What is Shaoxing wine?
Shaoxing wine – often labelled Shaoxing Rice Wine, or Chinese Cooking Wine – is a heady, sweet wine that has reputedly been produced for over 2000 years in the canal city of Shaoxing, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. It is just one of a celebrated group of sweet rice wines known collectively as ‘yellow’ wines, or huang jiu.
What does Shaoxing wine taste like?
Made with only water, rice and wheat, Shaoxing wine is heady and sweet, with a dry, sharp after-taste.
How to cook with Shaoxing wine?
In China, Shaoxing wine is typically drunk at official banquets and used for toasting, where customs demand it is drunk in a single shot. For cooking, Shaoxing wine has many uses. Its tangy flavour lifts marinades, stir fries and braised meat dishes. Shaoxing wine is a key ingredient for making the dish Drunken Chicken – for this recipe you want to use a superior variety as the flavour of the rice wine really shines through.
Shaoxing wine is a must in hong shao or ‘red braised’ dishes eaten at Chinese New Year, where a mix of Shaoxing wine, soy, vinegar and ginger is added to the hot wok turning the food a deep ruby colour and producing an unmistakable sweet, syrupy sauce.
Exciting recipes using Shaoxing wine
Bean curd skin rolls are a favourite on dim sum menus across Hong Kong, made with sheets of tofu, shiitake mushrooms and Shaoxing wine.
A spicy, dry and full of flavour snack to enjoy with ice cold beer. This dish is all about sucking all the marinade, rub and dip flavours off the chicken bones.
Miso Chicken Claypot Rice
Pippa Middlehurst's recipe using the traditional Chinese claypot gives you lovely crispy rice and tender chicken.
Fish Fragrant Aubergine
Despite its name, there's no fish in this dish. It's all about the seasoning combination which was once traditional with fish.
Shanghai Red-Braised Pork with Eggs
Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe for pork belly is a classic dish, loved across China. Serve with plain rice and fresh greens.
What are the different Shaoxing wines I can buy?
Shaoxing wine – often labelled Shaoxing Rice Wine, or Chinese Cooking Wine - is a heady, sweet wine that has reputedly been produced for over 2000 years in the canal city of Shaoxing, in China’s eastern Zhejiang province. In terms of taste, it is sometimes compared to a rich, strong sherry with a dry, sharp after-taste.
Yutaka Shaoxing rice wine is brewed in Shaoxing, and is used to add acidity with a slight sweetness to traditional Chinese dishes such as Chairman Mao’s red braised pork, and dumpling fillings. The signature deep amber hue also adds a caramel colour to recipes when it's used to deglaze pans and woks.
Shaoxing rice wine – 10 year aged in a traditional decorative jar makes a special end to a Chinese feast. The superior quality rice wine is best served slightly chilled as a fragrant digestif, or use it in Chinese cooking, where you want the flavour of the wine to shine through.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between rice wine and Shaoxing wine?
What can I use as a substitute for Shaoxing wine?
With its sweet, heady flavours and fruity notes, Shaoxing wine is very unique in taste. There are three substitute options, however none will truly replicate the flavour and aroma of Shaoxing wine.
The substitutes you can use are a dry cooking sherry, a Chinese rice wine, or mirin, a Japanese rice wine. If you do use mirin, you’ll need to use less sugar than suggested in your recipe, as it is sweeter than Shaoxing wine.
Ellie Edwards is a food writer for Sous Chef. Previously she worked at olive magazine, writing about exciting new ingredients, UK restaurants and travelling the world to find the best cinnamon buns. When she's not exploring the likes of Belize, Kerala and Zanzibar, Ellie loves rustling up a feast in her London kitchen, with a particular passion for porridge, sourdough and negronis.