[Flavor Friday] Cooking Wine
Updated: Mar 2
What is cooking wine?
Cooking wine is an essential part of East Asian Cuisines, especially in Chinese Cuisine. Many types of alcohol, like white wine, red wine, whiskey, rice wine and distilled wine can all be used as cooking wine. When cooking in Chinese cuisine, cooking wine generally refers to rice wine (either yellow rice wine or white rice wine) with an alcohol percentage of around 20 to 25%. Cooking wine in Chinese cuisine plays 2 major roles: to correct a meat’s flavor (get rid of the smelly fishy scent) or to serve as a cooking ingredient to add extra layers of flavor/aroma into the dish. In Japanese cuisine, Mirin is the most commonly used cooking wine. Mirin is similar to traditional sake, but with lower alcohol and sugar content and a milder flavor. Because of its versatility, Mirin can be used in a variety of recipes, including stir-fry, marinated meat, sushi rice, and sauces.
What is cooking wine?
In Western cuisines, red and white wines are primarily used in cooking meats. Red wine is commonly incorporated into rich stovetop sauces and enhances the organic scent of meats such as steak and chicken. Since red wine typically has more of a bitter taste, it contrasts nicely against the sweetness of many vegetables, such as tomatoes. White wine-based sauces are often creamy in texture and go great alongside roasted chicken or grilled fish entrees. Many white wines taste light and fruity, and therefore work well when combined with cream or heavier liquids in cooking. When cooked properly, the alcohol content of the wine is gradually cooked off to allow for a non-alcoholic dish while retaining the flavor of the wine. Asian cooking wines are used in a similar way as red and white wines are used in Western cuisines, but the wine itself is often more salty in flavor, so less salt is needed in the dishes themselves.
Commonly used yellow rice cooking wine: Shaoxing Rice Wine (紹興酒), Hua Diao Jiu (花雕酒). Side note: Hua Diao Jiu is essentially Shaoxing Rice wine but even more flavorful and aromatic because of its lengthy fermenting time.
Commonly used white rice cooking wine: Gao Liang Jiu (高粱酒), Mi Jiu (米酒), Mirin (味霖)- more commonly used in Japanese cuisine, Sato-commonly used in Thai cuisine.
How to use/where to find?
Cooking wine, like most alcohol, gets stored in glass bottles.Although “glutinous” rice is gluten free, rice wine is not. Generally, small amounts of wheat are added during the fermenting process of rice cooking wine. Cooking wines are commonly used to prepare meat and fish for stir fry dishes. To get rid of the smelly/fishy scent of meat or seafood, try adding 1 tablespoon of rice wine to the raw meat or fish, and then let it sit for about 10 minutes. For braised dishes or soups, cooking wine gets added to the pot and is left to boil so that the alcohol can evaporate, leaving behind the flavor and aroma from the wine.