Wine & Asian Food Pairing

I love wine and do drink from time to time. The best wine drinking experience for me was at Les Jardin des Sens – my first ever dining experience at a Michelin-star restaurant. Each dish on the menu came with nicely paired wine from wine regions all over in France! Ever since this experience, I have been thinking what a great knowledge it is to be able to pair wine to a dish. It’s quite common to pair wine to Western cuisine. But, what about Asian cuisine?

Today, I am very happy to introduce Andrew from Spittoon Extra to share with us his recent experience of pairing wine with Asian dishes. Andrew is a member of the prestigious UK based Circle of Wine Writers and WSET Diploma holder. He is also a regular contributor to Guardian Word of Mouth on wine and food writings.

It’s a long held maxim – Gewürztraminer goes with oriental food. But its rubbish and no more helpful than many a bottles back label pronouncements that this wine is ‘good with fish’ or ‘try with fruity desserts’.

Take the dessert wine. To get the food and the drink to balance you have to make sure the wine is sweeter than the dessert. With fish or steak or kangaroo you have to consider the sauce or preparation. It’s the same with Oriental food. Is a tempura encased prawn going to be the same as a fiery Sichuan dish? No.

The reason the thoughtless perpetuate the Gewurz with Chinese (or whatever) myth is the inherent flavours in the wine. Gingery, sweetly spicy, often off-dry. Ginger and sweet and sour are main proponents in Oriental foods therefore they should work.

Not many people want to go to the expense, financially and time-wise, in finding the perfect match. Such exercises are best left to the treasured, expensive bottles of wine. For a mid-week meal with a cheapish bottle you don’t want to have to think too hard.

I recently discovered a reasonably priced bottle of Gewurztraminer (£4.99ish in the UK), Espiritu De Chile Gewurztraminer 2007, Central Valley, Chile that was fine. Not the best bottle of Gewurtz in the world but offering the basics of the grape (that spicy, rose-floralness that makes the grape so unique) and pondered what food to serve with it with the aim of testing the oriental food angle.

My recent culinary exploits include Penang Noodle Soup and Braised Chicken in White Gravy (Opor Ayam) neither I thought would work that well with the wine.

The wines producers supplied a recipe for me, Thai-Spiced Chicken Salad, and you know what? It worked a treat with the wine. It is not a ‘proper’ Thai dish, only using some Thai Chili Paste as a flavouring. The heat wasn’t too intense and managed to meld nicely with the wine. A joy in fact.

While western cuisine and wine go hand in hand – they have grown together since time immemorial after-all, the various cuisines of the East need more explorations for decent partnerships to be found. This was one of them!

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Espiritu de Chile Gewurztraminer 2007

Thai-Spiced Chicken Salad

Yield: 2 persons

Ingredients:

2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp thai red chilli paste
4 tbsp mayonnaise
2 spring onions, finely chopped
200g cooked chicken strips
2 sticks celery, chopped
1 green apple, peeled and sliced
quarter savoy cabbage, sliced
2 tomatoes, cut into wedges
salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Stir together the first four ingredients. Fold in the celery and apple. Season with salt and pepper

2. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours to allow the flavours to blend. Place the cabbage on a plate top with the celery/apple mix and place chicken on top. Garnish with the tomato wedges.