The Americans may have their surf’n’turf, but it’s the Chinese who are masters at combining foods from the land, sea and sky. There are many classic dishes wherein the textures of these ingredients are extended and layered. Sea cucumber and chicken hotpot is one such dish: the succulence of the bone-on meat pieces is layered with the gelatinous nature of the sea cucumber. The ingredients are linked with fermented bean paste. This savoury and indispensible Chinese ingredient sets a common ground on which the textures and succulence come together harmoniously.
A wine that works well with braised sea cucumber and chicken needs to respect the textures of the ingredients while extending the flavour profile seamlessly. The bean paste soaks up oak and accentuates the fruit of any red wine; fruity white wine will get slightly numbed by the richness of the bean paste.
Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir 2010, Central Otago, New Zealand
If you were to fold the world in half, Central Otago in New Zealand would be next to the southern Rhône Valley. But the wines produced in each region couldn’t be more different. The southern Rhône is all about hearty grenache while pinot noir is the red soul of Central Otago. This Mt Difficulty pinot has lovely red fruit, it’s as silky as it is smooth and it lingers in the mouth for a good minute. It’s a great match with braised sea cucumber and chicken. The fermented bean paste absorbs much of the wine’s delicate wood flavour and the red fruit really shines. It is delicate and melts nicely into the sea cucumber and succulent chicken.
Available for HK$428 at Oliver’s (tel: 2869 5119)
Losada 2008, Bierzo, Spain
There’s so much more to Spanish wine than sherry and rioja. Spain has some of the most diverse terroirs and grape varieties. Mencia, a red grape varietal native to Bierzo, is grown in the northwestern region of Spain near the borders of Galicia, Leon and Zamora. This supple and rich red is wonderful with braised sea cucumber and chicken. It’s also one of the most dense and rich wines you could pair with the dish. The secret lies in the fermented bean paste and the eagerness of the sea cucumber to soak up tannins and oak. The wine is well balanced, but the bean paste and sea cucumber really accentuate the fruit. Be sure to allow the wine to breathe for an hour or so before serving.
Available for HK$160 at Victoria Wines (tel: 3469 9988)
Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Margaret River, Australia
Margaret River in Western Australia is cabernet country. Moss Wood’s style is rich but elegant, and it’s tasty without having excess weight. It’s a good match with the dish because the chicken’s succulence highlights the wine’s soft red fruit and elegant tannins. The bean paste adds a savoury dimension and the combination renders a long, lingering finish.
Available for HK$790 at Summergate Fine Wines (tel: 2545 4100)
Simon Tam is Christie’s head of wine, China. Flavour Colours, his iPhone Chinese food and wine pairing app, can be found on http://www.iwinecentre.com/iwine-en/flavour-colours.php