Orange wine, Ribolla Gialla and Riesling from the Rheingau: Charles Phan’s Wine Director Chaylee Priete shares the challenge of pairing wine with Chinese street food at the recently opened Wo Hing General Store. (Now you know what to drink with your jook).
What is the biggest challenge in pairing wine with Chinese street food?
Many of the dishes are very rustic. Each lineup, I learn about a new food item that I have never heard of. Yesterday it was Hulu melon (a kind of Chinese melon). Even Chinese cardamom pods look different, taste different. Also, the flavors are darker. I've gotten very used to the brightness of our dishes at Slanted Door, but these dishes are moodier, things like star anise and untold blends of red spices similar to ras el hanout (a popular Moroccan blend). The food at Wo Hing actually lends itself to a wider range of wines.
What is the best pairing for jook?
Our jook is very simple: rice in its own cooking broth (no stock), a little flour and salt. I think of it as a nurturing porridge. It is supposed to be the last thing you eat and it's to be shared. Everyone takes a small bowl from the main one. At this point in the meal and because it is one, so mild and two, so weighty, I have been recommending something like the Leitz wines that I am featuring from the Rheingau. Either the Eins Zwei Drei which is bone dry or the Klosterlay (my favorite) which has a tiny bit of residual sugar but so much acid and verve to clean it up that it cuts through any heaviness of the dish.
What was the most surprising pairing that you've discovered?
Some of my favorite are orange wines [white grapes that are fermented on their skins, adding tannin and color]! I thought maybe I was just indulging myself by putting so many on the list, because I like to drink them so much myself. But this white wine for a red wine drinker is really the perfect pairing for so many of our entrees. For instance, the Ryme Cellars Ribolla Gialla, which has a significant tannin structure and a lot more weight, actually marries really well with those dark broths I mentioned earlier. It has a nutty almost caramelized savory edge that is perfect with our spices.
At The Slanted Door, Riesling is your go-to varietal. Does Wo Hing or Chinese food in general have a grape that works best?
I still think that Riesling is the perfect food wine. However, I think the food can stand up to a number of types of wines so long as they are lower in alcohol (the food is still too delicate in flavor to handle huge alcohol-laden wines) and high in acid.
What is the most common mistake you see people make in pairing wine with Asian food?
Gewurztraminer. Everyone thinks you have to drink Gewurztraminer with Asian food. But few are subtle enough to pair properly with the food and so many are made too high in alcohol.
View the complete wine list HERE.
Wo Hing General Store, 584 Valencia St.