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Indian dinner at a friend's house

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BatMan Dec 15, 2009 11:35 AM

We've been invited to an Indian dinner and I'm not sure what to bring. Typically , we'd bring a bottle of wine and/or beer. I'm thinking a bottle of Indian wine but have no idea what they're like.

Any idea of something appropriate we can bring - doesn't have to be wine

Thanks

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  1. Perilagu Khan Dec 15, 2009 11:50 AM

    Wine is fine. Although, so far as I'm aware, India produces no wine. And if it does, said wine will be practically impossible to find.

    Instead, just seek out a solid domestic white. Chateau St. Jean chard is my old standby for Indian food.

    And make sure your wine is well chilled!

    3 Replies
    1. re: Perilagu Khan
      boogiebaby Dec 15, 2009 12:06 PM

      There are actually several wineries and vineyards in India. Grover Vineyards and Sula are two that I know of, although there are many more.

      1. re: boogiebaby
        Perilagu Khan Dec 15, 2009 01:02 PM

        Interesting! Live and learn. Do you know where in India they're located? I'm guessing up north, perhaps in the Himalayan foothills.

        1. re: Perilagu Khan
          jen kalb Dec 16, 2009 12:24 PM

          sula is in maharastha. like I said above/below, the wines are ok, no better. in a place with other choices (i.e. most places in India) no reason to choose these.

    2. c
      cackalackie Dec 15, 2009 11:58 AM

      My stand-by wine for Indian is a Gewurtztraminer. Only slightly sweet - but enough to offset the spice.

      1 Reply
      1. re: cackalackie
        Perilagu Khan Dec 15, 2009 12:03 PM

        Wurtz is definitely a popular favorite with Indian food. Another possibility is a nice, acidic pinot grigio.

      2. Sam Fujisaka Dec 15, 2009 12:45 PM

        I prefer beer to wine with Indian. Kingfisher is pretty good and the most likely to be found outside of India.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Sam Fujisaka
          j
          jeanmarieok Dec 15, 2009 07:32 PM

          Me, too - beer goes better with Indian food than wine!

          1. re: Sam Fujisaka
            JungMann Dec 16, 2009 06:58 AM

            I'm in agreement with Sam. I much prefer a crisp lager to wine with Indian food, though I don't typically drink alcohol with South Asian cuisine. Perhaps from force of habit, I prefer a sharbat like Rooh-Afza. The spices compliment the food, while the sweetness cuts through the spice.

          2. Axalady Dec 15, 2009 01:04 PM

            I've never attended or hosted an Indian dinner where wine was served. We usually have a drink before or after dinner, and drink water with the meal. There are so many different flavors going on with all the spices I want to be able to taste them. I would imagine that wine can muddle the flavors.

            I think it's fun to make a sharbat or lassi.

            This is an excellent recipe for a Sharbat. http://www.phamfatale.com/id_88/title...

            1. c
              cimui Dec 15, 2009 01:05 PM

              Agree that beers would be better than wines. Something like Kingfisher or a lighter, ice cold lager tastes best IMO. If you really want to do wine, I agree with the Gewurztraminer suggestion. The other commonly recommended ones are barely sweet sparkling wines or Rieslings. Chateau St. Michelle makes a dirt cheap decent Riesling -- usually our booze of choice at inexpensive BYOB Indian places. I won't disclose what horrible, low-grade sparkling wines we drink on such occasions. It's just too embarrassing.

              I'd stay far, far away from the Indian wines. I know they're supposed to be getting better, but I haven't had one that I've liked, yet. Probably isn't worth the trouble to find.

              1. Perilagu Khan Dec 15, 2009 02:12 PM

                I must rise to the defense of white wine with Indian food. In my experience, a sharp, citrusy, focused (and well chilled) white wine cuts through the spice of Indian food beautifully and is just unbelievably refreshing. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that white wine with Indian food is a great culinary secret and that the proper pairing of white wine with Indian food is a gastronomic field much in need of exploration.

                Now Chinese food is althogether different. Wine and Chinese just don't work together at all, IMO.

                7 Replies
                1. re: Perilagu Khan
                  c
                  cimui Dec 15, 2009 06:20 PM

                  >> Now Chinese food is althogether different. Wine and Chinese just don't work together at all, IMO.

                  I have to disagree with this. Last Chinese New Year we had a lovely plummy Cantonese roasted duck with a big, fat pinot noir and choir music spontaneously began to play... but we should probably have a separate thread on this in Wine, rather than hijack this one. :)

                  I do believe you when you say that a sharp, citustry white could work with some Indian dishes... Bet tandoori chicken would be good.

