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D-Harmony: Dim Sum And Wine Pairings

Posted on | March 16, 2012 | Written by Crystal Edgar | 3 Comments

Gone are the days when white wine is strictly with fish and red wine with red meat. The rule of thumb has now become passé, given the variety of wine that available in the market, the assortment of food, and the increasing number of wine enthusiasts around the world. One needn’t follow a list of rules to find a great match; instead, simply strive for balance. One component or flavor in a dish or wine should not overpower its partner; instead, the two should complement each other and highlight each other’s best qualities or components. The more ingredients and flavor components incorporated in a dish make the task of pairing wine more of a challenge. Chinese food, given its many spices, flavors and textures throws us wine folk a curve ball and requires more thought and creativity in determining which wine may best partner the dish.

One of my favorite pairing challenges is over dim sum, otherwise known as Chinese brunch or tapas. Dim Sum consists of a variety of hot and cold dishes in bit size quantities and, on occasion is delivered to the table in a special trolley. Dim Sum literally translates to “to touch the heart” originally created to accompany tea drinking. As the culinary world has evolved so has dim sum, which now covers a wide realm of gastronomic delights. Some of the most popular dishes are Char Siu Bao or steamed barbecued pork buns, Har Gau (steamed shrimp dumplings), Shu Mai (steamed pork and shrimp dumplings), Fung Zao (steamed chicken feet), Zhong Zi (lotus leaf wrapped glutinous rice parcels) and Dan Tat (egg custard tarts).  Although there are many more dishes, these mentioned are staples and must be on every dim sum menu.

In order to create a great pairing, one must first dissect a dish and analyze each component – protein or main component, cooking method and sauce. Wine pairings can either complement flavors in a dish, pulling out similar flavor characteristics found in the wine (braised lamb shank with a big rustic red) or contrast a dish, using opposite flavors or textures to balance out the flavors (smoked mackerel with an off dry white wine). A few added pointers – when chili or pungent spice is present choose something off dry or fruity (avoid anything tannic). With desserts or sweet dishes, the wine must be sweeter than the dish otherwise the wine will appear bitter. Master these few things and the sport of pairing will become all the more enjoyable and fun!

Going back to the lazy Susan, below are some of my favorite dim sum pairings enjoyed over a few indulgent food adventures in Hong Kong.

Har Gau – Steamed shrimp dumplings (steamed shrimp, rice paper wrapper)

 Crisp, light white wine

Sparkling wine

Muscadet – France

Sauvignon Blanc – France, Italy

Pinot Grigio – Italy

Albariño – Spain


Shu Mai – Steamed pork and shrimp dumplings (steamed pork and shrimp, egg and rice wrapper) 

Medium-bodied white wine

Sparkling Wine

Marsanne or Rousanne – France

Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon – France

Arneis – Italy

Ribolla Gialla – Italy, Slovenia or Switzerland


Fung Zao Steamed Chicken feet (chicken feet with oyster sauce and garlic)

 Full-bodied fruity white wine

New World Chardonnay or Viognier

Gewurztraminer – France

Pinot Gris – France, USA or Australia


Zhong Zi – Steamed glutenous rice wrapped in a lotus leaf (braised pork, egg yolk, sticky rice, soy, garlic)

Full bodied white or fruity rose wine

New World Chardonnay or Viognier

Demi Sec Sparkling wine

Rose – USA, Australia or Greece


Char Siu Bao – Barbecued pork buns (braised pork, slightly sweet sauce)

 Fruity, red wine

Lambrusco – Italy

Xinomavro – Greece

Kavaklidere – Turkey


Dan Tat – Egg custard tarts (slightly sweet egg custard, pie crust)

Fruity or slightly sweet white

Demi Sec Sparkling Wine


Picolit – Italy

Late Harvest Chardonnay – California

Muscat de Beaumes de Venise


3 Responses to “D-Harmony: Dim Sum And Wine Pairings”

  1. D-Harmony: Dim Sum And Wine Pairings : Inside IWM | Which Wine Is Sweet
    March 17th, 2012 @ 7:40 am

    […] Wine. Sauternes. Picolit – Italy. Late Harvest Chardonnay – … … See more here: D-Harmony: Dim Sum And Wine Pairings : Inside IWM ← How to Make the Perfect Wine Choice for Your Meal Wine vs. Beer: The Debate […]

  2. Josh
    March 19th, 2012 @ 10:36 am

    I need a wallet size copy of this to carry around Hong Kong. Thank you Edgar

  3. Henry Hwu
    March 21st, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

    Crystal, this article is quite thought provoking. My family has eaten these dim sum dishes for a long time but your pairing suggestions will help make our dim sum outings more … intellectual. We generally just eat the dishes without thinking much about why we like dim sum; but with the wines, and their associated flavors and taste profiles, they force us to assess the different elements of dim sum and perhaps answer why we find dim sum so fun! Thank you.

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