It’s that time of year again—Chinese New Year (CNY) or Spring Festival, as it is sometimes called. For those readers in Hong Kong, CNY usually signifies hopping on a plane to bask in the sun on the beaches of Bali or Phuket, or, for those whose idea of fun is to strap on a set of skis or a snowboard, it could be heading to the ski slopes of Japan, and most likely, Nisseko.
However, we must not forget the importance this 4,000-plus year festival holds for the estimated 1.5 billion people of Chinese ethnicity in the PRC (China, Hong Kong and Macau) and around the globe. That’s just under 20% of the world’s population celebrating the Year of the Pig!
Three little pigs enjoying some Pigot Noir and Swinenon Blanc - Photo Credit: gallery601.com
This year, CNY falls on February 5th. The little pig is the 12th sign of the Chinese Zodiac that represents luck, overall good fortune, wealth, honesty and general prosperity. This seems like a year to look forward to!
CNY is a time of festive red lanterns, auspicious door decorations, new clothes and haircuts, but mainly it is a time when families get together and eat, eat, eat! Many symbolic foods are eaten during the holiday—especially on New Year’s Eve—to bring good luck for the coming year.
Besides all the food that gets eaten, there needs to be sufficient beverages to wash down all the deliciousness. As a wino, I'm compelled to give you my best wine advice, but with a twist. As it is the year of the pig, I will be sharing with you the best wine and swine pairings for this CNY!
Photo Credit: Wine Enthusiast Magazine
The dumpling shape resembles old-style gold ingots/money and hence why they symbolize wealth. They say the more dumplings you eat, the more money you can make in the upcoming year! Your typical steamed dumplings are made with minced pork and chopped vegetables and dipped in a soy sauce-based chilli dip.
Pairing: Usually quite elegant and subtle in taste, dumplings would pair well with Riesling, a Pinot Gris or a new world Pinot Noir because the acidity of these varietals will complement the red chilli sauce used for dipping. The lightness of these wines will also offset the dumplings' tendency towards oiliness. Alternatively if you are a fan of bubbles, try a sparkling rosé.
Minced Pork & Vegetable Spring Rolls
The shape of spring rolls resemble golden bars which also symbolizes wealth. The typical filling is pork with chopped scallions and other vegetables.
Pairing: You want something to cut through the oiliness of the spring roll, regardless of the filling. Try to find wines that are slightly herbaceous and aromatic to mimic the fresh herbs in the rolls, and high in acidity to balance out the sauce. Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Gewürztraminer can all work very well with this dish.
Pork & Noodle Stir Fry
Photo Credit: The New York Times
Fried with oyster sauce and bok choy this simple pork & noodle stir fry dish will grant you that wish for a long and happy life. While the long uncut noodles are usually eaten during CNY, if you are in a pinch, just order any noodle dish on the menu!
Pairing: Pair this with a fruity sparkling wine. Prosecco's lemon-lime flavour is great with all types of noodles. If you are keen for a red and if the noodles contain meat like some slivers of little pig, a lighter style Burgundy Pinot Noir will work as well.
Photo Credit: Pinterest
Cantonese love their savoury turnip cake, and it is usually fried with lots of different ingredients including preserved meat and sausages made from pork and mushrooms. All of this is then topped off with a rich and flavourful XO sauce, making for the perfect dish any time of the year!
Pairing: Because of its rich, deep flavour of the XO sauce, a medium-bodied red such as New Zealand Pinot Noir, Italian Montalcino or a rich white Chardonnay would go well.
Roasted Suckling Pig
Juicy, succulent roasted little pig is my favourite - Photo Credit: reddit.com
Roasted suckling pig is a popular choice for celebrations, where the pig represents purity, and the red colour of the crackling is said to bring good luck. It really is a treat you'll never forget - the pig is stuffed with a fragrant marinade and the skin coated in a vinegar-based seasoning that gives it a lovely crispy crunch.
Pairing: Both white and red wines from the Rhone Valley fair well with this dish. Condrieu (Viognier) has delicate flavours of peach and fresh flowers followed by a rich full palate that balances the sweetness of the sucking pig. A Rhone red, will soak up all the wonderful fats and flavours. Rhone reds also have enough tannins to marry with the richness of the pork and play well with the smokey charred flavours. If in doubt and can't get your hands on any Rhone Valley wines, then your safest bet, is a fresh, crispy, dry and flavoursome rosé.
Did you know that pork is the most consumed meat in the world? And that China has the world's largest population of pigs? It goes to show why the pig is of utmost importance to the Chinese Zodiac as it is believed that pigs have a beautiful personality and are blessed with good fortune in life.
Have a wonderful CNY and Kung Hei Fat Choi!