It’s Saturday night and you're planning to have dinner with your mates at that trendy new Japanese-Indian-Vietnamese fusion restaurant (who can really keep up with these food trends?). But let's get our priorities straight, the real question is, what wines should you drink with Asian food?
We want to kill the common misconception that opting for Asian cuisine means you can't drink wine and have to drink beer or rice wine.
Read on below to avoid another night of “Sake bombs” and Soju mixers and learn how to pair wine with Thai food, Chinese food, and Vietnamese food.
Trust us, wine tipsy is less messy than sake tipsy.
If you don't know much about wine grapes, you'll probably want to first read our article on the 12 Common Wine Grapes You Should Try Next before reading on.
Japanese Food: Sushi
For most people, sushi and sashimi are the first foods that come to their mind when they think of Japanese food.
While the old masters were definitely onto something when they paired sake with the delicate textures and flavours of raw fish, certain wines pair even better because they introduce new intense flavours to the palate.
To pair white wines with sushi, keep in mind that the white wine must be clean and crisp.
Wines made from the Japanese varietal Koshu tend to follow this rule; Koshu white wines tend to have a high acidity clean and crisp flavours that perfectly match the milder flavours of Japanese cuisine. If you can't get Koshu wines, you can drink other crisp white grape varieties like Dry Riesling, Chablis, Grüner Veltliner or Muscadet.
If red wine is more up your alley, try a young Burgundy Pinot Noir.
Sushiko in Washington D.C. offers a full range of Burgundy wine with their omakase menu. Daisuke Utagawa, the owner of Sushiko said that, “the umami of the raw fish cancels out the tannins of the wine, allowing fruit flavours and subtle floral and mineral elements in the wine to flourish, while the tannins of the wine give shape to the elusive sweet-salty umami.” Sounds great to us!
Cantonese Food: Char Siu
Ah char siu! An age old favourite at the TFW shop, this popular Cantonese-style barbecued pork dish has a particular balance of sweetness and savouriness that has swooned the hearts of many travelers.
To match the powerful flavours of char siu, we need to pair it with a robust, jammy red wine.
Grenache would be a good match with char siu because of its intense fruitiness and occasional residual sweetness. Other fruity reds like Merlot, Pinotage, Zinfandel and Carménère are also great options.
Chinese Food: Peking Duck
As the saying goes: when in Beijing, eat Peking duck. We’re kidding, there’s no saying - but we highly recommend you do, unless you’re a vegetarian. With its irresistibly crispy skin and tender meat , this yummy roast duck dish is popular worldwide.
While it isn't hard to pair a wine with duck because of duck's popularity in France, we need to keep in mind that we also need to pair the wine with the flavourful sauces of Chinese cuisine.
So what wine to drink with Chinese food? A great pairing for Peking duck is Pinot Noir, because its acidity and freshness cuts through the rich fattiness of duck and the sweetness of the thick sauces.
This will help keep your palate clear as you come back for seconds. Pinot Noir is also a good match because its red fruit flavours, such as cherries and plums, pair well with the plum sauce for Peking Duck.
What a perfect match! Keep in mind that if the plum sauce is very sweet, a Pinot Noir from New Zealand would be a better choice as the fruitiness of New Zealand Pinot Noir makes the wine less likely to be overpowered by the sauce.
If opting for a white wine, Chenin Blanc or a dry Riesling can also cut through the richness of the duck and match well with the sweet plum sauce.
Korean Food: Kimchi
If you’re familiar with the Japanese comic “Kami no Shizuku” (Drops of God), you would know that Gravello, made from Gaglioppo in Calabria, Italy, pairs very well with kimchi.
Gravello’s signature spicy flavours come from the chili pepper field near its vineyards. In the towns of Calabria where where Gravello is produced, the wine is often paired with the spicy local cuisine.
When Gravello was first sold in Asia, it was marketed in Korea under the name “Kimchi Wine”. This is certainly a match made in heaven.
Top tip: Don’t forget there are different kinds of kimchi. For white radish kimchi (daikon kimchi), an off-dry white sparkling Grüner Veltliner or a German Kabinette Riesling would be amazing!
Thai Food: Pineapple Chicken Rice
The aromatic Gewürztraminer pairs well with cuisines that uses nuts, spices and exotic fruits. So it's always a great choice for pairing with Thai cuisine.
Gewürztraminer paired with the famous pineapple chicken rice is a great combination because the dish is typically loaded with a pile of nuts, dried fruit and pineapple.
Indian Food: Tandoori Chicken
Pinot Noir again?
Yes! light red wine always goes just right with poultry. And when it comes to spice and moderate spicy foods, young fruity Pinot Noir is always king.
Indian Food: Indian Curry
Indian curry is hot and spicy so we always prefer fruity and chilled wines with few tannins.
A fruity and refreshing Rosé should be the first choice for curry.
If you are visiting India, try to look for a bottle of Indian Rosé. It's amazing how perfectly local cuisine goes with local wine.
Vietnamese Food: Pho
What goes nicely with a bowl of pho?
An Old World Merlot.
Why Old World you ask? New World wines tend to be too fruity and too tannic for pho. The overpowering fruitiness can interfere with the taste of beef broth, and the tannins will amplify the spiciness of chili pepper in an unpleasant way.
Expert pho chef Didier Corlou agrees with pairing pho with Merlot, but he recommends drinking the wine before having that delicious bowl of pho.
Singaporean Food: Spicy Chili Crab
Spicy dishes from southeast Asia are growing in popularity, and you can't put the amazing spicy chilli crab in a corner.
This powerful dish with its thick spicy sauce needs a wine with acidity and sweetness to keep up with its flavours.
For this dish, whip out a German Kabinett Riesling and let the wine shine.
The residual sugar of Riesling wines balances out the spiciness of the dish and its fruity floral notes pair well with the succulent crab meat. Riseling can take this wonderful seafood dish to another level.
So next time, whether you're turning it up with your friends with local takeaway or having a romantic date night at a fancy restaurant, don’t be afraid to drink wine with Asian cuisines and use our advice above.
Do you have other dishes we didn’t mention? We’d love to hear your pairings below!
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