Tired of Peanuts? Pair These Foods With These 5 Local Tipples

While the alcohol is the star at any drinking table, it is an undeniable fact that food pairings are equally important for local liquors. Being made from scratch and handmade, some of these drinks can knock you out flat even before you have the chance to down the second drink. These drinks are restricted by geography and sometimes laws, like Feni, and cannot be found anywhere else but their home, where they are made. 

Given these drinks are ‘local’, it is thus expected that you will partake in trying out these liquors in the places they came from. The best kind of pairing is scavenging for local food; iconic pairings include Bebinca with Feni, Goa’s cashew liquor, and Beef Olthiyadu with Kerala’s toddy. Here are some more suggestions: 

1. Poro Apong

This is one of the best fermented rice beers in Northeast India, prepared by the Mising community in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. It is a long process to make this drink, which, if you can witness it, would be a once-in-a lifetime experience with the local community who make it. A typical winter drink, Poro Apong or Sai Mod has become an indispensable part of their religious festivities, and their social life weaving itself into their cultural fabric. These food pairings work best for this strong drink, that will get you drunk after two pegs:

- Smoked Meats: Pair Poro with smoked meats like smoked sausages, smoked ham, or smoked duck. The smoky flavours complement the robustness of the drink.

Roasted Nuts: Enjoy Poro with a variety of roasted nuts such as almonds, cashews, or peanuts. The nuttiness and crunchiness of the nuts provide a nice contrast to the drink.

- Grilled Vegetables: Try grilled vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, or eggplant alongside Poro. The smoky and charred flavours of the vegetables complement the drink's profile.

2. Toddy

Kerala’s trademark local liquor translated means palm wine which has a certain sweetness to it. You are encouraged to visit the state when the toddy tappers attach clay pots to palm trees to collect the tree sap. The sap is extracted from an unopened inflorescence of the tree. Some of the pots that collect this sap are taken down, and others are left to ferment. These are then sold in licenced toddy shops. 

- Beef Olthiyadu: A beef dry roast dish from the coastal state, this is the best pairing with the toddy. 

- Roasted peanuts: Toddy has a mild, sweet flavour that would complement roasted and salted peanuts well. The crunch of the peanuts would cut through the drink's subtle sweetness.

- Dried fish: Since toddy is made from palm trees, dried fish snacks that are commonly found in coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala would make a nice pairing. The saltiness of the fish pairs well with the drink. 

- Banana chips: Fried banana chips have a subtle sweet and salty flavour that would balance nicely with toddy. They are also a popular snack in South India.

- Roasted chickpeas: Chickpeas roasted with spices like cumin and chilli powder are nutritious and packed with flavour.

3. Feni

Goa is famous for its fermented cashew drink. If stronger drinks are not up your alley, try the coconut Feni, which has a hint of sweetness, because the cashew Feni is quite strong. Feni is prohibited from being sold outside Goa, so when you are in Goa, go for the local liquor instead of your regular tipples. Here are some food pairing suggestions for Feni:

- Bebinca: Since Feni is made from cashews, the trademark bebinca, a layered dessert, makes a great pairing. It’s flavour complements the drink.

- Poi: This classic Goan bread makes for a perfect snack to have with Feni. 

- Fish fry or seafood: Lightly cooked and fried fish or seafood works well due to their salty flavours cutting through the alcohol.

- Chicken xacuti: This spicy coconut chicken curry from Goa pairs beautifully with Feni.

4. Mahua

Mahua is a local liquor made from the flowers of the Mahua tree. It is quite popular in the states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The flowers are collected, dried, and fermented to produce this indigenous drink. Mahua has an alcohol content between 30-40 percent and has a sweet, flowery taste. So the next time you visit either state, try this local brew. Some dry food pairings for Mahua:

- Roasted chana or chiwda: Roasted and spiced chickpeas or rice puffs cut the sweetness of Mahua nicely. 

- Bhujia: This spicy fried snack made with sev, nuts, and spices soaks up the alcohol.

- Dhuska: These flatbreads from MP are delicious to nibble on with Mahua.

- Murmura ladoo: These sweet balls made with puffed rice and jaggery balance the flavours.

5. Kesar Kasturi

Saffron, or kesar is the prime ingredient of this drink and is rumoured to have once been made for the Maharajas of the state to keep them buzzed. It contains 21 spices that is said to rival Scotch and is well-worth a try the next time you are in Rajasthan. Since Kesar Katuri has warming spices, dry fruits, and nuts, foods that are similarly hearty yet complement the flavours would make for ideal pairings. Here are some pairing suggestions for this spicy blend: 

- Dry fruits: Almonds, cashews pistachios, walnuts, figs and apricots would pair well as they are ingredients in the drink. You could serve them roasted or candied.

- Crackers/bread: Whole grain crackers or breads provide substance to enjoy the drink. Fruit and nut bread would be ideal.

- Chips: The regular potato chips available in local shops, or multigrain chips offer salty bites to cut through the richness. 

Whether it’s the robust Poro Apong with smoked meats in Assam or Kesar Kasturi's warming spices in Rajasthan, these local liquors offer an intimate glimpse into the lives and flavours of local communities. More than just a drink, they represent shared histories, rituals, and ways of life that have been passed down through generations. Try these food pairings the next time you are in the homes of these tipples.