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Shaoxing Wine


liuzhou
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53 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

It arrived at my door about half an hour ago.

That’s impressive by anybody’s standards. 

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In this part of the world (in the US for sure, but I'm guessing a good bit of the planet that's not east Asia), often in cookbooks or recipes, dry sherry is often suggested as a reasonable substitute if Shaoxing wine is not available. So, the question I can't believe no one has asked yet: is it?

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1 hour ago, Dave the Cook said:

In this part of the world (in the US for sure, but I'm guessing a good bit of the planet that's not east Asia), often in cookbooks or recipes, dry sherry is often suggested as a reasonable substitute if Shaoxing wine is not available. So, the question I can't believe no one has asked yet: is it?

 

I've been waiting for the question, too!

 

In my opinion, dry sherry is a poor substitute but can't think of a better one other than other Chinese cooking wines - 料酒 (liào jiǔ – literally, ‘ingredient wine’).

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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2 hours ago, Dave the Cook said:

In this part of the world (in the US for sure, but I'm guessing a good bit of the planet that's not east Asia), often in cookbooks or recipes, dry sherry is often suggested as a reasonable substitute if Shaoxing wine is not available. So, the question I can't believe no one has asked yet: is it?

If you are making Chinese food at home  in the US and can't find Shaoxing wine you probably can't find most of the other ingredients in the recipe, either. And whatever dry sherry you come up with it will not be as affordable, that's for sure. I go through a bottle of Shaoxing in a New York minute. Not drinking it, of course.

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45 minutes ago, Katie Meadow said:

If you are making Chinese food at home  in the US and can't find Shaoxing wine you probably can't find most of the other ingredients in the recipe, either. And whatever dry sherry you come up with it will not be as affordable, that's for sure. I go through a bottle of Shaoxing in a New York minute. Not drinking it, of course.

 

Absolutely.

 

If I had to sub dry sherry for Shaoxing, I'd go bankrupt very quickly! I get through a bottle of cooking grade in two to three weeks.

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It depends on whether you're talking about Chinese-Chinese or American Chinese. If it's the former, it entails a two hour schlep to get ingredients (where I can find a number of Shaoxing wines to pick from). If it's the latter, the toughest thing to obtain (besides Shaoxing wine) is Sichuan peppercorns, which are easily found on the internets (can't get wine that way where I live).

 

But mainly, it was intellectual curiosity on my part. I wondered if the blithe advice was accurate or not. I suppose that the reason the substitution is widely accepted is because the results, even if not authentic, are still tasty.

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15 minutes ago, Dave the Cook said:

But mainly, it was intellectual curiosity on my part. I wondered if the blithe advice was accurate or not. I suppose that the reason the substitution is widely accepted is because the results, even if not authentic, are still tasty.

I suspect that’s the case. A number of my friends from China attended colleges in small towns in the US in the '70s. As you can imagine, they had to make all sorts of substitutions in their cooking. The use of dry sherry was one they they thought was acceptable and better than the salted “cooking wines” commonly available in the US. Not for drunken chicken, but fine where it’s just a few tablespoons or so. 

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8 minutes ago, blue_dolphin said:

A number of my friends from China attended colleges in small towns in the US in the '70s. As you can imagine, they had to make all sorts of substitutions in their cooking.

 

Indeed, that is what gave rise to American-Chinese cuisine* in the first place.

However, I just don't think that dry sherry is as close to Shaoxing as many writers seem to say. As for balsamic vinegar being a good substitute for Zhenjiang (Chinkiang in N. America) Vinegar, give me a break!

 

*And British-Chinese etc.

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I was going to ask about Zhenjiang vinegar, but decided I probably knew what the general tone of the answer would be. (I was right.) And it was off-topic.

 

Not to prolong the discussion needlessly, but I don't recall anyone saying that dry sherry was "close" to Shaoxing. All I remember is writers saying it was an acceptable substitute. Perhaps it's splitting hairs, but I don't think those ideas mean the same thing.

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3 hours ago, Dave the Cook said:

 

Not to prolong the discussion needlessly, but I don't recall anyone saying that dry sherry was "close" to Shaoxing.

 

I do not wish to unnecessarily prolong the discussion either, but you did ask and I was thinking of websites such as this of which there are plenty.

 

Quote

Some sources will tell you that mirin is a great Shaoxing wine substitute, and it will do in a pinch if you cut the sugar out of your recipe. A better, closer choice is dry sherry ...

 

https://www.thespruceeats.com/chinese-rice-wines-in-cooking-694392 My emphasis.

 

To be clear, I have nothing against substitutions. I have to do  it all the time with western foods. But I don't pretend I am replicating the dish as originally envisaged or even close.

 

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Not to prolong the discussion needlessly, but practically every Chinese cookbook I bought from the time when I took my first Chinese cooking class in Santa Barbara (that would be 76 -78), discusses the use of dry sherry as a sub.  Both in the discussion of ingredients, as well as in the recipes. To whit:

 

1972:

 

IMG_7913.jpeg.82b6ffedd41d31c183bac43804e723e0.jpeg

 

IMG_7911.jpeg.28f088c270388886533803d46f78bda3.jpeg

 

IMG_7912.jpeg.a202ee4310bc40da4df6ecce66ad3103.jpeg

 

1977:

 

IMG_7917.jpeg.bafef737567fcfad3974254e4d1a03ea.jpeg

 

IMG_7918.jpeg.4ecb2c36087151d1300972758acbced1.jpeg

 

1988:

 

IMG_7914.jpeg.749e3d103bc36cfb5d0a52275da50a20.jpeg

 

IMG_7916.jpeg.06da7c7d980d48408db16f3eac8ee3cd.jpeg

 

IMG_7915.jpeg.6c7042aff34979cb3af0380d0a8db370.jpeg

 

1988:

 

IMG_7919.jpeg.aa2a9f7b8fd02a7e9be00e346028a332.jpeg

 

IMG_7920.jpeg.7ae85aab96191d96c4bc347e08badc28.jpeg

 

And the exalted one...2001:

 

IMG_7921.jpeg.ce45d1c1e772ad9f4293a7ef5f4fe33e.jpeg

 

IMG_7922.jpeg.c4640a0a9407650d3ac43c6a5a94d2a4.jpeg

 

 

 

 

Edited by weinoo (log)
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I don't think anyone was denying that a lot of writers recommend dry sherry as a substitute. The question was more about, should they? A matter of opinion. All I am saying is that I don't think it's a great substitute.

 

1972 was 50 years ago. Things have moved on a bit.

 

That said, I do think the salt is a big problem.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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When @FauxPasposted a pic of a bottle of Shaoxing containing caramel, I reached out to an friend who is a Chinese wine writer for clarification. She passed my query on to someone more deeply immersed in Shaoxing technicalities. We await his opinion.

 

In the meantime, my friend contacted me today to tell me to look out for a parcel she has sent me. I'm told this is the contents. Apparently, she has a few bottles lying around her office.

 

336331664_20years.thumb.jpg.38eb9bf1879edead5bc422d955a803ff.jpg

 

A nice 20-year old Shaoxing. Looking forward to tasting.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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17 hours ago, liuzhou said:

To be clear, I have nothing against substitutions. I have to do  it all the time with western foods. But I don't pretend I am replicating the dish as originally envisaged or even close.

 

You won't catch me defending thespruceeats.com very often, but in this case I think you're saying something other than what the author has written. She says that dry sherry is a better substitution for Shaoxing than mirin. That's not the same thing as saying that dry sherry is objectively close to Shaoxing, or even that it's a great choice. It's just (I think it's fair to say that it's her opinion) better than mirin.

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