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Riesling and Asian Fire

Riesling and Asian Fire

From our newsletter The Tine Shed in 2015.  In the last few years, the combo of Riesling and Thai food seems to have become widely accepted:

It’s sometimes difficult to find a match to more fiery foods, but Riesling seems to know no bounds as a delicious accompaniment to Asian food, including the hot stuff.  From sweet and rich Peking Duck pancakes to fiery Thai dishes, it just seems to keep working.

Last night we made some Indonesian style chicken sates, and my favourite peanut sauce.  The marinade for the chicken included a hefty dose of fresh red chillies and the sauce another hefty dose of crushed, dried chillies.  The Riesling saw through all that and picked up the lemon grass beautifully, cutting through the richness of the peanut sauce and mellowing the heat.  That was with the 2011 Riesling, which has quite a bit of body and deep lemon/lime fruit.

It even stands up well to Thai heat.  Recently we rediscovered one of David Thompson’s earlier works on Thai cuisine – “Thai Food”, and have been busily working our way through it.  He reminds us that Thais often turn things on their head – a sauce like nahm prik is the centre of the meal, then everything else (including meat dishes) become an accompaniment to the sauce.  It’s subtle, but makes you think differently about how to put a meal together.

It’s hard to think of a hotter sauce than nahm prik.  Its basic form of garlic, salt, shrimp paste, chillies, palm sugar, lime juice and fish sauce has endless variations, but almost always the flavours are very strong and very hot, with balance (“hot, salty, slightly sour and slightly sweet”) critical, and the shrimp paste central.  Accompanied by seasonal raw or steamed vegetables, or pickled vegetables, it’s a refreshing delight.  Accompany it with grilled fish or pork and it becomes a more substantial part of a meal, or a meal in itself.

Nahm prik is exactly the sort of food that has traditionally been avoided at all costs by wine buffs, believing that ingredients like chillies and shrimp paste kill the wine.  Certainly, you can lose some of the subtle notes of the wine, but I think this is more than made up for by the way a wine like Riesling finds friends in the complexities of the sauce, adding citrus notes and cleansing the palate.  We’ve recently tried several versions of nahm prik with the current release 2015 Riesling and found the match sensational, particularly with well grilled or pan fried fish.

But the really great thing about Riesling?  If you can’t be bothered cooking anything, or even heading out to let someone else cook for you, Riesling is wonderful just by itself!  Otherwise, see if the recipes at the end of this newsletter inspire you to a Riesling vs heat cook off.


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