                  1. re: cimui
                    Paulustrious Dec 16, 2009 01:33 PM

                    Chilled Pinot Noir is my go-to red for highly spiced foods. Or any sharp thin Gamay.

                  2. re: Perilagu Khan
                    alanbarnes Dec 15, 2009 07:25 PM

                    Once again we're back to the notion of national cuisine. Seems to be a recurring theme lately. Or maybe I'm just sensitized to the issue.

                    There's no such thing as "Indian food" or "Chinese food." Or more accurately, each of those terms encompasses such an inconceivably broad range of dishes that it is nearly meaningless.

                    There are plenty of Chinese dishes that present difficult wine-pairing challenges. If somebody can identify a wine that creates a whole that's greater than the sum of its parts when served with Szechuan hot pot, I'm all ears. And most Americanized Chinese food isn't particularly wine friendly, either: while an off-dry Riesling may work with General Tso's chicken, we're not talking an epiphany here.

                    But simple steamed fish with a clean Sauvignon Blanc? Good stuff. Cantonese roast pork can be really tasty with Zinfandel. And, as cimui notes above, duck and pinot noir are a classic combination.

                    Ditto with Indian food. Nothing wrong with tandoori chicken and Chenin Blanc. But an intense goat-based rogan josh or a saag aloo with bitter mustard greens are going to present some challenges.

                    While generalizations are useful up to a point, after that point they become meaningless. And "white wine goes with Indian food" or "you can't pair wine with Chinese food" are statements that fall well beyond the point of meaninglessness on that scale.

                    1. re: alanbarnes
                      s
                      scott123 Dec 15, 2009 07:58 PM

                      Well said.

                      1. re: alanbarnes
                        Perilagu Khan Dec 16, 2009 07:20 AM

                        The people who make their living writing and publishing cookbooks and running restaurants would disagree with you.

                        Now I think all of us know that terms such as Chinese and Indian are imprecise. But they are not intended to be precise. They are an indispensible shorthand. A convenience.

                        Do you really think you are going to abolish the use of national terms in the world of gastronomy? And do you really want to? In doing so anything you gain in accuracy would be more than nullified by the resultant confusion. Hence, if we really get down to it, the regional and cultural terms you prefer could be parsed further still to district, civic and even neighborhood levels. For example, I strongly suspect that the food in Karnataka varies dramatically within that state. And I suspect further still, that the food in Shimoga is hardly identical to that prepared in Bangalore.

                        To expect the typical Chowhound to possess an encyclopedic knowledge of all the world's local cuisine variations is not merely unreasonable, it is ludicrous.

                        1. re: Perilagu Khan
                          alanbarnes Dec 16, 2009 10:00 AM

                          As I said, generalizations can be useful. A book on "Indian cooking" that surveys the cuisines of the subcontinent is a good example of that. I'm not looking to abolish general terms in food discussions, but to bring enough precision to the dialogue to have it actually mean something.

                          In this thread, the subject at hand is wine pairing. Which requires more specific information about the food being served than the identification of its national origin. You don't have to be a walking culinary encyclopedia to know that finding a wine that pairs with "Indian food" is a fool's errand. Or to figure out that some Chinese food actually pairs very well with certain wines.

                          1. re: alanbarnes
                            Perilagu Khan Dec 16, 2009 10:46 AM

                            Well, we simply disagree. I see enough commonality in cuisine ranging the entire span of the Indian subcontinent to warrant a generalization about the applicability of certain beverages to that cuisine. And in my experience certain white wines pair exceptionally well with practically every Indian dish I've eaten. Consquently, those white wines are my default when preparing Indian food or dining in an Indian restaurant.

                            Likewise, I've never encountered an appetizing wine/Americanized Chinese food pairing. I much prefer hot tea before the meal and iced tea during it.

                    2. g
                      gordeaux Dec 15, 2009 03:00 PM

                      Raita
                      A few jars of different pickle
                      Crunchy, snacky chippy things at the Indian market

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: gordeaux
                        r
                        Rasam Dec 16, 2009 08:13 AM

                        Greetings from a very infrequent reader / poster to CH.

                        BatMan: the information you gave is too vague.

                        1. Question: What kind of Indian food are your hosts likely to serve?
                        There is just too much variation possible to give a blanket wine recommendation. The flavour profiles and food subcultures of (e.g.) North Indian Mughlai style, vs, a Gujarati vegetarian, vs a South Indian vegetarian, vs a Kerala seafood or a Goanese menu (to suggest only a very few possibilities out of the almost innumerable choices) are so different, that you can't expect to find one wine choice that would go with all of them

                        Possible solution: show up with a good wine anyway, and let the hosts decide whether to serve it before the meal, or save it for later.
                        Or find out what they are serving and then research the wine. You might find a wine that complements some kinds of Indian food (e.g. the latest recommendation seems to be Madeira for North Indian Mughlai or Punjabi dishes), but don't even think of wine, beer, or alcohol with a South Indian vegetarian menu.
                        Let the host deal with drinks for such scenarios.

