Welcome to our expert break down of popular food categories, outlining the main challenges (and pairing solutions) for wine lovers with globetrotting tastes.
This round, we focus on pairing Asian-fusion flavors with wine.
The challenge: Combining one or more elaborate Asian cuisines increases the pairing’s importance. “There are many delicate layers of flavors to balance, along with often silky noodles, savory notes, sweet touches and spice from chili oils or Sichuan peppercorns,” says Toranosuke Matsuoka, president and beverage director of KOA Restaurant, which serves modern Chinese cuisine.
Wine fix: “Select a beverage that has the complexity, yet subtlety, to dance with these synergies rather than contrast with them, such as Kimoto saké,” says Matsuoka. “With higher than average acid, this style of saké can stand up to unique Asian-inspired dishes, but has the nuances of smoke and earthiness that harmonize with chili or savory meat accents.”
Recipe: Soy Milk Dan Dan
Courtesy KOA Restaurant, New York City
At noodle-focused KOA, modern Chinese cuisine meets authentic Japanese ingredients, as evidenced by this ramen noodle-based recipe.
“Its origins go back as far as Sichuan cuisine, and this dish was a common street food,” says Matsuoka, who incorporates an ultra-premium soy milk imported from Japan into the soup’s base.
For the soup base:
3⅓ pounds pork bones
3⅓ pounds chicken feet
½ cup chicken, cubed
⅛ cup scallions, sliced
1 teaspoon chopped ginger
In a large stockpot over high heat, combine ingredients with 1 gallon of water. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 8 hours. Periodically check, skimming fat and froth off top. Strain broth, discarding ingredients. Transfer back to pot, cover, and let cool slightly. Reserve until ready to serve (leftover stock can be frozen up to 6 months).
For the spicy ground beef topping:
1⅓ cups top-quality ground beef
3½ tablespoons diced Yibin Yacai (pickled mustard greens, available at Asian markets)
3½ tablespoons Xin Du (pickled red chili peppers, available at Asian markets)
1½ tablespoons garlic
¾ tablespoon scallion oil
4 teaspoons sesame oil
1¾ tablespoons soybean oil
¾ tablespoon Chinese cooking wine
¾ tablespoon dark soy sauce
Pinch of sugar
1¾ tablespoons soup stock
Dash of white pepper powder
In a wok over medium-high heat, stir fry all ingredients until ground beef is cooked through, about 8 minutes. Strain and discard oils, reserving beef.
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sesame seeds, plus a pinch for serving
Pinch of ground Sichuan peppercorn
½ teaspoon dark soy sauce
½ cup hot soup base
½ cup soy milk
6 packages Maruchan ramen noodles (omit seasoning), cooked and drained
5½ ounces chopped iceberg lettuce
½ ounce spicy chili oil
⅓ ounce chopped scallions
In a large bowl, combine minced garlic with sesame seeds, peppercorns, soy sauce, soup base and soy milk. Stir well to combine. Add cooked noodles and toss. Add lettuce to middle of bowl and scoop 3 ounces of spicy ground beef on top. Delicately circle lettuce with chili oil and scallions. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Serve family style, or divide noodles, beef mixture and lettuce evenly into 6 small bowls. Drizzle with remaining soup broth. Serves 6.
Pair It: “The Spanish white, Godello, is a fun pairing,” says Matsuoka, who recommends Viña Godeval’s 2013 Godello from Galicia, Spain. “This medium-acid wine with flavors of green golden apple, ripe yellow grapefruit and light honeyed notes is similar to an Albariño, but with a bigger body, better suited to the deeper flavors of this dish.”