Unlike Western meals, which are served in prescribed order and arrive in multiple courses, the challenge of pairing wines with Asian meals is that food comes all at once, they mix seafoods with beef and chicken, and they run the gamut from sweet and sour to kicky, spicy heat.
But in advance of Vinexpo, a major wine trade fair set to open in Hong Kong this week, wine experts and sommeliers offer a few tips on how to heighten a Chinese meal with the right glass of vino.
After testing out recipes and wine pairings for a month before the grand opening of Shang Palace restaurant in Paris, sommelier Cédric Maupoint created a wine list that includes Rieslings from the Alsace region of France, white wines from Burgundy and red wines from Bordeaux, he told Relaxnews. Shang Palace earned its first Michelin star this year and is helmed by Cantonese chef Frank Xu in the luxurious Shangri-La Hotel.
With dim sum as a specialty, Maupoint recommends pairing dishes with a dry white Riesling or a Chablis from Vincent Dauvissat.
For kickier dishes from the Szechuan region where liberal amounts of garlic, ginger, and Szechuan peppercorns are used, Maupoint suggests a young Burgundy like Vosne Romanée from David Duband, or a Châteauneuf du Pape from Clos Du Caillou.
Meanwhile, Singapore-based Decanter wine columnist Poh Tiong, author of 108 Great Chinese Dishes Paired, suggests staying with dry to off-dry Rieslings, dry to demi-sec Chenin blancs, or Hunger Valley Semillons if dishes are heavy on aromatics like chili pepper, lemongrass, cilantro and garlic.
And Jeannie Cho Lee, author of Mastering Wine for the Asian Palate, offers a few general guidelines on her website which suggests pairing sour flavors like tamarind and green mangoes with crisp, white or medium-bodied red wines with high acidity, for example.
Salty dishes dominated by soy, oyster or bean paste, meanwhile, go well with either white or red wines with soft tannins, while dishes made with fermented beans, mushrooms or dried, cured meats that impart umami are best paired with mature wines with ‘well-knit' tannins and restrained fruit character.
Lee is the first person of Asian descent to be awarded the Master of Wine title and writes Asianpalate.com.