Monday, May 18, 2009

Feast: South India


Okra and Lotus Root in Fenugreek Masala 

Prawn Varuval - Chilie Prawns

Sweet Mango Curry with Cumin Basmati Rice 

Pork Vindaloo with Rice Idlis and Cilantro-Chickpea Chutney 

Bagare Baingan - Tamarind Stuffed Eggplant

Mint & Cilantro Raita 

Our pal Rohini fashioned an Indian feast for us last night.  Oh yes she did.  Her husband Ravi chose perfect, outlandish wines for the whole rollicking shebang from his rife cellar too: blissful bony Chablis, petal-steeped Meursault and an earth-singing Pinot Noir from Oregon (he even insanely tossed in a `96 Les Forts de Latour for post-dinner sipping!)... enough liquid elegance to animate any fiery fete. 

Rohini, originally from Mumbai, is stumped when I ask her to name a good Indian restaurant in San Francisco.  And, truly, I have never had Indian food like hers anywhere.  It is both utterly layered and pure. She uses fragrant herbs unabashedly - curry leaves, fenugreek, cilantro, mint - and is rightly adamant about freshly toasted, ground spices. She tells me that Indian families often mix their own unique masalas and that her mother sends her bundles of the new family cache every few months (which she proprietarily flashes from a deeply perfumed drawer).

Our dinner was Southern: extravagantly spiced, popped with heat, vegetable rich, rice-inflected (spiced basmati and classic Southern idlis of rice and dahl).  I have been known to groan over Sambar with Idlis in my (clearly deprived) past, yet I’ve never tasted idlis as fine as these.  I loved the sour-tender crumb of it; the way its neutral fermented tang worked against the sweet, bitter, cool, hot fusion of the entire plate.  I could tease out each gorgeous flavor of our dinner separately and then taste them, too, mingled together in their own magnificent manna.  Rave on Rohini. Recipes to come...

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