THE GREATEST CHALLENGE TO
ETHNIC CUISINE/SPANISH WINE PAIRINGS?
Many in the Moraira area will know that the super Nepalese/Indian restaurant, The Himalaya, has recently moved to its new location right in the centre of Moraira. This was the final venue of the series, Ethnic Cuisine Meets Spanish Wine – A Marriage Made In Moraira, and yet in some ways it’s where it all began!
A few months ago I was involved in some discussion regarding making some changes to an Indian Restaurant’s wine list in a different area. The idea was that I would present a wine tasting in the restaurant using the wines that I’d chosen for their list and demonstrating, hopefully, how wine can be a far superior accompaniment to Indian food than the popular choice, beer.
In fact the discussions came to nothing, but it started me thinking about my own area where there are a number of excellent Ethnic Cuisine restaurants. An idea, and subsequently a small series was born. As regular readers will know we started with Moroccan Cuisine, then moved to Indonesian food, ending with perhaps the greatest challenge of all – matching Spanish wines with Nepalese/Indian cooking.
Eighty-three reservations, plus a waiting list, hoping for a cancellation, was an indication to Chef-Patron, Thapa, Restaurant Manager, Praju, the wholly Nepalese staff and myself that the idea was a popular one! It was up to us to rise to the challenge!
The fact is that most, though not all, Nepalese/Indian dishes are far friendlier to white wines, particularly, and also rosados, than to reds. For a red wine to work with these flavours and of course with the spicy, chilli heat of some of the dishes it has to be practically tannin-free, with low acidity and extremely fruit driven. Matches are therefore possible and we did have one red amongst the five wines tasted, each with a different course. However with three whites and one rosado it was in the minority.
All Thapa’s recipes are authentic, with spices imported from Nepal and Pakistan and ground in the restaurant’s kitchen according to explicit instructions. Breadcrumbed Spiced Potato Balls were served Pazo de Villarei, a lovely Albariño from DO Rias Baixas. Although traditionally served with shellfish in Galicia, this rich and deeply aromatic white wine combined so well on the palate negating any burn potential of the mild to medium spicing.
To say that we had a lamb chop for the next course, although true, does not do this tender, subtly spiced meat dish justice at all! I was delighted with the choice of rosado to accompany the dish. Castillo de Javier from DO Navarra is a ‘Lágrima’ wine, a wine made with the first 60% of the Garnacha grapes’ juice after a gentle pressing.
Known in English as the Free-run juice this is the ‘must’ (grape juice) that will always make the best wine. Aromatic and delightfully full-bodied for a rosado the wine had a rich depth to it which was able to stand up to the lamb and combine on the palate with the spices.
Alborado Verdejo, from DO Rueda – where else(?), was served with chilli-spiced prawn dish, a favourite of mine. As you’ve perhaps read in this column before Verdejoa shares some of the flavour and aroma characteristics of Sauvignon Blanc, a variety which is often recommended to accompany Asian cuisine. For me the addition of some vegetal notes to the Sauvignon-esque fruit makes this a lovely drink as an aperitif but also with this style of food.
I have to admit to a slight nervousness regarding my choice of wine for the next dish – chicken cooked to a secret recipe, unique to the Himalaya. Normally chicken will be happy with a red wine – I’d chosen the fruitiest on the list, from Ribera del Duero where fruit is often to the fore. But will it be fruity enough to be paired with the spices of the dish.
Tarsus is a super wine – I’d recommend you try it. It’s a Crianza and has 12 months in American and French oak, but it was this oak aged element that was the cause of my concern. I think, though, that the fruit content was sufficient to make this a happy marriage.
Finally I couldn’t resist a Sauvignon Blanc white wine. Aura, DO Rueda, is rich with pungent aromas and full flavours. We drank it with a spiced vegetarian dish and for me the combination worked very well – the ‘heat’ was momentarily taken out of the dish whilst the spices and fruit flavours got to know each other but then returned integrate fully with the combined tastes. Super wine and lovely dish!
So, roll on the next series (probably in the Autumn) linking Ethnic Cuisine with Spanish wines.