Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sichuan Spices Excursion Part 2 of 2 - Pio Delle Venezie 2010 Pinot Noir from Italy


To complement the various styles of Sichuan dishes I am going to introduce, I will recommend two wines - one red and one white.  The Italian Pio Delle Venezie Pinot Noir is medium-bodied and lightly minty which can deal with the complexity of red and white meats in the spicy dishes.  The Kosher Golan Moscato is a fruit-forward light sparkle white which enhances the sweetness of the deep-fried pumpkin cake.  But before I get into the wine, let's continue the Sichuan Spices Excursion......

Sichuan Spices Excursion

"Ma La" chicken is a famous appetizer in Sichuan restaurants.  Again, fans who read my first Sichuan Spices Excursion Part I probably remember "Ma La" is the type of spiciness that numbs your tongue and also heats up your entire mouth.  It is similar to the effect of "suicidal" chili sauce on your buffalo wings.  The chicken is first cooked in clear broth to retain the pale  chicken color. It is then soaked in hot chili sauce and oil at least overnight to allow the favor to penetrate.  Ma La chicken is best served in room temperature.  

Hot oil eel in clay pot is a new style Sichuan dish.  Fresh eels are de-boned and blanched in boiled water to remove the slime on the skin of the eel.  It is then cooked with hot chili oil and pre-cooked vermicelli made out of green beans.  Eel is a fatty fish and if it is cooked right, it is "crunchy" but not too chewy.

Curry beef with enoki mushroom stew is also a neo-Sichuan dish which is to showcase another dimension of spiciness - curry.  The beef slice used in this stew is thin and semi-fatty, the typical "fatty" beef that is used in Chinese hot pot.  The fat beef slice is super tender and well-flavored by the spicy curry broth.  This soupy dish is best served with rice.

There is no better carb to soak up the flavors of the two soupy dishes than a bowl of steamed rice that is cooked with re-hydrated dried shiitake mushroom.  The rice is steamed in the bamboo basket which adds a layer of bamboo aroma to the rice. 
Contrary to pairing spicy food with a German Gewürztraminer, I recommend the Italian Pio Delle Venezie 2010 Pinot Noir.


Pio Delle Venezie 2010 Pinot Noir ($6-8 per glass) is lightly oaked, medium-bodied, well-structured:
  • it is jammy with hints of coffee and black cherry - strong enough to deal with complex and rich food; and
  • its hint of eucalyptus mint also helps cool off the spiciness.
To conclude this beautiful Sichuan dinner, the deep-fried pumpkin cake sparkled with crushed peanut is a perfect dessert.  Mashed pumpkin is dipped into rice flour and deep-fried.  This dessert would not be perfect without the Chinese black vinegar dipping sauce. The vinegar is reduced in saucepan to syrup-like consistency and added with sugar.
The pumpkin dessert is crunchy and lightly sweet which goes well with a semi-sweet light-alcohol white.  The Golan Moscato 2010 (a Kosher wine) ($11.99 per bottle) is a light sparkle  wine with only 6% alcohol.  It is fruit-forward, exhibiting ripe tangerine characters with subtler notes of peppermint and spice - a perfect wine to end a spicy meal.

Remember, life is too short not to drink wine with Chinese food!

Pinny Tam

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sichuan Spices Excursion Part 1 of 2 - New Zealand Marborough County Sauvigon Blanc


I am very excited to launch my food and wine blogs, Chinese Food and Wine Pairings in January 2012.  The objectives of my blog are as follows:  

1. providing tips on pairing different types of Chinese food with wines that you can get in the US; 
2. highlighting the cooking techniques of unique dishes and explaining why certain wines can enhance the tasting experience; and
3. demonstrating how to cook Chinese dishes at home, pairing different wines with them, and achieving different tasting experience.
To have an exciting kick-off, I have recently visited the culinary capital of the orient, Hong Kong in February to discover authentic and sophisticated Chinese food!  More importantly, I found the perfect wine for you to enjoy while tasting these types of Chinese cuisines.  
Sichuan Spices Excursion
Sichuan Chinese food is fond of by a lot of Americans who love spicy food. What I had in an authentic Sichuan restaurant in the trendy Hong Kong neighborhood, Tsim Sha Shui is not the Americanized Sichuan cuisine, but something along the line of 4.5 chili icons out of 5 type of food (real deal!).   First we started out with pickled sweet sour cherry tomato which is not spicy.  In order to have the sweet sour flavor perfectly immersed into the cherry tomato, the skin was removed.  This appetizer not only appetites but cleanses your palate.
OK, the next dish looks like hanging your wet laundry in a dry Autumn day at your backyard.  The dish is called "Yun Nan Bai Rou", translated as paper-thin pork belly and cucumber slices.  The major technique of this dish is to cut the boiled pork belly and cucumber so thin that they can see through it under the light and easily hang them on the rack.  The meat and cucumber has very mild salty taste to them.  You need to dip the combo, 1 slice of pork belly and 1 slice of cucumber in the finely minced fresh garlic, light soya sauce and black Chinese vinegar dipping sauce, and eat the 2 slices together.  
Don't be fooled by the simple name of this dish, "Shui Zhu Yu", translated as Sichuan boiled fish.  Although a little boiled water is used to cook the fish in this chili broth, the "red sea" kind of tells you what the main ingredients of this dish are: fresh red chili, dried red chili, peppercorns, chili oil. Sichuan bean paste.  Keep in mind, this dish really is pushing to suicidal heat -- there are two levels of spiciness sensations, "Ma La", the first word means numbing your tongue and the second word means spiciness.  Contrary to popular belief, drinking cold water is not as effective as drinking warm Chinese tea to tamp the spices.  
There are more dishes for this Sichuan food excursion to come.  But for Part I above, I would like to pair all this food with a bottle of 2011 New Zealand Marborough County Sauvigon Blanc, such as Kim Crawford's.   

  • The passion fruit citrus and ripe stonefruit of this wine pampers your palate after your "battle" with the fire in your mouth.
  • For a bottle that is retailed at a bit under $15, it is a well-balanced, refreshing and pleasant white wine that can be drunken with the spicy cuisine or alone.
This is all I have for today.  Look out for the PART II - Sichuan Spices Excursion.

Remember, life is too short not to drink wine with Chinese food!

Pinny Tam