Craving General Tso’s this holiday season? Asian food, specifically Chinese food, is an unofficial tradition for many families this time of year. After so much traditional American fare, the change of pace is often quite welcomed. Since Chinese is often the only thing open on the holidays, and because fare often lends well to take out, it’s super convenient to pop a bottle of your favorite wine to go along with dinner.
Photo credit: https://dinnerthendessert.com/classic-chinese-chow-mein/
Rule of Thumb
When in doubt, just order a Riesling. Try to balance the sweetness in the dish with your Riesling, but understand that a sweet or a dry variety of this wine will pair well with most Chinese dishes. It can balance the sweetness, salty, and spice of Chinese dishes. The cool serving temperature tempers the heat of the food and is sweet enough to create balance.
Away from the Rhine
You don’t have to order a Riesling to experience a well paired Chinese dinner. In fact, Chinese fare also works well with sparkling wines. A crisp Prosecco balances the sweetness often found in Chinese soy and plum sauces. A Peking duck can pair well with a Pinot Noir, and if cumin lamb is on your plate, a Zinfandel in your glass will create a nice balance. A Pinot Gris is another option that works well with most dishes.
What to Avoid
Tannins are generally a no-go for Chinese food. The dryness in the mouth creates too much contrast for the delicacy of your food. For this reason, stay away from bold reds like Cabernet Sauvignon. If you simply must have a red, shoot for a Merlot or Syrah.
Unsurprisingly, the best wine for your dinner will depend on what you’re eating. Once you understand the basics we listed above, you still have to decide what works best with what’s on your plate. So whether you’re craving egg rolls, noodles, wontons, fried rice, or duck, here’s a quick cheat sheet for finding the perfect pair!
- Noodle Dishes- Lo Mein and the like work best with a Sauvignon Blanc.
- Fried Rice- Buttery Chardonnay works well with fried rice and any protein.
- Beef and Broccoli- An option for a red wine, this dish goes well with a Malbec.
- Peking Duck- Let the sweet acidity of Pinot Noir balance the fat of the duck with this combo.
- General Tso’s- Tame that spice with a nice Gamay.
- Sweet & Sour- Think sweet. Really sweet. Moscato sweet.
- Mongolian Beef- Grab for Grenache.
- Kung Pao Chicken- Tried and true, Riesling really is the best here.
- Sesame Chicken- Bring out sweet undertones with a nice Lambrusco.
Feeling overwhelmed? Remember that the perfect wine for you is the one that you enjoy drinking. While sommeliers and experts can offer suggestions, at the end of the meal, the perfect pairing is the one that appeals to you. Drink what you like, eat what you like, and enjoy your holiday Chinese tradition!