To coincide with the Chinese New Year this Friday, HDW is exploring how wine – rather than the traditional beer – works with Chinese cuisine.
This year we will move from the year of the Water Snake to the year of the Horse with a quickening of tempo, the prospect of travel, success and adventure.
So now is the time to get the positive energy flowing through your house, clear the clutter, put some harmony back in your life and then celebrate the start of a New Year with a billion and a half Chinese people around the world.
You could consult recipe books, write yourself a shopping list and trudge round the shops for all the ingredients of a grand Chinese banquet, but that means you will be marinating chicken wings and spare ribs all day, not to mention endlessly chopping vegetables and making dim sum.
Instead take the easy option and head out to a supermarket and clear their shelves of crispy duck and pancakes and whatever else you feel like, from spring rolls to Szechuan beef. The other easy option is to get a takeaway without the bother of steaming dumplings and stir-frying your veg.
Despite the fact that China now produces more wine than Chile, South Africa and Australia put together, very little reaches our shores. The new middle class of China is learning to drink wine and there is little incentive to export when it can be sold at home. Then select your wines to match the foods you are serving.
As the spice levels increase there needs to be more flavour in the wine. Try McGuigan’s The Semillon Blanc (an IWSC award winner down from £8.99 to £7.49) for its clean, fresh tropical fruit combined with bright, fresh acidity that cleans the palate as the dinner progresses or 2010 Louise Jadot Beaujolais -Villages (£7.99). Here, the wine’s fresh raspberry acidity and gentle touches of sweetness provided exactly the right foil for the food. Both of these wines will go well with roasted pork belly or spiced chicken wings.
If you decide to cook just one course for your Chinese banquet yourself, to act as a centrepiece, then a single roast fish is often served at celebration meals in Beijing. Try sea bass or red snapper or buy a large piece of halibut and cook it with ginger and herbs, with slivers of lemon peel adding zest for authentic flavours, the zesty citrus fruit of the 2010 Jacobs Creek Riesling (£5.99) works well.
Crispy duck, rolled into pancakes with plum sauce is one of our favourite dishes at a Chinese meal and the sweetness of the sauce will be fine with a Pinot Noir such as The Ned 2012, New Zealand (£12.99) but if you are planning to move on to a deeper flavoured Szechuan dish such as hot spiced beef then you will need to have a wine with more body and flavour. Head to the Rhône and the spiced fruit of Guigal Cotes 2009, (£9.99).
Top tip: At the end of the meal serve jasmine in small cups instead of coffee and if you manage to find some fortune cookies then they will add to the fun of the evening. Plus don’t forget to put red envelopes at each place setting with a small amount of money inside. These will create a nice atmosphere, and the money is a traditional symbol of good luck and prosperity. Gung Hei Fat Choy!