From Punjab to Yecla

The Story of Chole Bhature

It was a nice warm January (I know! We are quite spoiled here in and around San Francisco) afternoon when the thought occurred to me.

During one of my recent visits to the wine store, I had purchased a bottle of a Monastrell from the Yecla region in Spain.


While thinking about pairings for this beautiful grape that goes by the name of Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre or Mataro), I immediately decided that it had to be a lentil/legume centric dish that could match the earthy notes of this grape and also is hearty enough to withstand its tannins and alcohol levels.

Bingo! The perfect dish just came to me like a flash - the ever comforting, hearty street food of the Amritsar district in the north western Indian state of Punjab - the finger-licking delish Chole Bhature!

Chole is a comfort food made with chickpeas that accompanies a Bhature that is a deep fried bread (made from maida aka all purpose flour). There is nothing that I do NOT like about everything that I just typed :)

And so I got down right to business - first, soaked the chickpeas overnight. The trick is to knead the flour for the Bhature a couple of hours before its ready to be fried - for a more softer Bhature. And I found a recipe to freshly grind the dry roasted spices that makes this dish to absolutely shine.

The next day I woke up thinking (drooling) about making this dish and how its going to pair with the wine....

I was done making the Chole and frying the Bhature soon after the day had started. Next, I plated the dish with its trademark accompaniments - raw onions, slit green chillies and a slice of lemon - Dhaba style!


The wine pairing with Chole Bhature

If you have not noticed yet, I do have a HUGE affinity to Spanish, Portugal & Northern Italian reds - especially while pairing them with Indian food.

So when I saw this red, luscious wine from the eastern region of Yecla in Spain, I just had to buy it (even if I did not have a concrete plan about the pairing just then). 


Yecla is a Spanish Denominación de Origen (DO) neighboring the Jumilla DO - another amazing Spanish wine producing region. Both of these parts enjoy plenty of sunshine that is directly proportional to the abundant red fruit flavors that dominate Monastrell wines. As a bonus, Monastrell as a grape does amazingly well in this part of Spain


Tasting notes

Just look at that wine, its bold red color made it hard to even see it a midst the dark granite in my kitchen counter.

So as soon as I opened the bottle, on the nose there were these unmistakable ripe red fruits (explains the color?!) - raspberries, strawberries, cassis, I even got some dried prunes at the end.

I poured a very little amount, swirled and sipped diligently. Hmmm, the red fruits undeniably still came through. Additionally, I got some vanilla bean as an after taste (No oak though!). 

There was a good amount of body, any Spanish red would be proud of - I bet that's because of all the tannins specific to this grape in this terroir of Spain.

Monastrell is an interesting grape - especially as a varietal. The reason being, mostly its used as a blending grape, the most popular kind is the GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend. In all the wines where Monastrell is used as a blending grape, the main aspect expected from it, is the fruit forward flavors that it can bring to the table.


The verdict

So, it was now time to test out my theory (intuition) about this pairing.

Given its blending utilities, I was most curious to see how  this Monastrell would perform as a varietal (100% Mourvèdre). And I must say, it did a spectacular job standing tall - next to all the strong spices (cumin, coriander, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves etc.) from the Chole.


The weight (14% ABV) also embraced the deep fried Bhature dipped in this "smorgasbord of flavors" called the Chole. 

I will say though, that I may have gone a little, teeny-weeny bit overboard with the spice levels in the Chole (unintentionally). If it were a little more subtle, I believe this pairing would have been even better.

Nothing major to to fret though. All in all it, was a good experiment turned great!

At the risk of sounding a little arrogant - I am going to say that everything that I had in mind about this food and wine pairing turned out to be quite accurate (that did sound more than a little arrogant huh? ;) )

Now, here's how I'd like to say Cheers! in Punjabi after this finger licking good endeavor - Khuśa rahō! 

And until next time, Alavidā! Adiós!




An Indian dance (Dabeli) to Italian (Sangiovese) tunes


I hail from the southern-most metropolitan city of Chennai in India. There is a joke among South Indians (especially from Chennai) that for Chennai-ites, everything to the north of Chennai is considered North India. Though this is a joke, I have to admit that there is an element of truth to this. At least when I was still growing up in Chennai (about 15 years ago) every aspect of the city - from the language spoken (Tamil and Tamil only!) to the people's clothes (more on the conservative side), it was almost like it was a country of its own!

