Sunday, January 17, 2016

New Year Resolution.....Eat Chinese Desserts, Drink Wines......Then Think about Diet!

Moving into 2016, there are a lot of proud moments for Chinese people.  To name a few, China's renminbi got approved by IMF as one of the world's main world currencies in November 2015. China joined force with the western allies
to fight ISIS.  The Chinese holiday cookies and desserts combine the best of east and west ways of making sweets, and are super delicious when they are consumed with wines? What? Yes, these proud creations of Chinese bakers can totally change the global dessert landscape, spreading joys, loves, and sweet sensations that rock everyone's palate....friends or foes. But, trying them with the wines I'm going to recommend.....a fun and upscale dessert party is in the making! Let's talk desserts......

To start with the lighter flair, this pine nut brittle is made out of egg white, corn starch and corn syrup.   The texture of this brittle is crispy, nutty and not too sweet. Just in case you are not aware, Chinese people are very good at turning any nuts to brittles.....cashew, peanut, walnut, almond, hazelnut, pecan.  Usually the outcome of these Chinese style nut brittles is lighter, not so sweet, and in some cases, infused with Asian flavors like sweet osmanthus (gui hua 桂花) or jasmine.

If you are a fan of Chinese take-outs, you won't be unfamiliar with water chestnut. It is used in stir fried dishes and even sweet and sour soup.  This water chestnut cake is literally made of water chestnut flour you could purchase from Asian grocery stores.  The cake is toped with dried rose buds, which infuse the cake with rose aroma.  What is so great about this water chestnut cake is its gelatin style. It's soft, light,
and easy to eat at anytime during the day. Dim Sum enthusiasts probably are familiar with this dessert. Although the color of this water chestnut cake is a bit on the paler side, the Cantonese cousin, which you typically see in Dim Sum restaurant, is yellower and a bit greasier. It is made in a larger loaf and is cut into smaller squares and pan-fried.  Whichever water chestnut cakes you have a chance to try, they won't be disappointed!

These buttery pastries are stuffed with ingredients that are called for making Christmas fruitcake.  There are nuts and dried fruits (e.g., dried apricot, dried cherries, raisins, minced cooked nuts) inside that blast your taste buds with wholesome goodies.  What is so unique about this little pastry is its light and fluffy texture....not heavy but moist. The trick to achieve this greatness is all in the delicate balance of the amount of oil or butter used to make it fluffy and moist without drowning it with grease. 

The layered crepe cake has gained so much popularity due to the indirect advertising from food trends in magazines and TV.  This 26-layer green crepe cake is fully made from scratch, without cheating with store bought crepes.  Hey folks, other than having an additional kudos given to this dedicated baker, there is nothing wrong with using store bought crepes. Anything goes as long as you make a crepe cake, right! Until now, you probably get it that this layered cake is also not on the super heavy and sweet side, just like other sweets we talk about so far.  One of the Chinese bakers proclaimed this cake probably cost $59 in NYC.....we were lucky to eat it for free! If you don't like green tea, I totally can see you sticking with the tradition to spread regular vanilla cream in between crepes.  To add a tropical version of this crepe cake, I can see you using a mango mousse in between crepes to make some sunshine! The cake-bake was so much fun to kick off the New Year! Wait......we need to top the Chinese dessert experience with some vinos!

Riunite Moscato is my go-to party wine that will pair well with all these magnificent Chinese desserts.  Not only is this Italian Moscato affordable, it is also fruity enough to compliment these desserts. It has a bit of weight, but not too much; a perfect balance of dryness and sugar that makes it so easy to pair with mild desserts. Of course, if you decide to have a slice of black forest cake made out of 72% cacao chocolate, forget about this wine, as you need to drink a Merlot or Pinot Noir to weigh down your choice.  This Moscato baby could competently handle the light desserts!

I repeatedly have said it before - never mention pairing Riesling with Chinese food. It is boring and not creative. However, we are talking about Chinese desserts that are influenced by the American baking twists here.  I have to say this Riesling from Mosel does the trick to pair well with the desserts introduced, by having notes of green apple, lime and citrus.  The ripe peach flavors are balanced with lovely acidity and a nice bit of sweetness. This bargain find will not disappoint, either pairing it with Chinese desserts or drinking it on its own! 

OK....before you work on your New Year Resolution to go on a diet, motivate yourself ONE MORE TIME with these to-die-for Chinese desserts and great wines that mean to impress!

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

Pinny Tam