Food & Drinks Wine & Dine

Perfect wine pairings for your Chinese New Year dishes

Planning to enjoy a Chinese New Year banquet with family and friends? Do you know the right wines to pair with some of the classic New Year banquet foods? Eddie McDougal, of The Flying Winemaker, shares his secrets of pairing Chinese New Year dishes with wine. 

A pinot noir goes well with traditional turnip cake
A pinot noir goes well with traditional turnip cake

Loh Bak Gao (turnip cake)

Prepared with plenty of dried shrimps, mushrooms, scallions and Chinese sausage, this delicious fried cake is both salty and savoury. This dim sum favourite is packed full of umami flavours, while the texture is fluffy and slightly gelatinous on the inside and crisp from pan-frying on the outside.

Wine match: Pinot Noir

Why: The wine’s savoury backbone and acidity highlight the flavours of the dish. The fried cake’s strong presence of oiliness after each mouthful needs a wine with a Pinot Noir-like acidity to cut through the richness. Every sip of the wine will unveil some of the preserved ingredients that hide behind the thick turnip mixture and its oily, crispy skin. It’s amazing.

Nian Gao (gelatinous rice cake)

When made fresh, this is like a sticky jelly rice cake. After a few days, the chewy cake hardens up and is cut into slices that are sizzled on a frying pan with a little egg wash and vegetable oil before serving. This brings out a magical smoky, nutty, and fatty flavour that is sweet and moreish. It has a rich, oily character that can be overwhelming if you overindulge. When eating, you can dip it into some brown sugar to add some extra crunch.

Wine match: Oaked Chardonnay

Why: Chardonnay slices through the fatty richness of the sugary cake and allows for a clean and green fruit explosion on the tongue. The pungent and smoky flavours of the gelatinous cake are complementary to the wine’s oaky and vanilla undertones, which leaves little room for an unbalanced finish.

Jai (Buddha’s Delight)

A cornucopia of every strain of fungus, every species of green and root vegetable, and every bean-curd variation from the Middle Kingdom cooked in one pot. The main sauces used in the preparation of this dish are soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Shaoxing rice wine, which produce gravy that is viscous and intensely savoury in flavour. It’s often served with a mound of vermicelli to soak up all the juices.

Wine match: Cabernet Sauvignon

Why: The Cabernet Sauvignon varietal often shows flavours of cassis, leather and oak that pairs delectably with the salty and thick gravy. Additional seasonings like garlic, ginger and pickled condiments amplify the intensity of the bold flavours found in this traditional dish. Such loud flavours require a wine with an equally powerful profile, substance, and tannins to complement the tastes and textures of Buddha’s greatest delight. 

To find your perfect Chinese New Year wines, visit flyingwinemaker.asia or the store at 6/F, Yu Yuet Lai Building, 43-55 Wyndham Street, Central.

Find out more about how to celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong