Oh how we love our Chinese food! And until recently, Chinese food was the end all and be all. But now, our palates have expanded (as have our bellies… ok, mine. Perhaps not so much the other Mee’s), and we’ve learned about the great Ancient Chinese invention of alcohol, and how pairing a fine glass of wine can totally accentuate the flavors of the Chinese food that we love.
We’ve been schooled on some of the principles of pairing wine and Chinese food, and now we want to share that knowledge with you.
When matching any food with wine, there are several basic rules to keep in mind:
- Similar foods and wines pair well. A delicate dish, for example, demands a delicate, light-bodied wine, and a hearty, rib-warming meal needs a rich, powerful, full-bodied wine.
- Contrasting foods and wines can also be good partners, although these matches are trickier. I have enough trouble matching ties with shirts, so I tend to stick more with the basic rules of wine pairing.
- Food and wine should complement, rather than overpower, each other. You do not want a wine that will overwhelm a dish; you want one that will stand up to it.
- Fiery dishes are best with wines that are low in tannins and alcohol, which fan the flames, and with off-dry (slightly sweet) and sweet wines, which tone them down.
- In general, the lower the alcohol content, the more you have to drink. Errr, ummm, I meant, the sweeter the wine.
- If beer goes well with a dish, sparkling wine will too.
- Here is a good rule of thumb: the milder the dish the drier the wine; the spicier, the fruitier; the hotter, the sweeter.
Now, let’s talk specifics in regards to pairing Chinese food with wines.
SOME GENERAL WINE PAIRINGS by CHINESE CUISINE:
- Cantonese cuisine has some sweetness, is not very spicy, has many dishes that are sweet-and-sour, uses fermented black beans and/or soy sauce and is salty. Try sparkling, Pinot Blanc or Riesling (especially for seafood), Pinot Gris, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer with roasted meats and poultry, and rosé.
- Szechuan foods are spicy, use hot-and-sour sauces, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger and garlic. Pair with sparkling wine, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, Moscato d’Asti, rosé and Beaujolais.
- Hunan foods go well with sparkling wines, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Beaujolais.
- Shanghainese foods partner well with Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer.
SPECIFIC CHINESE FOOD and WINE PAIRING SUGGESTIONS:
- Barbecued Spare Ribs: sparkling wine, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Albariño, rosé
- Chicken with Cashews: Gewürztraminer
- Chicken Chow Mein: sparkling wine
- Deep-fried dishes: sparkling wine
- Dim Sum: sparkling wine, Riesling
- General Tso’s Chicken: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Blanc, rosé
- Hot Pepper Prawns: sparkling wine, Viognier
- Kung Pao Chicken: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Albariño
- Lobster Cantonese: white Burgundy
- Lobster with Ginger and Scallion Sauce: white Burgundy
- Minced Squab with Hoisin Sauce: Zinfandel
- Mu Shu Chicken: sparkling wine, Pinot Noir
- Mu Shu Pork: Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, rosé
- Noodles with Sesame Sauce: Gewürztraminer
- Orange-flavor Beef: Riesling
- Peking Duck: Pinot Gris, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir
- Roast Duck: Pinot Noir
- Salt-and-pepper Shrimp, Salt-and-pepper Squid: sparkling wine
- Sesame Chicken: Pinot Grigio, Riesling
- Shellfish dishes: sparkling wine, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Albariño
- Singapore-style Noodles: Sauvignon blanc, rosé
- Soup Dumplings: sparkling wine
- Spring Rolls and Egg Rolls: sparkling wine, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, rosé
- Stir-fry Chicken and Vegetables: Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer
- Sweet and Sour Pork: Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer, rosé
- Tea-smoked Duck: Pinot Noir
- Twice-cooked Pork: sparkling wine, Riesling, Chenin Blanc, Albariño, Pinot Noir
What other dishes would you like wine recommendations for?
Humbly submitted for your consumption,
—Mee Magnum (“Chop! Chop!”)