Wines for some tricky Chinese dishes

When I read Mark Hix recipes in The Independent today they were so challenging that I nearly gave up but as everyone else seems to be writing about asparagus today and I’ve done a lot on asparagus recently there was no other option . . .

Tea-smoked duck with egg noodles
I’ve always meant to tackle tea-smoking but Hix’s cautious injunction to “have the extractor fan on full” illustrates the problem. This sounds a delicious recipe though - faintly smoky duck in a clear chilli-laced broth but not one that’s particularly wine-friendly. One of the new wave of drier German Rieslings is probably your best bet though a Gewürztraminer might make a more exciting option.

Ox cheek and mushroom hotpot
I bet Mark wrote this two or three weeks ago when it looked as if we would never have a summer. It’s not quite the recipe for the last few days’ steamy temperatures. The dominant flavours in this meaty stew - apart from the mushrooms - are ginger, five spice and sesame. I’m torn between a fruity Syrah and a full-bodied Pinot Noir. I think the latter just about wins.

Hot and sour cuttlefish soup
A sharp, flavoured clear, slightly fishy broth which really doesn’t need an accompanying wine or anything else, come to that. If that’s all there is to the meal, maybe a cup of refreshing green or black tea afterwards - milkless, of course.

Fried chilli prawns with pea shoots
On first glance I thought this might be less challenging than the other recipes. I was wrong. Apart from the chilli, there’s a lot of garlic and a good dash of oyster sauce and the prawns and peashoots are cooked over smoking sesame oil. A well-chilled fino sherry to the rescue, I think or, if you find sherry a bit strong to drink with a meal, a crisp Kolsch (Cologne-style lager). The Meantime Brewery does a good one for Sainsbury's under the Taste the Difference label.

Note: like most Asian cuisines there’s normally more than one dish in a Chinese meal. Mark doesn’t say what other dishes he’d serve with these recipes, if any but if you start to introduce other powerful flavours, attempting to match them becomes more complicated still. Overall the wine I find most flexible with Chinese food is a merlot-based rosé

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