Mapo Tofu, Spicy Tomato Fish and Riesling

Those who read this blog know how much I enjoy the pairing of spicy Sichuan cuisine and Riesling. While some perhaps find it typical, and even boring(!!!) and take it for granted as they explore more adventurous combinations, last night once again reminded me of what deliciousness is all about - when you join authentic Asian cooking with a high-quality German Riesling. I am not a German nor a Chinese, yet every time I lean on those pair of friends, it feels like home. If anyone is still not doing this, DO they MUST!

Wine: 2004 Dönnhoff Riesling Kabinett - Germany, Nahe. Cost: $20.
Food: Mapo Tofu (silky tofu, ground pork, chili and bean sauce, scallions, fresh roasted sichuan peppercorns) and Spicy Tomato Fish (basa fish fillet, Chinese cooking wine, ginger, tomato, roasted chili peppers, sichuan peppercorns). Cost: $10.
Pairing: Priceless.

Though I had a number of Riesling disappointments in the recent past, this time the wine was excellent. At only 9% alcohol, the two of us finished the whole bottle. It was a quintessential Riesling - perfectly balanced with fruit, acidity, minerality, and petrol. Not unique, but very enjoyable, and at $20 a bottle well worth it. Kabinett (slightly sweet), but pleasantly so due to mouth-cleansing counter-effects of acidity. It comes from the region of Nahe, in Germany - a lesser known wine region than other German regions such as Mosel, Rheingau, Rheinhessen, and Pfalz - but I continue to be impressed by the lesser-known Nahe. The dishes were very spicy, enough so that I thought a Spatlese rather than Kabinett Riesling could have been a slightly better match.

Each time I think of mouth-watering Sichuan cuisine, my stomach begs my mind for Riesling. Before I know it, my mind makes my body to the cellar where my pet Rieslings look more inviting than diamonds. Some may call it foolishness - I call it love!


Anonymous said…
Overall, I am 100% with you on the approach.

I would say that after Rheingau and Mosel, Nahe is arguably the best region in Germany. Dönnhoff is one of the best in all of Germany without a doubt.

Personallly, I prefer something with a bit more body and sugar and less complex with spicy food.

Kabinett's can be some of the most ethereal wines in the world with elegance, purity and great finesse. Most people don't realize just how amazing they are and just quaff them. They are not comparable to most other wines due to their light body and low alcohol. They are produced from south-facing slopes in Germany's river valleys where reflected heat from the river's waters is critical to ripening. These are extreme wines in the same sense that California Cab is an extreme wine but at the other end of the spectrum.

Although great with lots of food, an ethereal, complex Kabinett loses its nuance and complexity in the face of strong spice and fat, becoming a very pleasant, simple and sweet wine.

Personally, I find Spatlese is a nice match, the added sugar tempering the spice a bit more. In the past, we bought a case of Loosen's "Dr L" riesling, their base wine (~$10?) and found it wonderful with spicy food. Medium-dry Alsace Pinot Gris can also make a great match with spicy food, Pinot Gris' subtle spicy character complementing the spice in the food.
Anonymous said…
Dönnhoff is one of my favorite winemakers in Germany. Great choice.
Iron Chevsky said…
Agreed, Eric, but next time I am going for a 1990 Auslese!
Anonymous said…
I'm a huge fan of both tofu (having formerly been a vegetarian for 10 years, how could you not be??) and the Dönnhoff Riesling - but never thought of pairing the two. Now I will!

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