Pairing Indian Cuisine with Wine

It might be informative and fun to ask some local chefs for their wine recommendations for foods that present tough wine pairings. We will begin with Indian cuisine. Indian cuisine has many layers of flavors with subtle uses of spices and herbs. What wine will bring out the best of flavors in an Indian dish? What wine will be enhanced by the flavorful ingredients?

Chef Jay Walia
Chef Ajay Walia

Ajay Walia is the owner and chef of the Saffron restaurants in Burlingame and San Carlos. We asked Chef Walia and his team to offer suggestions.

Pairing Indian cuisine with wine – home cooking

When cooking Indian food at home

Because Indian food is so spice-forward, pairing lighter wines (sauvignon blanc, riesling, etc.) with lighter food, and heavier wines (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, etc.) with heavier dishes, will be the most complementary to each other.

Indian cuisine and wine choices
Indian cuisine and wine choices

For spicier dishes, Chef Walia tends to stick to white wines like Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio to add a refreshing, light contrast to the heat. 

One of Chef Walia’s favorite brands is Chateau Montelena because he feels like it effortlessly pairs exquisitely well with his Saffron dishes and the dishes he makes at home.

Chef Walia prefers rosé or riesling (sweeter wines in general) with his dishes because they go perfectly with many spices found in Indian cuisine. Those are his “go-to” wines, since typically Indian dishes can be heavier meals, and the wines offer a refreshing and smooth counter flavor.

Saffron’s favorite dishes paired with wine

These are some of the popular dishes at the Saffron Restaurants in Burlingame and San Mateo.

Butter Chicken – Prosecco

When in doubt, Chef Walia says to stick with the bubbles. Prosecco is low in alcohol content and lends itself to Indian dishes by serving as a palette cleanser. It goes perfectly with rich, creamy recipes; so naturally, Prosecco is the perfect pairing for SAFFRON’s modern twist on Butter Chicken.

Lahsooni Saag Paneer – Riesling

A helpful rule to consider when matching wine to an Indian recipe is: the spicier the dish, the sweeter the wine should be to counterbalance the heat. Chef Walia recommends a riesling with his Lasooni Saag Paneer to complement the heat and the mild cubes of paneer cheese, and not overpower the creamy spinach gravy.

Lahsooni Saag Panee and Riesliing
Lahsooni Saag Panee and Riesliing

Black Pepper Chicken Tikka Kabob – Merlot

A fruit-forward wine helps bring out the subtle spices in tandoor cooking. Therefore, SAFFRON’s Black Pepper Chicken Tikka Kabobs would go perfectly with a glass of Merlot or similar wine that is made from riper fruit. Wine made with ripened fruit and lower tannins is highly preferred to accompany dishes with many spices.

For more information on the two Saffron Restaurants consult the Saffron Website

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