Mandarin Musings: Pairing Whiskey with Chinese Food

Pairing up drinks with food has always been a tricky affair. However, that has not stopped chefs, restaurateurs and mixologist from becoming adventurous. While their spree of exploration, creativity and inquisitiveness have resulted in the most divine of unions, it has also triggered the emergence of some unlikely bedfellows.

Coupling European cuisine with wine is an age-old practice. One might even consider matching wine with Chinese food and find that significant strides have been made. But, pairing up whiskey with Chinese cuisine is more like entering a virgin territory- dangerous yet exiting! It is one of those affairs that apparently sounds ludicrous, but then- at times, even the oddest of pairings achieve permanence.

Thus, if you still count cognac to be a ‘de riguer’, when it comes to pairing spirits with Chinese cuisine, then it’s time you break away from what’s customary. Pair a dram of whiskey with selective Chinese dishes and you will realize why, this pairing is destined for perpetuity.

It takes a delicate hand to precisely match a dram of whiskey with the soft subtle flavors of Chinese food and soup. Basically, it all boils down to selecting the right ingredients that have a natural affinity towards each other. Only then can the delicate flavors of Chinese food complement or contrast a dram of whiskey- the same way that a fiery staple cooked over roaring flames or grilled barbeque meat does.

Consider starting off with a Double-boiled Chicken Soup with Fish Maw and Dried Scallop which is rich in its savory flavor of both seafood and chicken. The spicy broth- a result of double boiling, gradually cuts through any whiskey with a sweet base, for example the Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve. A dash of this single malt Japanese whiskey boasts rich sweet notes of red berry which relieves you taste buds and prepares them for the next round. If you wish to pair up a native scotch with Chinese cuisine, then try and stick to a basic Chinese seafood with some continental add-on like Baked Stuffed Crab Shell with Bacon. The crab shell, packed with cheese, crabmeat and bacon pairs up well with native Island malts like the Ledaig 10 year old. This scotch, just like its Islay cousins, possesses a strong peaty flavor along with a whiff of newly cut grass which blends well with the crab and fills your mouth with a gush of seaside freshness.

As you dig-in deep within the crusts of Chinese cuisine, you will realize that there are definitely more hits than misses, when it comes to pairing up with Whiskey. Starting from Slow-braised Oxtail to Homemade Noodles with Live Prawn and Caviar, there are several options that you can invariably try out with a dram of whiskey. Just be sure about the whiskey flavors you pick, and let the subtle layers of luscious Chinese aromas, unfold endlessly upon each other.