The hot hot Sriracha martini

It’s a thing now.
IMG_9002-0.JPG
What do Thais and Texans have in common? A penchant for spicy food.

I have a good friend, currently in Texas, who recently announced his addiction to Sriracha hot chilli sauce, a fiery concoction from Thailand.

A US national and an Arabist, he has a very interesting career and academic background, with some very intriguing (and often hilarious) tales from London and the Middle East. Martinis are the best accompaniment to international storytelling so he is therefore a perfect martini guest.

IMG_9007.JPG
I remarked that I should try and make a martini out of the sauce for him. I have already talked about my love of Sri Lanka so it should come as no surprise that I love spicy food, while I have previously made spicy martinis here, here and here. However, I think my friend was appalled at the suggestion of a Sriracha martini. And perhaps rightly so: you shouldn’t mess with a classic, let alone two.

Nonetheless, I persevered, and I was pretty happy the first time round.

IMG_8991.JPG
– Take a strip of lemon peel and squeeze the oil out of it into a chilled martini glass.
– Add a measure of sweet vermouth
– Add a dash of Sriracha hot sauce (or to taste – it’s spicy!)
– mix the two together, then top up with chilled gin or vodka
– stir the drink with the lemon peel and add it as a garnish (you might want to shape it with a knife so it looks neater).

IMG_9004.JPG
It’s very spicy, with a hint of lemon, and is good for whetting the appetite.

IMG_8995.JPG
As far as accompaniments are concerned this martini goes very well with seafood. I would recommend chilled oysters, prawns or salmon as an accompaniment, possibly even with avocado. I think the cool, oily/fatty fish compliments the fiery drink. Here I served chilled king prawns on a bed of lettuce with Peking duck sauce with sesame seeds. I’m sure there are more sophisticated accompaniments than something I poured out from a jar but I just got home from work and wasn’t intent on doing anything more fancy. I also served some spicy broad beans as well.

IMG_9006.JPG
Another new snack I recently found in an Asian supermarket was roasted salted soy beans which was a nice, non-spicy accompaniment for the martini.

This drink would also be a good aperitif before some Thai food.

IMG_9028.JPG
You might even want to drink it while watching a live Thai dancing performance.

In fact, if you drink a few of them you could probably join in.

Chon Gow!

Dishoom could pack a punch: 3.5/5

‘Dishoom’ is a traditional Bollywood onomatopoeic word (like ‘Kapow!’) used to express the noise of someone getting punched or slapped in an old film or comic book.

In London, Dishoom is a Shoreditch eatery inspired by Mumbai cafe culture. It is easily identified by the queue outside its doors most evenings.

Once again, from a martini perspective this good bar/restaurant loses points for its simple failure to keep its gin and glasses in the freezer.

IMG_8570.JPG
Otherwise, however, it gets points for its evocative, eccentric decor, attentive service and excellent array of food. Martinis probably aren’t their priority, but if they wanted to hit the full 5/5 rating I would recommend that they focus on the temperature of the drink, whilst serving them with a small selection of some of their fantastic nibbles (such as their delicious battered okra). Maybe they could try out the Raitini as well.

IMG_8561.JPG
Recycled cardboard menus, vintage posters and some other quirky features made it an interesting experience to dine there. I would normally refuse to queue for half an hour to enter a restaurant but at Dishoom they serve you warm masala chai while you wait, which is a nice touch, especially in winter.

IMG_8569.PNG
The actual cocktail making was also very impressive. I locked eyes with a Sri Lankan inspired Arrack-based drink on the menu (the Toddy Tapper) and asked which brand of Arrack they were using. The barman didn’t know but got out the bottle for me to read the label. I didn’t recognise the brand either. It looked very modern, whereas most of the (many) bottles of Arrack I’ve drunk in my lifetime have had very old-fashioned labels.

Anyway, the barman set fire to some alcohol and fennel seeds in a glass to release the flavour before adding them to my drink. This was visually impressive as you can see from the above photograph taken by my friend. Of course, we also ordered a martini to try.

The food was tasty, the service good and fast (after the queueing at least) and the atmosphere was pleasant. I would definitely recommend giving it a try, but be sure to wear enough warm clothing to queue outside.

The Raitini (cucumber raita martini)

What kind of martini should you serve before a curry? This one.

IMG_7250-0.PNG
Indian summer? No, just a British one.

As much as I love a classic gin martini, sometimes it can leave your mouth just a little too raw before you eat a fiery dish, so I started to contemplate an alternative, something with less alcohol but more flavour to compliment the curry.

Of course, South Asia presents us with a wonderful array of flavours to play with, but at risk of creating something some people in the region might consider ‘insipid’ I choose fairly mild flavours to create a cooling and refreshing martini, based on mint and cucumber yoghurt raita, but without the yoghurt. Imagine a salt lassi with alcohol instead of dairy products.

IMG_7207.JPG
The Raitini is born.

To serve two of these, take half a cucumber and grate it. I use a plastic Japanese grater I found on the internet. I have seen people use it for grating daikon/mooli but it’s perfect for this task as well.

IMG_7166.PNG

Separate the juice from the pulp. Pour the juice into a glass and put the pulp into a bowl.

Next, peel a knob of ginger.

IMG_7167.PNG

I was taught this peeling technique by a Sri Lankan friend. Use a teaspoon to scrape off the skin. It’s really fast and easy and you barely lose any of the juicy flesh underneath.

Next, grate the ginger in the same way as the cucumber. Really squeeze the ginger pulp to get as much juice out as possible, then discard the pulp. Pour the juice into the same glass as the cucumber juice. This adds a little bit of fire to the martini. If you really want to give it some kick you could grate in some chilli as well but personally I would save your spice for the meal itself. The drink should be cooling so as to contrast it.

Take a handful of mint leaves and chop then finely then add them to the cucumber and ginger juice. If you don’t have mint leaves you can substitute this with a teaspoon of mint sauce.

With the cucumber pulp that you separated earlier, you can now make an actual raita to serve with your curry.

IMG_7168.PNG

Mix it with a few tablespoons of natural yoghurt and add a generous handful of chopped mint leaves (or a teaspoon or two or mint sauce) and you’re good to go.

Back to the martini, take a martini glass, add 1 – 1.5 parts vermouth, then 2 parts of the cucumber juice and stir. Top up with gin (about 2 parts), stir again and garnish with a slice of cucumber.

IMG_7170.PNG

Fit for Aishwarya ‘Raitini’ Rai perhaps?

You can also use vodka for this recipe but I would recommend gin for those sentimental over the days of the British Raj. Bombay Sapphire would be a good choice for obvious reasons. Hendricks gin also goes very well with cucumber.

IMG_7200.JPG

I predictably served these latest martinis with Bombay mix and pistachio nuts but there is an array of bites that could accompany these drinks: bhajis, samosa and poppadoms are easy to get hold of but there are loads of possibilities. I would be interested to hear other people’s suggestions.

IMG_7213.JPG

And here’s the curry I served afterwards: marinated tandoori chicken with salad and grilled broccoli and a generous side helping of cooling raita made with the pulp of the grated cucumber.