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China’s Trickiest Seasonings Sing With Wine

Posted on | February 18, 2015 | Written by Crystal Edgar | No Comments

Chinese-New-Year-2015-28-Cool-Wallpapers-HD-1024x1024Happy National Drink Wine Day! And Happy Chinese New Year! I’d like to help you celebrate both by pairing wine with some of my favorite, emblematic Chinese dishes. For every dish, there is a wine, and there is a wine for every dish–even the dishes that feel difficult to pair. Before returning to New York City, I spent a few years in Asia, particularly in Hong Kong, drinking wine and eating local food. I’d like to share the fruits of my knowledge.

There is a complex relationship between good food and wine—one that requires knowing what’s in a dish in order to pair wine well. Determining the many layers of textures and spices Chinese dishes can be tricky, and it can be downright confusing when determining the dominant flavor in the dish. Hence, the common perception is that Chinese foods pair better with beer than wine. If you’re looking for one beverage to pair with a broad array of dishes, perhaps that’s true. However, I find the melting pot of Chinese cuisine one of the most challenging and the most fun for pairing wine.  With such a variety of tastes and flavors, the task is tricky, but certainly not impossible.

I’m highlighting some of China’s most popular dishes that are recognized throughout the world– Peking Duck, Sweet & Sour Pork, Beggar’s Chicken, Dong Po Pork and Black Pepper Beef.

Following on my last blog post on dim sum pairing, I’ll follow the same rules in considering the key flavors and intensities of each dish in order to solve the question of balance.


Peking Duck – Beijing

Whole duck marinated with a mixture of spices usually containing cinnamon, star anise, sugar, clove and fennel seeds (as one would expect every chef has their secret recipe). The duck is then carefully carved, wrapped in a thin flour pancake with fresh spring onion and topped with a sweet plum sauce.

Best Pairings:

I find that slightly oxidized and or fortified wines work very well with the sweet flavors and richness in the dish

-Amontillado Sherry, Spain

-Bual Madeira, Portugal

-Huang Jiu (Chinese Yellow Wine), China


Beggar’s Chicken – Beijing

Whole chicken marinated with soy sauce, ginger onion and sesame oil and stuffed with a mixture of cabbage, pork, ginger, garlic, mushrooms and onion. The bird is then wrapped in lotus leaves and packed with clay before baking.

Best Pairings:

This dish has lovely aromatics so I find pairing a medium to full-bodied white wine with similarly enticing aromas and flavors the best bet.

-Condrieu (Viognier), France

-Torrontes, Argentina

-Dry Muscat, Alsace, France

-Pinot Gris, Oregon, USA


Sweet & Sour Pork – Guangdong

Bite-sized pork cubes breaded in potato starch and deep-fried, the sauce consists of sugar, vinegar, pineapple, bell pepper, tomato and onion.

Best Pairings:

This is a very tricky dish due to the cloying sweetness from the sugar and pineapple and the tart, sour notes from the tomato and vinegar. Choose a wine that matches the intensity of sweet and sour nuances; just remember that the wine MUST be sweeter than the dish.

-Demi Sec, Champagne, France

-Plum Wine or Umeshu (plum liquer), Japan

-Picolit, Italy

– Quarts-de-chaume, Loire, France


Dong Po Pork – Hangzhou

Rice wine braised pork belly with ginger, garlic, soy sauce and scallions served with sweet flour pancakes.

Best Pairings:

This is a very rich dish with thick gravy-like sauce. The key here is either to contrast the heaviness with a bold bubbly or match the intensity with a rich, fruit driven gamey red.

-Brut Rose, California, USA

-Sparkling Shiraz, Australia

-Tannat, Uruguay (dry)

-Amarone, Italy

-Madiran, France


Black Pepper Beef – Guangdong

Sliced beef with a mixture of rice wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, onion, ginger and black pepper

This is a moderately rich dish that needs a bright, bold red with good acidity but a bit of spice that will match or surpass the poke of the black pepper.

-Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Italy

-Garnacha, Spain

-Shiraz, Australia

-Syrah, Rhone Valley, France

-Cabernet Gernischt, China


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