This was one of the five different vegetarian curries we had the pleasure of trying at Indochine restaurant on the Delaire Graff Wine Estate. The whole experience was out of this world but this curry was the best I have ever had. And I’ve had a lot. I’d even go so far as to say it is one of the best dishes I have ever tried from anywhere in the world.
It’s unusual, elegant, fragrant, well-balanced, exotic, beautiful and totally delicious. It’s not actually on the menu, the chef on the evening that we were there, Virgil prepared a special selection of vegetarian curries for us to try. If anyone is listening from Indochine, you should definitely put it on your menu. It is really fantastic.
The drive up to the Delaire Graff Wine Estate has stunning views of the surrounding mountains and when you drive up through the shady tree-lined drive to see the well-manicured lawns and row upon row of parallel vines, you know you have arrived somewhere special.
And if you thought that the exterior was beautiful you have to see the interior to believe it. The entrance lobby is flooded with light and filled with huge exotic flower arrangements. Bronze sculptures and water features punctuate the space, creating a modern African glass jungle.
Contributing to the theme, the lounge areas are decorated with gold and ebony pieces that transport you the colonial luxury lodge of your dreams. Or is it just me? I could definitely get used to this.
The restaurant has floor to ceiling glass doors opening out onto a terrace that takes full advantage of those spectacular views. The copper and blue theme mirrors the red earth and blue sky of the surroundings bringing the outdoors in.
The curved banquette seating, facing the view is perfect for an intimate dinner for two.
A lovely detail, they have little pots of microherbs on the tables. Should you need a little more coriander.
Let’s get onto the food. First a bamboo basket arrived filled with pickled cucumber, black rice crackers (amazing), sweet potato crisps and a trio of sauces to go with them. Passionfruit, cucumber and pineapple & chilli. We chose a bottle of the Delaire Sauvignon Blanc as recommended by our excellent waiter. It had a hint of passionfruit which made it the perfect wine pairing with the spicy, fragrant dishes to come.
The amuse bouche was a little mouthful of tofu, mushroom, edamame and coconut sauce. Beautifully presented on a piece of slate. You may have noticed that I am plating some of my food on a slate tile at the moment. This is where the inspiration came from.
Our starter was an Indian Spiced Makhani Tofu Croquette, cinnamon confit tomatoes, pickled root vegetables, raita, beet leaves and tomato chutney. Presented on a slate tile again. You can see how all the colours stand out so beautifully.
We also ordered a Green Mango Salad with lime juice, chilli, ginger, coriander, mint. This classic Asian dish is refreshing, light, crisp and fresh. It makes a great side dish because of the contrast in textures. The cold crunch of the unripe mango with the hot spicy sauces of the curries. You can see why it is a classic all over Asia.
We were then presented with a palate cleanser. Apple and Ginger Sorbet with a sake shot. Oh alright then.
The sous chef Virgil came out with our main courses to explain the selection of curries he had made for us.
Tapioca Pearls with Curried Squash and Tofu Tom Yam, never has tapioca tasted so good or looked so beautiful.
Thai Green Pak Choi Curry with broccoli, sugar snaps, edamame, spring onions, light, fragrant and spicy
Melon Coconut Curry with lemongrass, ginger, coriander, chilli and fresh mint. Mind blowing honestly.
Lychee Red Curry with pickled cabbage, coconut, ginger and sprouts. This fruit in curry thing is going to catch on.
Burmese Aubergine Curry, tomato, garlic, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Aromatic and spicy.
For dessert we ordered the Trio of Creme Brulee because why wouldn’t you?
White Chocolate & Chilli, Ginger & Lime, Coconut. Heaven on a plate.
This restaurant has some of the best food I have ever tasted. It is daring, exquisite and mouth-wateringly good. If you live in SA and you haven’t been, you need to go. Exceptional food and service in luxurious surroundings. Go on, treat yourself you know you want to. For more details and menus check out their website here.
For those of you that don’t live in South Africa, you need to try this recipe. And if you’re saying “Eww melon in curry, that’s gross” you’re just going to have to trust me on this one. The cool sweetness with the spicy, aromatic sauce is an unbelieveable combination that deserves some recognition. Do it.
You will have to make your own curry paste and coriander puree but don’t let that put you off it is not difficult and it is so worth it. You will also need to get a melon baller if you haven’t already got one leftover from the Seventies. You can serve it with plain rice or some thick rice (stick) noodles like I did.
Indochine Melon Coconut Curry with Rice Noodles
Serves 4, Vegan, Gluten-free. Adapted from the Indochine recipe
Prep time: 25 mins Cooking time: 20 mins
For the curry paste:
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 cardamom pod
- 5 white peppercorns
- 1 pinch grated nutmeg
- 4 small green chillies, deseeded and chopped (depending on the chilli)
- 1 tbsp finely chopped/minced lemongrass
- 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
- 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp garlic (about 3 cloves) finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp lime/lemon zest
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp finely chopped coriander stalks
- a big pinch of salt
Blend everything together in a mortar and pestle or food processor until you get a smooth- ish paste. Set aside.
For the Coriander Puree:
- a bunch of fresh coriander leaves(or a mix of coriander & basil), roughly chopped
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
- 1 bowl of iced water
Bring a pot of water to the boil and add the bicarb. Plunge the coriander into the hot water and leave until the water starts to turn green. Drain off most of the water and blend to a smooth puree in a measuring jug. Cool down by putting the measuring jug in the iced water.
For the Curry:
You can use which ever melon is available, two different colours is nice.
- about 500 gr (rind on weight) watermelon
- about 500 gr (rind on weight) green melon
- 2 cans coconut milk (do not shake before opening), I used low-fat
- 2 tsp palm sugar (or brown sugar)
- the juice of half a lemon
- coriander puree (see above) I used about 2 or 3 tbsp
- thick rice (stick) noodles for 4 people (or rice)
- fresh mint leaves, rolled up & finely shredded for garnish
- toasted coconut for garnish
- vermicelli rice noodles deep-fried for garnish (optional)
Scoop out balls of melon flesh with the melon baller but leave the excess on the rind. Scrape out the excess flesh into a food processor and blend to a smooth puree.
To a large pan over a medium high heat, add the tops of the coconut milk (the thick cream bit) and cook until bubbling and starting to reduce. Add the curry paste and stir for 3 minutes until fragrant. Add the rest of the tins of coconut milk, reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Stirring occasionally.
Cook the rice noodles according to the instructions on the packet.
Add the palm sugar, lemon juice and salt to the sauce then stir in the coriander puree and melon puree and taste. Adjust salt, lemon juice as required. Then add the melon balls, stirring to coat them in the sauce and heat through.
To make the vermicelli garnish, heat some oil in deep-frying pan until it sizzles when you test it with a dried noodle. Carefully drop a bunch of the dried rice vermicelli into the oil , it will puff up straight away. Remove immediately with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on kitchen paper.
Serve the curry over rice noodles, garnished with the shredded mint leaves, toasted coconut and fried vermicelli (if using).
Thanks Indochine for a fabulous evening and for introducing us to the genius of fruit in curry. I am desperate to try the lychee one next…