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The Wine Guy, Eddie McDougall: Wine for wintery hotpots

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

Winter is no longer coming, it’s finally here! And you know what that means? No, the White Walkers are not taking over Lang Kwai Fong, instead gas stoves all around the city are being fired up for one of Hong Kong’s favourite culinary past times: Hot pot.

Over the years, hot pot dining has become increasingly fancy as the demand for healthier alternatives and higher quality grub has grown. These days you shouldn’t be surprised if your local hot pot restaurant’s menu is stacked with every variety of fish ball under the sun and an extensive list of top grade Kobe beef.

As far as drinks go, hot pot is traditionally served with tea, sour plum juice and cheap beer. Again, the drinks menu is more upmarket these days and has evolved to include green tea mixed with whisky, craft beers and of course, wine. But which wines?

Well, to work that out I’ve been trialling a variety of hot pot styles paired with certain wines I love to drink. I’ll tell you, it’s not as easy as it sounds as there are so many different flavours and textures in one pot to match. Finding wines to compliment the variety was a challenge now conquered.

The most important principle in pairing hot pot with wine is to identify a balance of flavours between the soup base and the wine. The traditional soup base selection includes satay, traditional chicken stock and Sichuan, aka mā-là. Each soup works well with all types of ingredients, so fear not, you can still have your fish balls mixed with your abalone and fatty beef strips so long as you correctly match the soup and wine. Give some of my tried and tested combos a go.

For satay, steer clear of dry reds and go for a sweet Italian red lambrusco served chilled. This varietal is approachable with soft tannins and sweetness that wrap around the nuttiness and rich spice of the satay.

Chicken stock is ideally light, salty yet clean. Try a good German riesling that’s of the off-dry spectrum like a kabinett. The citrus fruitiness of the riesling should help elevate the flavour of each mouthful. Yum!

Sichuan is numbing from the peppers and dried chillies. There’s only one wine in the world that works here and that’s gewürztraminer. The expressive rose petal aromas and sweet lychee flavours bounce and weave through the spice with precision and balance. 

Rug up, drink up! Eddie McDougall

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