The thought of pairing single malt whisky with Indian food may be scoffed at by connoisseurs, but this combination is exactly what chefs from some of the top hotels in the city set out to prove this week.
At a whisky and food pairing city trail organised by Glenfiddich and held across three hotels—ITC Grand Central, Taj Mahal Palace and Towers and ITC Maratha, the results that yielded were rather surprising. Three out of the four dishes selected from twelve were popular Indian dishes.
“I have always loved Indian food, the only reason I avoid it during pairing sessions is because it’s too hot and too spicy to pair with whisky,” feels malt master, Ian Millar, who was spotted nosing and tasting in the city.
Millar, who has paired single malt with food across the world, also conducted a similar exercise in Delhi, where the winning recipes ranged from Steamed Scallops with Malted Black Bean to Thai Chicken Satay. “The results are a reflection of the flexibility of single malt whisky,” adds Millar, whose findings in Mumbai are far from conventional. The key towards pairing is finding a combination that enhances the flavour of the food and the whisky.
“Both must complement each other, and not overpower the other,” explains Millar. “The jumbo prawns marinated in garlic and flavoured with yoghurt, went perfectly well with the 15-year-old Glenfiddich, which has a rich and lingering sweetness. This 15-year Scotch is a drink that is full-bodied and bursting with flavour, so we needed a recipe that could enhance the smooth flavour as well as bring out its layers of sherry oak, marzipan, cinnamon and ginger.”
Back home, chef Ishmeet Singh of
at ITC Grand Central churned two winning recipes —
(prawns marinated in garlic) and Shafaq Qaliyan (Lamb simmered in brown cardamom and ginger, tempered with clove) that go with the single malt. He explains, “We get a lot of requests from our patrons to suggest Indian food to match their drinks, so we took it as a challenge to come up with a combination that delights the food and the drink.”
Another winner, leaving behind Zodiac Grill’s delicacies such as Pan Seared Goose Liver, Grilled King Scallops and Char Grilled Lamb Rack, was a
favourite — Murg Khushk Purdah, a boneless chicken
dish prepared by the chef at ITC Grand Maratha.
Like his counterpart Ishmeet Singh, Grand Maratha’s executive chef Rajdeep Kapoor too, faced the same challenges. “Spices in Indian food are very strong, so we had to make it subtle,” he says. “The most difficult thing was to pair Indian food with single malt. We had to maintain the right balance of herbs and spices so that it retains its originality and also complements the malt,” adds Kapoor.
Indian cuisine, though so far excluded from pairings, has now been found suitable to many palates. “In previous pairings, we discovered that
Sabut Tandoori Aloo
(grilled potatoes) goes well with white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. And a must-try is the
Dum ke bhooley
with Hoegaarden wheat beer,” adds Singh.
Next up on Miller’s radar is cigar and whisky; “I hope we can bring it to India next year, though with all your smoking rules, I can’t be very sure.”