While the spicy flavors of Szechuan food and the searing sizzle of Thai dishes are no doubt American favorites, a range of other less known, delicious Asian dishes remain unexplored. Think Cantonese stir-fry that brings out the juices of meat, the subtle flavors in Japanese cuisine, or the elegant food of northern China with accents of sesame seed, green onion, ginger and rice wine vinegar when it comes to expanding your food horizons. They make for some truly mouthwatering wine pairings.
The heat in Thai food sends most people seeking comfort in Asian beers, such as Tsingtao, Singhai, Kirin and Sapporo—principal imports to the U.S. The problem is that turning to brew means well-suited wine pairing opportunities often go unnoticed.
Sparkling wine is a natural alternative to beer, substituting the effervescence of the grape for the carbonation of hops, but slightly sweet wines are a perfect foil for Thai dishes. Since alcohol ramps up the effects of the oil in spicy dishes, lower alcohol options are also good.
Riesling is perfect for this role, marrying its traditionally lower alcohol with a delicately sweet finish that offers a haven for a palate battered by hot chilies and aggressive spices. Some of the better options are Rieslings from Austria and Oregon’s Willamette Valley.
Test the theory with Tiger’s Tear, a delicious dish that combines grilled sliced sirloin served with julienned vegetables, accented with lemongrass, cilantro and chili paste for heat. Phetdara Manivong, a self-trained cook known to friends as “Kai,” created the dish at Thai One On, a restaurant in Mystic, Connecticut. Kai studied Thai cuisine in her home country, then brought it to the U.S. where she adapted her culinary tactics to meet American tastes.
Tiger’s Tear calls for marinating the grilled sirloin in Yom Sauce, a combination of fish sauce, lemon juice, sugar and chili paste. The sirloin is then plated with refreshing highlights of onion, cucumber, galanga and onion.
The bright, uncomplicated fruit of many Rieslings marries well with the brilliant flavors of this complex dish, allowing plate and glass to surrender more pleasure with each sip.
For the Yom Sauce
2 teaspoons good quality fish sauce
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 spoon sugar
1 teaspoon chili paste
To make the Yom Sauce: Mix all ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
For Tiger’s Tear
½ pound sliced sirloin
½ white onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon galanga (or substitute lemongrass)
2 small carrots, julienned
½ cucumber, sliced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Several chopped lettuce leaves
1 tomato, cut into wedges
To make Tiger’s Tear: Cut the sirloin into thin, bite-size pieces and grill both side over a fire. Put the cooked beef into the Yom Sauce and add the onions and galanga. Mix by hand.
Arrange a bed of lettuce leaves on each plate. Arrange the beef on top of the greens, and top with Yom Sauce .Garnish with chopped cilantro and scallion. Dress the plate with wedges of tomato, cucumber slices and julienne carrots. Serves 2.