chennai

Masala Dosa with a Maremma Toscana

The Story of Masala Dosa

What a year 2014 has been! A year of several milestones, many lessons and most of all so many wonderful memories to cherish!

While reminiscing the year as it comes to an end...I realized that I have not written about my absolute favorite street food (or absolute favorite food for that matter) all of this year! Nor had I tried pairing it with some delicious wine! How can this be!? 

It just felt wrong to end such an eventful year without this. So, even with an extremely tight time crunch at my corporate job (what's new) and a gazillion other things I am juggling, with Indian Paradox and otherwise, I decided to make, pair, relish and write about this food that I absolutely die for!

Okay enough with the mystery, the topic of this blog is Masala Dosa :)

This is the one food that I can devour for breakfast, lunch AND dinner, or food that just comforts me or food that has satiated my hunger when I returned from school in Chennai....I can keep going.

So many memories are intertwined with the aroma of the ghee or oil that welcomed me as I came home after so many long days with a growling stomach....and the sound of dosa batter when it comes in contact with the hot 'dosa kal' (the case iron skillet used to make delicious dosas - beats any non stick skillet hands down!) is just the sound of sheer bliss :)

All these thoughts got me to start making the masala (stuffing) first. This masala used as filling inside a dosa (think like a crepe filling) deserves a special mention. It is made up of potatoes, onions, Indian green chillies and curry leaves blended together with a garnish of mustard seeds, spices like asafoetida and etc. As the ingredients suggests, it is a very earthy filling with a comforting goodness, that weakens my knees every time I take a mouthful of it.

And so I finish the masala and moved on to making the coconut chutney to douse the masala dosa in to.

Finally I started piling up the hot dosas.

The whole place smelled like my home in Chennai...which got me in to a very good mood....

masala_dosa

 

The wine pairing with Masala Dosa

When I decided to shop for some vino to go with the masala dosa, I soon realized that this was a daunting task. My conundrum was, to be able to pick a wine that will marry the earthiness of the masala and yet stand up to the combination of the spices and the lentils - yet not overpower the food!

After a lot of thought and talking to the wine associate at my favorite wine shop in the peninsula, I went home with a Vermentino from Maremma (coastal) Tuscany. The rationale behind this choice was that, Vermentinos usually have a fine marriage of acidity and slight mineral flavors that brings about a freshness to every sip - also they have sufficient viscosity that will ensure the wine does not end up seeming flat when paired with food - especially Indian food like Masala dosa with the heaviness of the potatoes, lentils in the dosa batter and flavors from the spices.

vermentino

 

Tasting notes

On the nose the aroma of green apples, melons and a slight sweet smell of honey was prevalent. The minute I sipped the wine, I could tell this was a very expressive wine, with even hints of Italian spice flavors (rosemary?). 

 

The verdict

Finally, it was the moment of truth! I placed my masala dosa + chutney plate on the table with the glass of Vermentino. 

masaladosa_vermentino

I dipped the masala dosa generously in to the thick coconut chutney and savored it as slowly as I could. Then duly followed that with a sip of Vermentino. This wine definitely did it for the Masala Dosa. The ginger and spices in the masala were nicely embraced by the 'green' fruit flavors in the wine along with a spring like freshness.

In the middle of all this it dawned on me... here I was enjoying a hot masala dosa with a glass of crispy Italian white wine on a blissful overcast San Franciscan December evening. If this is not a moment to cherish, I do not know what is? 

Cheers to simple blessings like these and wishes for several more of these to come in the next year.

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2015!!

+Kavitha

Makka Cholam (Corn) and a wine slushy

 THE Story of MAKKA CHOLAM

Makka Cholam basically means corn in the Chennai city slang. All my life I kept saying Makka Cholam whenever I referred to this specific corn sold on the beaches of Chennai. But the funny and interesting part when I dug up its etymology was, Makka and Cholam both mean Corn. So I have no idea why the 2 words were always stated together while referring to the same thing!? It is like saying Corn Corn! :)

Makka Cholam is corn that is grilled on Chennai beaches by vendors who used a special equipment to grill them - with fire sparks flying all over the place (especially when the beach was more windy than usual!). Here is is a minute and a half video showing this. How these vendors grill the corn with no gloves or any protection is still a conundrum to me!

After all the fireworks the corn is grilled to perfection, then the next step is to apply a layer of salt, chilli power using a slice of lemon and squeeze the remaining lemon juice on it. Every bite is a crunchy, yummy and delicious!

So, with being memorial day weekend and a wonderful sunny day, I decided to grill my Makka Cholam with my own small grill.

The WINE paired with the Makka Cholam

I decided to get a little innovative and cheap (?) with this particular wine pairing.

Makka Cholam is the epitome of a simple, cheap street food when you decide to spend a nice day on a beach in Chennai without too much damage to your wallet. 

If I can take the same approach with its wine pairing, that would be a made-for-each-other deal, right?

And not to forget, a slushy would be nice and chill to pair with the crunchy, spicy corn on a hot sunny day! 

So, I decided to do just that. And hence was born the idea of a wine slushy.

For my wine slushy I used a Moscato d'Asti I had in the fridge - that I was not too fond of sipping as-is. So, this is the added advantage of making wine slushies; you can save the delicious wines you like to sip on and utilize wines that are not your favorite 'sip-ons' to make these.

I used this recipe I found online for my wine slushy. I froze them overnight in an ice tray, so they would be ready to be sipped on after I grilled my Makka Cholam.

Tasting notes

When I was ready enjoy to my corn, I took my slushy ice tray, out of the freezer and put them in blender for a quick blend. 

I used about 4 cubes for one glass. A quick blend and the slushies were ready to be enjoyed!

It was very interesting, how the Moscato tasted so interesting in this semi-solid form. I could still taste the peach, apricots and some honey suckle flavor - but all in a slushy form!

The verdict

I went out to the patio, finished grilling my corn and applied the salt, chilli powder, lemon juice concoction. Then I took a HUGE bite in to the corn, and made a nice big dent on it.

Next, I took a spoonful of my slushy (yes, I needed a spoon - it was too thick for a sip!). Hmmm, the bright sunshine, occasional wind, crunchy bites of spicy corn, finished off with a spoonful of Moscato slushy. Let me just say, life can change from good to absolutely wonderful with moments like these!

cholam_slushy.png

It was a very memorable Memorial Day indeed!

Nothing to complain with a long weekend, lots of sunshine, nostalgic street food in one hand and a wine slushy in another!

 

+Kavitha