Over the next 10 days nearly 20 percent of the world’s population will down tools for Chinese New Year and welcome in the Year of the Dog. One of the biggest holidays in Hong Kong – if not the biggest – festivities often include lai see, fireworks (though sadly not those above Victoria Harbour), and of course, lots of eating and drinking.
The last of these activities, my specialty, is something I love sharing with my readers as I often get asked what wines to drink with typical CNY delicacies. Here are my recommendations...
Loh Bak Gou
These delicious pan fried turnip cakes are prepared with white turnips, small dried shrimps, Chinese sausages (lap chong) and a little spring onion. The flavours are salty and layered with a huge presence of umami. The texture is slightly gelatinous with a slightly charred crispy crust.
Wine pairing: Chianti classico (Sangiovese).
Why: The wine’s savoury backbone and acidity highlights the flavours of the dish. The cake’s strong aftertaste of oil needs a great level of Sangiovese sour cherry-like acidity to cut through the richness. Every sip of the wine will unveil some of the preserved ingredients that hide behind the oily and crispy crust.
Traditionally this CNY speciality (pictured above) is freshly made to the texture of a sticky jelly cake. After a few days, the mixture hardens and is then cut into slices and sizzled on a frying pan with a little vegetable oil. The frying process brings out a magical smoky yet nutty flavour. When tucking in, you can pair it with some brown sugar to add a little sweetness and crunch from the sugar crystals.
Wine pairing: Oaked chardonnay.
Why: Lin gou’s sugary, smoky flavours are complimentary of this type of wine’s oaky vanilla tones. The classical melon and peach notes common to chardonnay are wonderful for adding a little freshness to the experience since the dish itself is rather dense and rich.
Aka vegetarian Buddha’s delight. A pot loaded with every type of fungus, leafy vegetable and bean curd variation known to man. The gravy in the pot is viscous, rich and intensely savoury. The main sauces used in the preparation of this dish are soy, vegetarian oyster sauce and Siu Hing rice wine. Served often with a bowl of vermicelli noodles.
Wine pairing: Cabernet sauvignon.
Why: Cabernet sauvignon’s benchmark flavours of cassis, dried herbs and toasted oak pair wonderfully with the salty and viscous gravy. The sauces used as seasoning amplify the flavour, hence needing a wine that’s equally as powerful and one with an assertive texture profile that complements the earthiness of the dish.
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