Despite a thriving populace of avid wine drinkers to be found in every major city in Asia, the practice of pairing wine with Asian cuisines still remains in its infancy to this day. This is due in large part to the family-style format found from China to Indonesia, where meals are best eaten from shared plates in large groups, making the Western tradition of pairing single portions of food with exacting expressions of wine a near impossibility.
It's no wonder that diners often resort to crowd-pleasing red wines like Bordeaux or Burgundy as a handy catch-all to last them through the many courses present in a feast.
Still, that's not to say that it's a futile pursuit. With their strong, oftentimes pungent flavours, pairing Asian dishes with wine is a challenge that many sommeliers relish, and successfully doing so is a badge of honour, however small, that they can happily take along with them to the next family gathering.
Whether it's a subtle Satèn Brut with Cantonese seafood, a refreshing blaufränkisch to counter punchy Korean cuisine, or a spiced New Zealand syrah to compliment the lime and chilli of Thai food, there are surprising combinations to be found out there. To this end, we asked four wine experts from around the region to fill us in on their favourite pairings, and encourage you, dear reader, to try these out at home too.
Bak Kut Teh and Beaujolais
"Bak kut teh is a traditional Malaysian Chinese specialty founded in the Klang Valley by immigrants from China's southern Fujian province during the 18th century. This homely dish is made from pork bones and different parts of the pig (such as ribs) and boiled with a variety of herbs and spices in a huge pot for a few hours. This mouth-watering combination results in an aromatic, hearty and stomach-soothing pork broth served in a clay pot.
I indulge my bak kut teh with wine which has a fragrant aroma, velvety texture, soft tannins and vivid acidity to balance the richness of the broth. Hence, the 2018 Jean Foillard Morgon or 2019 Alex Moreau Fleurie from the Beaujolais region in France are my preferred choices. They often have a fresh fruity aroma with earthy nuances of rose, liquorice and pepper. I like how they are elegantly framed in a medium body, with a velvety, silky palate. Their bright acidity is great to balance the broth’s oiliness."
— Danny Tai Wai Siong, DipWset, CSW, Bourgogne wine specialist at Vinoble Petaling Jaya, Malaysia