Masala vada, mousetrap and wine


This blog post  is written for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #9 (MWWC#9).  April's topic  - FEAR was chosen by  last month's winner The Drunken Cyclist. To learn more about this contest, or if you like to vote for my post please click here.



Fear is a very strange feeling. Personally, I am very intrigued by fear.

Come to think of it, just the right amount of fear can actually translate in to a good thing – It can cause complacency to be thrown out the window and it can give inertia a run for its money.

But, with a little too much fear, it can dominate everything else and can be quite detrimental.


The Story of Masala Vada

The first Indian street food that popped in to my head when I started thinking about fear is: Masala Vada, aka Masal Vadai – that’s how Chennai-ites (residents of the Chennai city in India) like to call it.

Masal Vadais are basically lentil fritters, sold in every teashop and road side stalls in every nook and corner of Tamil Nadu (South India). Many south Indians, from all walks of life would start their day with a Masal Vadai and spiced Indian Chai.

The ritual would go something like this: One bite of the Vada, then sip on some tea; take a another bite and another sip and so on.

There is something about the lentils (Bengal gram) mixed with green chillies, ginger, onions and curry leaves when fried together, tastes so delicious and the aroma… is to die for!

Trivia: For those who have never had the good fortune of biting in to one of these vadas, here’s something to help relate to its taste: This snack and its ingredients are very similar to another famous snack from the Greek cuisine. Yes! The Masal Vadai tastes and smells a lot like the Greek Falafel.

So what about this dish do I associate with fear?

Well, remember my above-mentioned ‘to-die-for’ aroma? That is not just from human standards, but for rats too!

Yes, Masala Vadas were famously used in mousetraps to attract the rats running around the garages in homes and other places in south India. The idea was to use the amazing aroma of the Vadas as bait and once the rats are in, BOOM! the trap door would close.

I remember so clearly, as a child I would wait and watch patiently (sometimes for hours) for these mousetraps with Masala Vadas to catch its prey. Can you imagine, how these rats were willing to risk their precious lives for these delicious Vadas? Well I get it, and anyone who has devoured these Vadas will too!

Such is the power of the taste and aroma of these Vadas.

All these thoughts were sufficient motivation for me to soak the lentils, grind and make my own Masal Vadais.


 What wine to pair with this fearful Indian street snack?

A rosé is a rosé is a rosé (think wine, not the flower)…

I have heard and read a lot about how difficult it is to pair Falafels with wine. But as far as these Masala Vadas go, I had a strong intuition for what wine would pair well with them. And, coincidentally (?) this choice of wine has a strong association with the kind of wines I fear the most too!

My wine of choice…a Rosé! The crisp acidity, the light and refreshing red fruits and the mild spices that come through a Rosé seemed like a perfect match for the Masala Vada. Wait, but what has fear got to with a Rosé?

Somehow, I always tread cautiously while choosing a Rosé. I cannot put a finger to why that is? It could be because of the psyche associated with a Rosé. At one point, the rosés were treated like a taboo wine, then they turned in to a trendy ‘summer wine’ (especially here in the USA). Now, I think it has finally been given credit for what it is…like Gertrude Stein proclaimed so wisely many eons ago: A rosé is a rosé is a rosé!

So, I went with my gut and bought home the Domaine de Fontsainte Rosé (2013) from the Corbieres appellation.


Tasting notes

 This rosé was amazing! It was mind boggling how many flavor profiles there were - all in one wine! There was sour cherries and strawberries, a vague hint of vanilla, a light kiss of cinnamon and even some mint! This wine is from the Boutenac commune under the Corbières appellation (in southern France); I made a mental note to self to remember this region while pairing wines for Falafel-like dishes in the future.


The verdict

The crispiness in the Vadas just hugged the crisp acidity of the wine. There was ginger, green chillies and onion pieces in every bite of the Masala Vada which paired so beautifully like music and lyrics, with all the different flavors of the rosé.

So, I was happily gobbling up the Masala Vadas with so many thoughts about fear racing through my mind. Thankfully, the rose had a huge calming effect. But, at the end I thought, you got to give it to those rats. In spite of the risk of death, they always followed their heart (and stomach!?) and walked on a thin line every time they spotted or smelled something akin a Masala Vada. The outcome could be treacherous, it could be a delicious meal or…. death! It could be a masala vada or a mousetrap. But, how would we know, unless fear was overcome and we dared to try?

 After all, is it not true that: "Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it"?