Chinese cooking wines
Pagoda Aged Shao Hsing Chia Fan Chiew
Billed as the official Chinese wine at state dinners at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, this is a chia fan, or 'added rice' wine, made with a higher proportion of glutinous rice and seen as superior to regular Shaoxing wines. Less water is added in the process, which results in higher residual sugars. While this makes it more palatable, when reduced in cooking, it's prone to becoming too saccharine.
Pagoda Aged Shao Hsing Hua Tiao Chiew
Pagoda is a classic brand from the Shaoxing area, and this iconic blue and gold label sits on the shelves of many families' larders, and for good reason: its flavours are layered and rich and bring richness to meat dishes. For the price, you don't have to be feeling flush to use the entire bottle for a big pot of Taiwanese-style huadiao chicken.
Guyue Longshan Chen Nian Hua Diao (Five-Year)
Aged for five years, this potent, smooth, caramel-coloured wine can sit quite happily in the entry-level beverage category, but it also makes a good poaching liquid for dishes that take on the flavours of the wine, such as steamed crab or drunken chicken, a classic dish from the alcohol's native region.
Ning Pagoda Shao Hsing Wine
Despite the moniker, this huadiao is made in Ningbo, Zhejiang, about 70 kilometres east of Shaoxing. The murky colour suggests hasty clarification, and the three years of ageing hasn't done much for the thin body and slightly unpleasant medicinal smell - bound to become more apparent when added in copious amounts, as required by dishes such as dongbo rou (braised pork belly).
Longevity Shao Hsing Hua Diao
A relatively light-coloured tipple, this huadiao is distinctly savoury and simply flavoured. Unless you're keen to try it lightly heated with a preserved sugar plum (a common serving method for lesser wines), we wouldn't suggest consuming it as a beverage, as the bottle's label suggests. It would go well in dishes that are paired with soy sauce and cooked over high heat.