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.
This type of wine also goes by the Chinese name of Huadiao Wine. Made from wheat and brown glutinous rice that has been fermented, for centuries it has been sold in large, white-painted terracotta jars. While some drink it at the start of a meal, in China it is typically favoured for use at official banquets for toasting, where custom demands it is drunk in a single shot.
Almost always it is served warm, and given its potency, it is poured into small ceramic cups, or thimble-sized glasses, though in less affluent Chinese homes drinking it from bowls was once common. Being such an adaptable ingredient, it is a regarded as a Chinese culinary essential. In terms of taste, it is sometimes compared to a rich, strong sherry with a dry, sharp after-taste.
How do I cook with Shaoxing wine?
Shaoxing wine has many applications in Chinese cooking and is growing in popularity with non-Chinese chefs. In China its pungent tang lifts marinades, stir fries and braised dishes; adding a few splashes to the stuffing mixture can elevate pan-fried dumplings. Its distinctive fruity flavour gives a kick to meat dishes or a deliciously warm glow to seafood or chicken, as in the dish ‘Drunken Chicken’.
Shaoxing wine is the key ingredient 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.
How do I choose which Shaoxing rice wine to buy?
The best Shaoxing wine should contain only water, rice and wheat. In the USA salt is added, primarily to allow it to be sold in stores where alcohol is not permitted. If made outside China, bottles may also be labelled ‘Shaohsing Wine’, depending on its origins.
This Taiwanese brand is suitable for both cooking and drinking and will bring a rich, hearty, homecooked flavour to any savoury dish.
For an extra special end to a Chinese meal, serve a small glass of Shaoxing Rice Wine - 10 Year Aged.
Please note that Shaoxing Wine is alcoholic - 13.5%-14.5% ABV.
Ingredients: water 54.1%, rice 40.3%, wheat 5.6%.
Allergy Advice: For allergens see ingredients listed in bold.
Storage: store in a cool, dry place.
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