Monday, January 21, 2013

A Taste of India


You've heard of it, I'm sure. Indiana Jones was there.  With the tenth largest economy (but third in global purchasing power), the place is becoming an economic dynamo.  At 1.2 billion people (and growing), it now has the second largest population of any country (behind China, of course). 

While a lot of things put India on the map, one thing  I think folks might consider trying is the water.  If you ever get to India, just scoop it up from the nearest creek and enjoy......

No. Wait. Scratch that. 

The food. Yeah, try the food. Don't try the water. Not even from a tap (seriously).  No ice either (seriously).  Try the food.  Sure, travel resources tell you not eat meat from the roadside vendor, but all in all, the tastes of India can be quite nice when prepared in a safe environment.  

For Christmas, I was the recipient of "The Meatball Shop Cookbook". While a book of this sort might be ripe for testicular jokes, I'll spare you.  With over 30 different ball recipes, it is really well done.  Dozens of sauce and salad recipes make for a....uh, well-rounded cookbook. 

Gosh.  Sorry.

Anyhow, the first test ball was the Classic Beef Meatball with Tomato Sauce. That fed Natalie and I for over three days. Seriously.  No, it was not one bowling-ball sized monster. The recipe made 24 balls, but with the sauce and a pound of pasta, we ate well. 

Eager to try the book again, we agreed on the Tandoori Lamb Balls.  Highlighting the exotic flavors from India's culinary  world, it was quite eye catching.   With the combination of lamb, cilantro and a six-spice mix (ginger, cumin, coriander, paprika, tumeric, and cayenne pepper) in the ball itself, any heat and spice-overload was tempered by the yogurt-cilantro dressing.  (Yes, cilantro was in both the ball and sauce.)  For the record, in my photo below, that uranium-looking spice is the tumeric.

I hope it goes without saying that these things were delicious.  (For the record, I refuse to say "dee-lish". I hate that.  Its kinda like when people say "My bad...".  Grrrr.....)

But the India flair for the night did not stop there!

In short, once upon a time, Great Britain ruled India.  By 1947, India had gained independence. Sadly, Great Britain left before they had learned simple plumbing, but that is a story for another time...

During their time as the rulers of India, the Brits had a problem - India was half-way around the world. You need to  remember your world geography and history. The only way to get to India without walking was by boat.  From Great Britain, you had to sail around the south tip of Africa.  There was no route via the Mediterranean until the mid-1800s.  Anything on a boat heading to India would be ship-bound for a very loooong time.  

That included beer, of course.  Even in the sweltering heat of India, the British would have enjoyed a cold one (if they could find it). Getting beer there was a problem. The length of the journey and the heat during trip combined to kill off alot of the beer.  Bacteria would run wild and ruin barrel upon barrel.

Prior to refrigeration and pasteurization, brewers had two weapons in the battle against bacteria - hops and alcohol.  Adding outrageous amounts of hops during the brewing process raised the bitterness considerably. But, it did not stop there.  Before sealing the barrels, even more hops were added. This "dry-hopping" drove the hoppiness through the roof.  

At the same time, sugars were added to the barrel.  With more sugars for the cute,  little yeasties to eat, they were kept busy during weeks at sea.  Of course, more sugars leads to a higher alcohol content which, in turn, leads to a lower chance of bacterial infection.  (It should be mentioned that the yeasts also give off lots of carbon dioxide.  It appears the wooden barrels leaked a bit, preventing the gas build-up from rupturing the seals.)

The result was a new beer style that could handle weeks at sea and weeks more on a shelf in steamy India.   Born from a Pale Ale, the India Pale Ale is a highly hopped, alcoholic, and well carbonated beverage.  Oh yeah, they're excellent, too.

Tag-teaming with the pleasantly spiced Tandoori Lamb Balls, the Professor IPA (#1,387) from Cranker's Brewery in Big Rapids, Michigan is simply awesome. While my beer notes were not detailed (sometimes, I just enjoy and don't scribble notes), the hoppy bite of the style tasted great.  As far as I am concerned, it is a pretty descent representation of the style. Try it if you can find it.

Knowing we were eating a meal with regional spices and washing it down with a style that was basically designed for that region made for a super dining experience.

Knowing we made the meal in the safety of our kitchen (i.e.: we did not have to use water from India) made for a super dining experience (and after-dining experience!), as well.  

Lets here it for water quality!


JAC said...

Send the recipe. I finally found one of the million sheep farms out here that sells lamb retail at a farmer's market. I made lamb stew last weekend, but would like a ground lamb recipe, and love Indian food.

Paul said...

I believe the magic word would be "please".


I'll pass it along in the coming days.