Sunday, September 25, 2011

wondrous cooking night number two

The second cooking class we attended had the accurate title of ‘Wine & Woks’. There was a lot of wok action and a lot of tasty wine. We made a total of three different dishes, and once again the vegetarian option turned out to be quite tasty indeed. My real interest in this class wasn’t necessarily the new recipes, but I really wanted to know how to match wine to Chinese food. Chinese wine isn’t famous for a good reason – it’s terrible. Brands like ‘Dynasty’ and ‘Great Wall’ are a serious joke (read: they taste like ass) amongst the expats in China, and most locals don’t fancy the western idea of what wine is. I had faith, however, that the dishes I had tasted throughout the year would find their true grapey soul-mates.

For entrée? Seared King Oyster Mushrooms with Glass Noodle Salad.

If I’m honest, this was actually my favourite dish of the evening. These mushrooms have a totally unique texture and when seared, seriously resemble scallops (which was the original recipe). The winner was the glass noodle salad. It was so light and yet had such a rich and satisfying flavour combination. It was also easy to make and surprisingly healthy for a Chinese dish. The salad had fresh capsicum and spring onions, and the dressing was made with a lot of fresh ginger, so this kind of thing goes well with a Chardonnay. With spring flavours and light Asian meals like this that often feature seafood (the picture on the right is an example of how this salad goes perfectly with garlic prawns) the dish needs to be paired with a white wine, but you don’t really want it to be too heavy like a sauvignon blanc.

Moving on to mains… Tofu Burger with Paksoy and Shitake Mushroom Taro Mash.

This meat equivalent is the Soy Braised Pork Shoulder. I accidentaly ate all my burger before I got a nice photo of it.

Holy moses, this was easily one of the best burger patties I have ever had. The secret was in the texture, and by adding millet and barley to the mixture, you had something chewy and filling. Mushrooms provided that meaty kind of flavour, and with strong Chinese flavours like soy sauce and sesame oil it was totally tasty. The onion gravy was rich and sweet thanks to aniseed, bay leaves, dark soy sauce and ginger and complimented the taro mash amazingly. For this mash, the recipe says to actually add the Paksoy (a common Asian green vegetable) and mushrooms to the mix, but I guess the Australian in me just wanted to appreciate a creamy buttery mash mix. Nevertheless, the meal was wholly filling and reminded me of all the best kinds of winter comfort food. I found out that Chinese meals with heavy textures and flavours like this go well with (reds, of course, and) particularly a Pinot Noir or Shiraz. The meat version of main meal that evening was Soy Braised Pork Shoulder with the same Taro Mash. I’m sure you can imagine how great that smelled and looked, and the same wines would suit.

And finally for deserty deliciousness – Chinese Date Sticky Pudding with Ice cream.

They certainly were popular...
On paper, this recipe was your classic sticky date pudding recipe, but Chinese dates have a truly different flavour that puts a whole alternative swing on the dish. I know when my mum or grandma make this classic, it is sickly sweet (read: I love it) but Chinese dates don’t have that crazy sugar content that normal dates do, and so instead of having a pudding that tastes like pure sugar, you have a dessert that tastes like real dates. In case that disappoints you, I can say for sure that the hot sticky toffee sauce that goes on top is sufficiently sweet for even the sweetest-of-tooths like myself. So, what wine for such a sweet dessert? We were given both a South African Shiraz and an Australian fruity Merlo. Personally I preferred the Merlo, but possibly only because I’m more used to it. Either way, a rich and warm desert like this needs that rich redness.

So there we are. I learnt a lot about flavour matching, and now I know what to serve people when I try and take my recipes home. I also had a great fun evening full of cooking and eating and drinking. What more could you ask for. Seriously. It was wonderful.

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