Finally, the meat. For those of you who haven't been keeping up with the joint wine and Chinese food pairing between RedCook and myself, I'm not saying you should be ashamed of yourself, or make yourself go a day without carbs for punishment, I'm just saying, read here.
Last time, RedCook, the magical Chinese food blogger based in NYC, and I paired daikon and chive blossom salad and steamed tofu and mushrooms to two white wines. This time, to even the palate, give honor to the circle of life, and to soothe the protesters out my window holding signs reading "Where's the Lamb" and "Gimme Meat," we decided to prepare a classic Chinese meat dish paired with red wine. That crowning glory of a meat dish is called Red Cooked Lamb, and the recipe can be found on RedCook's part of the joint post.
Slowly cooked with star anise, cinnamon, tangerine peel, Sichaun peppercorns, fennel, dried chilis , ginger, soy, Shaoxiing cooking wine, sugar, daikons and carrots, the lamb takes on a reddish brown color and absorbs the warm to hot aromatic spices that make your mouth tingle and your tummy warm.
How to Pair?
If one was consulting the Chinese food-focused Vin de la Table guide featured in Bi-Coastal Chinese Food and Wine Pairing I when considering what wine to pour, they might look at the sections talking about how to pair wine with prominent sweet and spicy flavors. When choosing a red, I suggested going with a Zinfandel or Grenache because they have an especially fruity, friendly nature that highlights any sweetness in a dish, and because their peppery and spicy qualities strike an especially harmonious cord with high aromatics and picante heat. The sweetness in this dish comes from the tablespoon of sugar, Shaoxing cooking wine, and touch of soy sauce added to the braising liquid. The heat comes from the chiles and fresh ginger. Keep in mind, as noted in the spicy section of the guide, to stay away from the high-alcohol wines because high-alcohol + spices = amplified pain on tongue and throat. To be avoided.
When my guests and I enjoyed the red cooked lamb over rice, we drank a 2006 Vina Valoria Tempranillo from Rioja, Spain. I choose this wine because although it wasn't Grenache or Zin based, I remembered that it had a dark berry spicy taste, and was low-alcohol with unusually low oak for a modern Rioja. For RedCook, I suggested he find a Grenache based Rhone blend and a Zinfandel that I found at a wine store near his place by looking on their website. Did I pick three different wines for us to prove my point that as long as one considers how the components of a dish will react with the general characteristics of a wine, that nothing is set in stone and they should have fun playing around? No. We couldn't find the Vina Valoria in Oakland and Manhattan. But gosh darn it, it was fun to play around.
For those of us on the west coast, the Vina Valoria was a great match. It was a pure fruit and spice festival. For RedCook's pals on the East Coast, the Rhone/Grenache-blend worked very well, but the Zin I suggested, which I coincedentally didn't taste before recommending, was almost too sweet for the lamb. Ahh.....maybe I should have done what I swear by and asked the knowledgable clerk at the wine shop to describe the wine to me to see if it fit the bill, or (I know, I know) asked how she thought it might pair with a spicy lamb dish. To hear what RedCook had to say about his pairings, see here.
Well, dear readers, this post marks the end of the Bi-Coastal Chinese Food and Wine Pairing with Vin de la Table and Red Cook, but only marks the beginning of a beautiful food and wine pairing friendship between you, RedCook and VindelaTable. I urge all of you to check out his site as often as possible. He's got more Chinese food cooking knowledge in his little pinky finger than many of us have in our whole bodies, and he likes to share. Thank you RedCook!
Have any of you had any amazingly good or horrible Chinese food and wine pairing experiences, maybe with wines I didn't mention?
P.S. The beautiful lychee fruits that we had for dessert.