Indian Food and Sake Pairings at Moti Mahal:
In perhaps one of the most unlikely events for me of the year, Moti Mahal set out to pair some fine Indian dishes with different Sake. All part of their tenth birthday celebrations, we were introduced to a selection of sakes all handpicked by Barry McCaughley, Head of Beverages at Moti Mahal paired with a menu of delicious Indian food. The idea? to break down our preconception of sake as something warm that should only be paired with Japanese food and to introduce some of the nuances of fine sake wine.
A short introduction – we learnt that sake is brewed like a beer, made of just four ingredients – rice, koji (a special kind of fungus), yeast and water.
There are two basic variables in production
- The amount the rice is polished. This is expressed as a percentage of the rice grain remaining.
- Whether or not a little distilled alcohol is added
Jummai sake has no added alcohol, while Non Jummai has a little brewers alcohol added
Highly milled sake tends to have a lighter, refined and fruity taste and is best suited to being chilled. The highest level of milling creates a sake with the word ‘Daiginjo’ in the name, meaning that it has been polished so that a maximum of 50% of the rice grain remains.
First on the menu, Chukander Ka salad – a roasted beetroot and peanut salad served with stuffed peppers, minted potatoes and green peas was paired with Kimura Fukukomachi Junmai Daiginjo, a light premium sake that was delicate and nutty with a slightly fruity taste of melon.
Next, Barra Peshwari, delicious lamb cutlets spiced with caraway, kashmiri chillies and served with mooli raita and avocado chutney was paired with Kimura Fukukomachi Daiginjo sake.
Murgabi, pheasant stir fried with Malabar spices was served with Teetar (sweet and spicy pickled partridge) and a side of stir-fried okra. . This was served with a Akita Shurui Seizoh Takashimizu Honjozo, a neutral sake that didn’t fight against the deep spices of the pheasant and spicy partridge.
The next dish was the Lahori Macchi Pulao – baby red mullet cooked with basmati rice, curry leaf and pounded spice and served with raita. This was paired with the Gozenshu 9 ‘Mountain Stream’ Junmai Nama Bodaimoto. The sake was served in traditional sake sets and we were taught to receive the sake politely i.e. cupping the small cup with both hands while it was being poured. Delicious, light and refreshing it was a fine contrast to the pulao.
The evening ended with Ananas Ka Meetha – pineapple carpaccio with a plum and port wine sorbet. And, a delicious plum wine, Ume no Yado.
I was impressed with the skill shown matching the sakes to Indian dishes. I am challenged trying to pair spicy dishes with wine and certainly wouldn’t know where to start with sake. And, I learnt a lot about the different types of sake available. I’ve done a number of sake tasting events in the past and usually found the subject quite overwhelming. Here, the menu of food and sake seemed to have been carefully created to ensure we left with a structured understanding of sake.
Moti Mahal run this type of event on a regular basis – sign up to their mailing list to find out more. Or just pop in for dinner – they are one of the better options in the Covent Garden area.
Even if you can’t try one of their Sake & Spice events, Moti Mahal is worth popping into for the food, which is really delicious. I’d definitely recommend the lamb chops – it’s definitely worth popping into (and avoid the chains in Covent Garden)!
Disclosure: Many thanks to Moti Mahal and Barry and Oana for inviting me to Spice and Sake. All opinions are my own.
45 Great Queen Street,
London, WC2B 5AA.