Friday, June 8, 2012

wines for a lot of sri lankan food

note: many people seem to find this page when they're looking for wines to go with sri lankan food. we didn't do such a great job, what with that 16.3% verdelho. better would have been some low-alcohol wines, a little off-dry with good acid: kabinett rieslings (perhaps an urziger wurzgarten), crisp gruner veltliners from austria, and possibly even a perfectly clean chenin from the coteaux du vendomois. northern european rose also would work. it occurs to me that sri lankan food particularly—and indian food generally—are about the only things i wouldn't drink sherry with.

i was going to not write about beverages non-rigorously consumed, but why succumb to this variety of pettifoggery? so.

last night, we went again to biryani park, malden's temple of sri lankan food concealed in back of a grocery store. you know you're close when you pass the giant ice cream cone outside the everett dairy maid, a soft-serve hut that appears to date from at least the 1960s.

prices appear surprisingly high, but the food is honest and good and the meats are carefully sourced (and halal too, if you care about that kind of thing). various reviewers with misplaced priorities grumble about long waits for food. good food takes time; eat with interesting people you like. we had our act together enough that i finally got a chance to see a lamprais IRL (the lampraises sit, tantalising, in a section of the menu headed "24 hour advance notice required"). the chef had just returned late in the afternoon from portland and had come straight from the airport to make it.

but what is a lamprais? wonder no more: at least at biryani park, the fish lamprais is saffron rice, fried spiced potato cutlets, a catfish curry, fried hardboiled egg, a sweet condiment of caramelised red onion and maybe dates, fried eggplant, and fried ash plantains. these items are purportedly baked together in a banana leaf but the cutlets were so crisp that they might have been added after. (ideas do get around: cutlets = frikkadels = frikadeller)

we got other stuff too. a plate of coconut rice with scattered shreds of toasted coconut and green chili, each grain distinct. a bunch of bone-in goat cubes stir-fried in a vinegary, slightly mustardy sauce with curry leaves and whole chilies covered in a pile of raw white onion shavings. a pile of spiced potato, chutneys, nuts, and probably a lot more stuff wrapped up in a crisp rice and semolina dosa was too tasty to analyse and deconstruct. a jaggery-flavoured pudding with candles in it for the birthday girl. a dense, mildly sweet, brilliant pistachio khulfi. but the roti kotthu was the best thing ever: pieces of torn-up roti fried with chicken, mixed vegetable shreds (carrots, onions, etc) and curry leaf, then packed into a bowl and unmoulded for service. not pretty to look at but viscerally satisfying and deeply savoury. it vanished fast.

spice, fat, flavour on the table. what to drink? we surreptitiously consumed a scholium project naucratis (2008; 16.3% alcohol, flabby and green-tasting), a rooster hill gewurtztraminer (2010; off-dry, juicily tropical), and a domain lafond rosé (2010; strawberries, black cherries, exactly what you'd expect and perfect). what with everything else going on, the wines were not the main point. and that, in the end, is ok.

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