I love Chinese dumplings, any and all dumplings. Whether they are steamed, fried or baked, I have an insatiable appetite for them – so much so that I could easily eat them every single day.
So when Chinese New Year came around, eating them alone was not going to do the trick. We needed friends, drinks and hands on hard work to make it all worth while.
But what to couple them with? Most people and wine lovers recommend to couple Chinese food with:
- Asahi – or other light beer
However, why not try a delicious red to go with the bolder flavours that Chinese food has to offer?
Sure, there are plenty of very delicate flavours, which the red wine would completely obliterate – which the above options would respect and complement like my favorite Har Gau, or XIao Long Bao, or Pork Siu Mai dumplings.
But… a delicious smooth red coupled with some of the bolder, stronger flavours would make those dishes sing. Although the bottle recommends for wines from Côtes du Rhône to be paired with bold tomato sauces, hearty beef stews or lamb casseroles – being a little adventurous with paring really paid off! Specially dishes with hoisin, char siu or oyster sauce mixed with beef, duck, or pork hold up deliciously well to the fuller wine and bring out the intricate spices.
But I wanted a more objective view on the pairing, so I decided to run a little wine tasting and dumpling making experiment with 3 very patient friends, with particularly discerning pallets.
I asked them to bring a Riesling and a Prosecco, as back up, in case they did not agree with me on the pairing. Then we proceeded to do a tasting, spending some time savoring the wine, before any food entered into the equation to align that this pairing would be a good idea.
The specific “Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Reserve” was absolutely delightful(not to mention I love the retro label!). It was surprisingly refreshing, having a full body, but not too strong or dry, after swirling, smelling and savoring it – we all agreed this was going to work wonders! With its dark warm burgundy colour and notes of blackcurrants, we enjoyed drinking it on its own just as much as with the steamed buns.
Then we proceeded to making dumplings from scratch for a whole 5 hours, while sipping on the delicious red. Finally, after all the kneading, cooking, shaping, steaming… we were ready to eat and finally decide whether this match we had worked on all day was going to work.
And it was a smashing success! The pairing worked deliciously and our steamed buns turned out perfect! They were soft, spongy, light and the filling irresistible. What’s more, the wine actually prepped the taste buds to fully receive and highlight the complex flavors within these delectable and delicious steamed soft buns bursting with sweet, salty, smoky and spiced meaty goodness!
What do you pair your Chinese food with? Have you ventured beyond Riesling and beer??
Chinese Barbecue Pork Buns (Char Siu Bao)
Recipe from Use Real Butter
Char Siu Pork Filling
- 1/2 cup chicken broth
- 2 tbsp oyster sauce
- 2 tbsp ketchup
- 5 tsp granulated sugar
- 4 tsp cornstarch
- 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- pinch white pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tbsp peanut oil
- 1/2 cup onion
- 1 1/2 cup char siu pork*, fine dice
- 1 tbsp Shaoxing Chinese sherry
- 1 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- Whisk the chicken broth, oyster sauce, ketchup, sugar, cornstarch, soy sauce, salt, and pepper together in a medium bowl.
- Heat the peanut oil over high flame in a wok or heavy-bottomed saucepan. When the oil is hot, add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook (stirring often) until golden brown – about 6 minutes.
- Turn the heat to high and add the pork, stir-frying for about 2-3 minutes. Pour the sherry in from the edges of the wok (or drizzle in a circle over the saucepan as I did) and stir together. Reduce the heat to medium and pour the broth mixture into the center of the wok or pan. Stir together until the filling is thickened. This takes only a few minutes.
- Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil. Let cool and refrigerate the filling.
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cup warm water (105°F – 115°F)
- 1 tbsp yeast
- 6 cups flour
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 2 tbsps shortening
- In a medium bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water and add the yeast. Let the yeast stand for about ten minutes or until it becomes foamy, floating to the top.
- Place the flour into a large bowl, add the baking powder, shortening, and the yeast liquid. Mix well. If the dough is dry, add a little water. If the dough is too wet, add more flour. Knead the dough until smooth (knead the dough for a while, it will seem really stiff at first, but will become much more pliable and soft as the gluten is developed) Place the dough in a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in a warm place for a couple of hours until it has tripled in size.
- Knead the risen dough until it is smooth and elastic. Cut the dough into quarters and make a log from each quarter. Keep the unused dough under plastic or a damp kitchen towel to prevent drying out.
- Cut each log into 6 equal pieces and flatten each piece with your hand to make a disc. Use your fingers to pinch the outer inch of the disc thinner than the center. Then shape a sort of well in the thicker center of the dough. Spoon a tablespoon of the pork filling into the center of the dough. Pleat the edges together, with the intent of gathering the edges to form a sort of bowl from the dough (use your thumb or spoon to push the filling down). Twist and pinch the pleats together at the top. If there is excess dough, pinch it off. Set the bun on a square of parchment.
- Repeat for the rest and let them stand for about 10 minutes.
- Place the buns in a steamer with at least 2 inches between them as they will expand during steaming.
- Steam for 10 minutes. Serve hot with Chinese black vinegar.
* Small note: For Char Siu Pork – I recommend marinading a fatty cut of pork (300g) in 1 cup store bought char siu sauce and 1 minced clove garlic overnight. The next day, broil in the oven until cooked through and slightly charred on the ends to give it the characteristic barbecue flavor.
** Finally, for our non-pork eating friends, you can definitely make this with chicken and will be just as delicious! 🙂