Sunday, November 9, 2008

Beer Bites, Part One: India

Melissa at The Traveller's Lunchbox recently wrote that despite the massive life changes she has endured over 2008, the year will probably always be remembered as one in which she made an awful lot of jam. Which made me realise that my years are often defined by the discovery of particular foods, or 'food movements', too. While this year was one in which I moved out of home, wrote a thesis, had my first real job and started a blog, it was also one in which I became a vegequarian (who eats chicken on occasion), planted my own herbs and tomatoes, started shopping at farmer's outlets, and blogged a lot about food.

Last year was somewhat less eventful, and thus will always be remembered as the one in which I discovered beer. Sure, I had drunken beer (sometimes in copious amounts) previously. And although at the time I was pretty sure I enjoyed it, I realise now that I mostly did it in a highly unfeminst attempt to bond with men folk. No better way, I always say, to form friendships with males than by indulging along side them in cheap, yucky, bogan Australian beer (although I acknowledge that this probably says far more about my social skills than those of the average Australian man).

So it wasn't until my Indochina trip of January '07 that I truly learnt to love beer. Asian beer. Every meal in Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia was accompanied by a long neck of the local brew, for which I usually paid roughly between 0.5 - 1.5 Australian dollars. There is nothing better when dining on the dusty banks of an empty Mekong in Phnom Pen than a long brew of Khmer beer (even though it does taste unmistakably like eggs), or a Beer Lao with a fifty cent all you can eat vegan banquet in magically lit night markets at Luang Prabang, or a fresh beer Hoi with a delicious bowl of steaming pho on a tiny chair positioned
precariously on the edge of a busy road in Hanoi. Nothing. Better.

So, in delayed celebration of the discovery of my love for Asian beer, love of the truest, most feminist kind, I intend to post a series of recipes of yummy nibbly delights to enjoy with certain brews from that mystical east.

The idea for today's post (which, in turn inspired this series of posts) occurred to me by accident, when I prepared one of my favorite cheap, easy and quick snacks this afternoon - poppadums with various Indian fixings. I sat down to eat it and realised, achingly so, that it would be simply perfect with a beer. An Asian beer. The Indian brew, Kingfisher would have been ideal in the interest of keeping things ethnically correct...but the bottlo across the road had none. So instead I went with my all time Asian fave, Tiger. I'm no good at describing its taste (I said I liked beer, not that I understood it), but it goes perfectly with anything spicy. So I sat down to feast and drink...the boy studying across from me, and the sounds of live jazz from the pub across the road floating in with the afternoon breeze which tickled our freshly hung Nepalse prayer flags. It was a most divine Sunday afternoon.

Tiger Beer with P
oppadums and Indian dips.

As much as I enjoy a good curry, I often find it is all the extra bits - raita, chutneys, pickles, poppadums, naan - that I truly love about Indian food. They also, as is the topic of this post, make for great nibbles with beer...and are fantastic as a pre-dinner thang, or just with casual afternoon beers with friends, lovers, or indeed, alone. I haven't given too much guidance here, because I generally just throw whatever I have on hand together, so I think experimentation is key. You might also like to make some of that bannana and coconut thing, but, as banana is the one and only food that completely scares the bejesus out of me, I did not.

To make the poppadums, simply follow the instructions on the back of the pack. While I believe the deep fried method is undeniably better, I made mine in the microwave today out of intense Sunday-afternoon laziness. You could substitue fresh naan bread from your local Indian shop, but there is something about the crunchy, fragrant, chick pea flavour of poppadums I love, and I generally always have a packet in my pantry.

Cucumber Raita
I like this quite nontraditionally chunky, so I combine about half a roughly chopped cucumber with 2-3 tablespoons of natural Greek yogurt, half to a full tablespoon of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of fresh finely chopped fresh mint, or one teaspoon of dried mint flakes, and plenty of salt and pepper, and maybe a pinch of ground cummin or coriander. Mix well.

Tomato and Coriander

Combine two roughly chopped ripe as ripe tomatoes, with your desired amount of finely diced red onion, two teaspoons of finely chopped coriander, 1/4 of a teaspoon of ground cumin, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

I also mix a good, sweet commercial mango chutney with lots of extra chilli flakes, and serve it along side the poppadums and dips. To be honest, this is my favorite bit, and is often the only thing I can bring myself to prepare. So I wont judge you, even a little bit, if you decide to skip the dips, and just go with the chutney, or an assortment of chutneys and pickles, even.

All ingredients can be prepared up to several hours in advance, although the poppadums might go soggy, so probably best to make them fresh. Serves approximately four people for beer nibbles, or two for a light lunch.


kennhyn said...

U girls not only like art & music, u girls like beer too...haha

I would try curry with tiger now....cheers!!!

Anonymous said...

mmm.... yum!