suppose southern Indian cooking is less familiar because there has been less immigration from that region--similar to how we are more familiar with southern Italian cooking with the emphasis on tomato based sauces, then we are to the more delicate Northern Italian cuisine, since out of the 4.5 million Italians that immigrated to the United States between the years 1880 and 1930, one out of every four was a Sicilian. Anyway, this is just my theory, if any readers can shed light on this, please add your comment to the blog.

What to drink with Indian curry? With such variety in the mixture of spices and the "heat", it's nearly impossible to generalize. But, one can make the case for the full mouth feel and coolness of a Chardonnay (such as this week's special 2006 Saddlerock Chardonnay) or a crisp Pinot Grigio. Mellow (not tannic) red wines like Merlot and Syrah can also pair well when the wines are fruit forward. Since each curry will pair differently, why not have fun and experiment? Pass around two or three wines to taste with your curry and take notes. We'd love it if you would share your findings on the blog!


Notes on Viognier

I'm a red wine drinker--Cab, Barolo, Barbaresco, Pinot Noir--white wine is always my second choice and I'm constantly pushing the limits of how red wine can be paired--into the traditional white wine territory of fish and seafood. But, I love Viognier. Viognier is redolent with aromas of blossoms and apricot, lively, tasty and perhaps the white wine equivalent of Pinot Noir as it is remarkably difficult to grow and is noted for the depth of its character and complexity. Viognier is prone to mildew and unpredictable yields. must be picked at exactly the right ripeness, is finicky and delicate, yet produces wine of full of aromatics.

Viognier was probably brought to the Rhone region of France from Dalmatia by the Romans. It is the single grape varietal allowed in the appellations of Condrieu and Chateau Grillet. But, it is rarely grown, finding its nadir in 1965 when only six acres of vines remained in France. Since then, though, it has attracted enthusiasts, with fine Viognier being produced in the US, South America and Australia. Yalumba is the largest producer of Viognier in Australia, growing the precious grape in the sandy, clay loam of the Eden Valley.

Viognier is wonderful with steamed Dungeness crab. And here's a good tip--the floral, aromatic Viognier is refreshing with spicy food, so stash a bottle of the Yalumba Viognier in the frig for the days you come home with take-out Thai or Indian food.


Using a Mandoline

We'll be grating zucchini for this week's Zucchini Crust Pizza. Using a mandoline makes it easy and neat--but can take a bit of instruction. Click here to see a video with tips on using your mandoline from Fine Cooking.