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Riesling and Asian Fire

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Friday, 30 October 2015

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.

ImageIt 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 Reisling 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 these recipes inspire you to a Riesling vs heat cook off.

Nahm prik

Serve accompanied with raw or steamed seasonal vegetables, grilled vegetables, grilled fish, sweet pork or a thai style omelette.
4 peeled garlic cloves Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of shrimp paste 3-7 bird's eye chillies
½ - 1 tablespoon palm sugar 1 tablespoon of lime juice
A splash of fish sauce

Pound the garlic, salt and shrimp paste in a mortar and pestle. Slowly add the chillies. The more you pound them the hotter the sauce - suit yourself. Then pound in the sugar, lime juice and fish sauce. Adjust the balance between the hot, sour, salt and sweet to your taste, and serve with a nice, cold Yarrh 2015 Riesling.

Chicken sate

Serve with a good peanut sauce (see below), a nice green salad or just chunks of cucumber and tomatos. Rice optional, but nice cold 2015 Yarrh Riesling is not.
1 kg of boned chicken thighs, skin on if you can find them 2 red chillies, seeds removed
1 small onion, chopped 3 teaspoons of finely chopped ginger
2 tablespoons of lemon juice 2 teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of light soy sauce 2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons of sesame oil 2 tablespoons of palm sugar

Cut the chicken into dice. Blitz the chillies, onion, ginger, lemon juice, salt and soy sauces, then stir in the sesame oil and sugar. Marinade the chicken for an hour or overnight in the fridge. Thread 4-5 pieces onto soaked bamboo skewers.
Grill over charcoal (yes, charcoal!) and serve straight off the grill. Heaven on a stick when served with 2015 Yarrh Riesling!

My favourite peanut sauce

Years ago I brought a very unprepossessing "Tastes of Indonesia" cookbook by Jacki Passmore (1992) that has some of the best Indonesian recipes I have ever come across. The Penguin website tells me that Jacki has travelled extensively across Asia and written over 20 books on Asian cooking. There's (literally) thousands of recipes out there for satay sauce, but this one, the very first recipe in the book, reminds me most of the best we've tried across Bali, Java and Malaysia. Thank you, Jacki.
4-6 dried chillies, soaked, drained, seeded 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
6 shallots or scallions, peeled ½ lemon grass stalk, white part only, chopped
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil 1 teaspoon compressed shrimp paste ("trassi")
1 tablespoon coriander seeds 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon fennel seeds 150g crunchy peanut butter
¾ cup thick coconut milk Tamarind, sugar and salt to taste

Blitz or pound the chillies, garlic, shallots and lemon grass into a paste, then fry in the oil in a small, heavy based saucepan for 5-6 minutes until very aromatic.
Dry fry the shrimp paste and seeds until aromatic and toasted. Grind these, then add to the other ingredients and cook through for another few minutes.
Add the peanut butter and coconut milk, and some water if needed (it usually does). I like to now simmer it down gently for a while (15-20mins, add more water if necessary) - make sure it doesn't catch. This brings it together.
Check seasonings and add tamarind, sugar and salt to taste. Allow to cool.
(Sometimes I also add some deep fried, thinly sliced garlic - adds a nice crunchy element.)




Last Updated ( Wednesday, 11 November 2015 )

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When we talk about organics food (and wine) production, we often say that it's a more expensive option over more natural farming methods, and that the industrial farming techniques developed in the first half of the twentieth century saved the world from starvation.

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