And of course the food (more rice consumption compared to Rotis and Naans) was no exception either. Even when foods from other parts of India (like the Bhel Puri or Pav Bhaji etc.) were sold, it definitely had a 'South Indian' touch to the taste. 

While some of these aspects are true for many states in India, Chennai is more so than many - so much so that, at one point in its history (not so long ago), there were a lot of agitations preaching against its natives speaking the national language (Hindi) - which is so widely spoken and understood in the rest of India.

Given all this and also that we did not travel far and wide outside of Chennai and the state of Tamil Nadu, it is no exaggeration when I say that my knowledge of the various cuisines and foods from the other parts of India was quite minuscule.

Ironically, once I left India and landed in the U.S, I actually had the opportunity to meet several people from all parts of India. On one such encounters I had the good fortune of hearing about this delicious Indian street food snack called Dabeli aka Kutchi Dabeli (originated from the Kutch region of the western state of Gujarat). And I was surprised that I had never heard about this raved about Indian Street Food snack until then!

After hearing an ear-full about the grandeur and glory of this Dabeli, I sought out to Google to research even more and then last weekend, I felt like I had heard and read enough about this Dabeli.

So it was time for action and I started buying its ingredients. Then, first I made the Dabeli masala from scratch, but after that the recipe for more and more easy. And after about 30 minutes, the drool-inducing Dabeli was ready for this Chennai-ite's consumption!


The WINE paired with Dabeli

But before I describe my first big bite, I have to stop and talk about my other favorite part of this adventure. My wine pairing of course! Dabeli can be quite a tricky to pair with any wine. Mostly because, the Dabeli filling consists of potaoes, the Dabeli masala and some other spices, the garnish comprises of masala roasted peanuts, chopped onions and sev (fried chickpea flour). How could I come up with one wine that will stand up to all these intriguing mix of flavors?

Well, fortune favors the brave. So I bravely walked the isles of Beltramos. Based on my gut feeling for the flavors of the Dabeli, I had narrowed down 3 wines: 1. A Tempranillo from Espana, 2. A Monastrell, also from Espana and 3. A Sangiovese from Italy.

After some thought and discussion with the wine associate, I finalized on the Toscano Rosso from the Maremma region of Italy. This wine is classified I.G.T (more on that on the Bonus! section below) and composed of 50% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Franc and 20% Alicante.


Tasting notes

To be honest, the very first sip of the wine was not stellar. But, I did not lose heart. While assembling the first Dabeli, I left the wine to open up so I can try it again after a few minutes.

Lo and behold! after letting the wine breathe the wine tasted a lot more discerning than the first sip. This time on the nose I got cherries and sour raspberries. And on the palette, I actually got a ton of Italian spices, like Rosemary and Oregano! This wine finally started singing to my taste buds and made me a happy camper :)


The verdict

The Dabeli was causing this flavor roller coaster in my mouth - right from the very first bite. The crunchy peanuts and sev kept coming back in every bite of this mouth watering snack. As per the recipe, I had also spread a spoonful of Amchur chutney on one side of the Pav (Burger buns) and the cilantro mint chutney on the other. And those chutneys never disappoint either.

They call this Dabeli a step brother/sister) to the other famous Mumbai street food - Vada Pav. But, after my first hand experience with this Gujarati treat, I had to disagree. No doubt, the Vada Pav has earned its own bragging rights, the Dabeli was no less in comparison. The cumin and coriander spices in the Dabeli masala infused in the potatoes just married in to the Italian spices I tasted in the wine.


How could grapes from Italy go hand in hand so harmoniously with the spices from India? Wine and food never cease to amaze me...makes it totally worth while to look forward to more such moments in life...over and over.




I.G.T wines stand for Indicazione Goegrafica Tipica - these were a special wine category introduced to celebrate the wines that were pretty darn good but did not "make the cut" to Italy's highest classification of wines (D.O.C.G). To delve a little deeper in to its background - the D.O.C category was once the highest level of wines in Italy. But due to the corruption that prevailed with the wine entities, a lot of 'mediocre' wines achieved this status. At one point the Italian government intervened and created the new and improved status called D.O.C.G which 'guaranteed' a certain quality with the Italian wines and cheeses marked with this label. But as always, the law went the other extreme and caused a lot of good wines to not make it to this level due to the new and stringent rules. Hence was born the I.G.T status, to celebrate the high quality wines called 'Super Tuscans' that lie somewhere between D.O.C and D.O.C.G statuses.