                        2. Question: do your hosts drink wine at all (presumably they do, or you would have ruled this out)

                        Solution: same as above

                        3. Question: bring something else?
                        Gordeaux' suggestions are risky, if you don't know what kind of menu the hosts have in mind, or whether they are the kind of hosts who like to do everything for their guests and may be insulted or irritated if you show up with products that don't fit their menu, or that they don't like, or that they prefer to make at home (e.g. you don't want to risk insulting a host who makes their own pickles at home, by bringing bazaar stuff).

                        Unless you have in-depth knowledge, bringing Indian items to an Indian host can really backfire.

                        Solution: ask the hosts what you can bring! If they say 'bring nothing' (very likely to happen), just show up with flowers for the hostess or similar.

                        If you really want to take something foodish, then maybe premium mango or pista-kulfi ice cream? Or some really good chocolate?

                        Bottom line: find out your host's tastes and preferences , and try to not compete with their entertainment plans.

                        HTH, and do tell us what you decided (or whether you were scared off by this firehose of information)

                        1. re: gordeaux
                          waytob Dec 16, 2009 09:15 PM

                          I second Rasam's comments below, particularly on spicy crunchy market items. If going for commercially sold items, our standard host(ess) gift has been a box of mixed mithai (coconut burfi, chocolate burfi, penda etc.).

                        2. jen kalb Dec 16, 2009 08:20 AM

                          I doubt if any indian wines are avaiable here and those we tried in India (mostly the Sula) are serviceable at best - any good domestic or foreign wine will probably be better. While I like sweet-ish light whites with other asian food, Im not sure it works as well with the heavier indian dishes. A not-so-alcoholic red or something like a chenin blanc could be good. Note: if you bring wine as a house gift it need not be with the expectation that it be served with the meal - it is a polite thing to bring in any event.

                          Beer as noted is liked by many, tho that depends on your group.

                          A dessert could be a nice bring along, say, a box of baklava. While not indian it would be an appropriate ending.

                          1. Perilagu Khan Dec 16, 2009 08:34 AM

                            Assuming your hosts are gracious people (and I'm sure they are), my guess is they will appreciate the gesture, regardless of what you bring. It is the thought, after all, that counts most.

                            1. chef chicklet Dec 16, 2009 10:34 AM

                              Personally I like a dry champagne. If not that then beer, but for me wine does not work.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: chef chicklet
                                d
                                danieljdwyer Dec 16, 2009 11:45 AM

                                I like beer with most Indian, but I'll also second the dry sparkling wine suggestion. In general, spicy food or very boldly flavored foods are not popular in Spain. There are some exceptions to this, however, and Cava is the traditional pairing for these. And I'll take Cava over Champagne nine times out of ten.

                              2. NickMontreal Dec 16, 2009 01:07 PM

                                If you're planning on bringing a wine you'll obviously need something pretty full bodied which can stand up to the flavours in the food.

                                Viognier is a great white wine for Indian food. Viogniers generally tend to be quite powerful and have a lot of floral, fruity and sometimes spicy characteristics. As mentioned previously, Gewurtztraminer is also a good choice for the same reasons. The big Viognier from France from Coindrieu, however, I would go for a New World Viognier if I were pairing it with Indian food, as they tend to pack a bit more punch than their French counterparts.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: NickMontreal
                                  jen kalb Dec 16, 2009 05:22 PM

                                  Not doubting you re indian food, but we tried a french Viognier with thai food at Sripraphai (NY) once and it was a simply dreadful combo with the blend of sweet-sour-spicy-fishy tastes in our meal. Something like a riesling works a lot better with that cuisine.

                                  1. re: jen kalb
                                    howler Dec 17, 2009 02:19 AM

                                    moscato with a typical, light vegetarian home cooked meal?

                                    1. re: jen kalb
                                      NickMontreal Dec 17, 2009 12:02 PM

                                      Like I said, French Viognier might not be the way to go, a new world Viognier might be more appropriate. Riesling is another good choice though - floral and fruity notes make it a good match for Indian food, and also its high acidity makes it a very food friendly wine.

                                  2. p
                                    pie22 Dec 17, 2009 06:24 AM

                                    i would also agree on bringing beer - king fisher is the indian staple but they also love their heinekin (i am of indian origin) which is a bit easier to find. if you feel like wine is the better option - i say go for a red, usually that is preferred to white at least in all my family get togethers.

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