During the International Wine & Spirits Fair here in Hong Kong, there were interesting food and wine pairing events, one under the Cathay Pacific – sponsored Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Competition (IWSC), and the other a seminar given by Mr. Nelson Chow, chairman of the Hong Kong Sommelier Association. We hear so much here in the U.S. on asian/asian fusion food and wine pairing, so I looked forward to hearing from the locals themselves what combinations they thought works.
At the IWSC, the goal was to find the best wines for the Asian palate, as determined by Asians. The team of judges spanned all of Asia and included highly-regarded chefs under the leadership of Mr. Tony Jordan and directors Simon Tam and Debra Meiburg, MW. There were four general categories of foods: 1) lifestyle – dim sum; 2) traditional – peking duck; 3) gourmet – abalone; and 4) spicy – kung pao. There were really no rules of engagement, each judge was free to determine which wines povided the best ‘harmony’ per Tam and ‘marriage’ per Debra Weinburg in their respective categories.
In the dim sum category, the winner was Wairau River (New Zealand) Pinot Gris, a crisp, medium-bodied wine with peachy flavors and a hint of residual sugar. Dim sum represents a vast variety of savory dumplings, rolls, and breads using seafood, pork or chicken as fillings and prepared in as many ways although steamed and fried are common. They are usually delicate in flavor and salty, so an unoaked, fresh and crisp wine like pinot gris is a great match. Mr. Chow followed the same theme with his recommendations of high acidity riesling with dim sum, although he thought a sparkling wine would contrast better with fried spring rolls.
In the category of peking duck, the winner was Judas Malbec 2006 from Sottano Winery in Argentina. Peking or barbeque duck – with its layer of fatty duck skin roasted and served with a sweetish sauce – is matched by the full-body and fruit of the Argentina malbec, with the tannic structure cutting through the richness of the duck. Mr. Chow in his seminar, suggested a similar new world shiraz, which would also pair well with other barbeque dishes such as suckling pork.
In terms of hot spicy – the Kung Pao – the IWSC winner was a Martin & Weyrich Moscato Allegro 2007, a lower 7.8% alcohol wine, sweet but with balancing acidity. High alcohol wines and tannic red wines only exacerbate chili heat, so selecting a low-alcohol white wine or softer red wine is a good choice. In addition, sweetness can temper heat, as Mr. Chow pointed to the practice of having sugar on the table at some Szechuan restaurants.
Finally, regarding abalone, the goal is to preserve the delicacy of the dish. While recipes can differ, abalone is typically braised in a chicken, pork or ham stock for 3-4 hours, seasoned with a little oyster sauce and thickened with a bit of cornstarch. The best wine award went to Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Rose from Australia.