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Question about Chinese (and other Asian) liquors


GaijinGirl
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Hi - had a question regarding the range of Chinese/Asian alcoholic drinks.

I've had a few basics: sake, Tsing Tao beer, Export 33, plum wine, but there are alot of Asian alcoholic drinks that I've never tried. Question is: what types are out there, and what brands are best to try? I'm *big* on sweet taste (plum wine is a favorite of mine), and I heard from one person that almost all the liquors out there (like shochu?) are dry. Can anyone fill me in?

Thanks a million for any help,

--Janet (Pitchblack70)

Mochi, Foi Thong and Rojak - what more can a girl want from life?

http://www.frombruneiandbeyond.com

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Hi - had a question regarding the range of Chinese/Asian alcoholic drinks.

Two of the most common alcohols in China, neither of which you mentioned are Baijiu and Huangjiu. I'm not sure about the availability of either in most places in the US (then again, not sure where you are located), but some of the larger Chinatowns tend to have these available in the grocery stores or restaurants. While I don't like huangjiu at all (tastes like alcoholic soy sauce to me), perhaps that is just my northern blood coming through, if you ask me, in the right company and during the right meal, nothing is better than a bottle of baijiu. The 2 major brands are Wu Liang Ye and Guizhou Maotai. Both are definitely an aquired taste and (especially in the case of baijiu) not for the faint of heart...I remember an interesting gathering where I introduced some American relatives to ergoutou (extremely cheap baijiu)....

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If you are into strong spirits, then you getta try the number one spirit from China: Mou-Tai. It is very strong, both in alcohol content (53% = 106 proof) and aroma. If I remember it correctly, this is the stuff the Chinese officials used to serve Nixon when he made his historic ice-breaking visit to Beijing back in the 70's. A sip of it, I can feel that my head starts spinning.

Here is a picture of it: Mou Tai

It is relatively high-priced, though not as expensive as XO's.

Here is a website about Chinese alcohol products. There are some articles about how they make alcohols. It's interesting. Click here

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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The boys in the (extended) family seem to like the white lightning called "Kongfuzi" (Confucius) lao jiu, but I find most of the hard stuff in China unappetizing. (To be fair, they didn't like the bourbon I brought them, either, though we all seem to be able to agree on brandy).

Being of the "beer is the wine that goes with everything" school, I'm generally happy with a tall bottle of Reeb Gold with my meals.

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The soju I've had is smooth and not rotgut, but the really alcoholic rice liquor they sell in little Beijing supermarkets, even the least cheap stuff in such discount stores, is an abomination. And I mean, the really, really alcoholic stuff. My brother bought some for I think 3 kuai and change or so for a large bottle, and just tasting a tiny bit of it made my throat feel like someone had thrown kerosene in it and lit a match. It was just awful! We got rid of it quickly, and not through our stomachs, thank you very much!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Janet, a good starting point might be the reviews of several Asian spirits (especially sojus) on the Shrine to the Spirits website here: http://www.physics.uq.edu.au/people/nieminen/chiew.html

Sojus are not all dry, and the higher end labels are quite drinkable. They're usually served cold. Koreans sometimes mix cold soju and cucumber slices in a teapot as a summertime drink, a cross-cultural version of a Pimm's Cup. I like it.

On the other hand, the Chinese liquors are, IMHO, more of an acquired taste, and despite valiant attempts, I don't think I'm ever going to aquire that taste. Obviously there are a couple 100 million people in China that disagree with me, but that may have something to do with the fact that the local liquors here cost a fraction of anything imported. I'm with Gary on this, I'll take the beer instead any day.

You might want to add Thailand's Mekhong or Sang Thip 'whiskey' to your list of Asian spirits to try. They're not bad mixed with soda... on a beach... in Thailand.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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Don't forget the Korean rotgut they call soju. 

How could I forget soju. One of my favorite late night combinations at a little club nearby is their flavored soju and duk bok ki, I know it doesn't seem like it goes together, but at that point in the night, who cares...

To jump over to what Pan said, the cheap stuff is always dangerous, especially for someone not used to drinking it. I remember a few impromptu dinners I had in Beijing with a friend and their family who were from Anhui and the father would bring out a plastic jug of huang jiu, something I hate as it is, but even worse when it is of the very cheap variety (just think of any cheap alcohol in the US)...One thing I found sort of cool when I was at the grocery store one day in BJ was baijiu that was being sold in sealed plastic, I guess it cuts down the price of the bottle and was selling for 1.5 RMB...I passed it up though, if I'm going to spend a night drinking baijiu, its going to be Wu Liang Ye, or at least Beijing (a mid range brand that works hard on presentation like bottle and box)...

HKDave, you are right on, as I mentioned earlier, baijiu/huangjiu are definitely an acquired taste and there are even many Chinese I know who won't go anywhere near them...

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Speaking of drinking beer in China, I had an experience drinking beer in the city of Nanjing back in 1981. They sold beer in a bowl at room temperature on a summer day, as if it is herb tea. I was not sure if it's only because refrigerators were too expensive to get back then, or it's just a local practice. Drinking warm beer is one thing, drinking beer from a bowl is really interesting.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Speaking of drinking beer in China, I had an experience drinking beer in the city of Nanjing back in 1981.  They sold beer in a bowl at room temperature on a summer day, as if it is herb tea.  I was not sure if it's only because refrigerators were too expensive to get back then, or it's just a local practice.  Drinking warm beer is one thing, drinking beer from a bowl is really interesting.

I think Chinese traditionally considered the drinking of chilled beverages unhealthy, though they are gradually changing their thinking. Even now, restaurants will often serve beer at room temperature unless cold beer is requested, and some probably still don't have cold beer. It's the same thing with soda pop.

In Shanghai Shaoxing wine is often served in bowls in homes and traditional restaurants, and maybe it just seemed natural to serve beer the same way.

In fast food places, beer in cans is often served with soda straws, as many customers feel it is more hygienic that way.

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To jump over to what Pan said, the cheap stuff is always dangerous, especially for someone not used to drinking it.

There are other spellings of soju. Shochu (Japanese I believe) is what I'm most familiar with and is a huge growing trend in the US.

But to note what chengb02 said about cheap stuff being dangerous, I've even read of formeldehyde poisonings and even deaths from cheap baijiu as recent as May, 2004.

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I saw beer being served in a bowl only once in Hong Kong. The beer is cold and the bowl is also chilled. I think using bowl rather than glass/cup makes it easier for restaurant to store/chill them. Stacked up bowl takes up less space than stacked up glass/cup.

There is a type is alcohol that is usually being served with crab, but I don't recall its name. It is pretty good if it is not the cheap stuff, some people like to throw in a preserved plum.

Edited by Yuki (log)
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I saw beer being served in a bowl only once in Hong Kong. The beer is cold and the bowl is also chilled. I think using bowl rather than glass/cup makes it easier for restaurant to store/chill them. Stacked up bowl takes up less space than stacked up glass/cup.

There is a type is alcohol that is usually being served with crab, but I don't recall its name. It is pretty good if it is not the cheap stuff, some people like to throw in a  preserved plum.

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I saw beer being served in a bowl only once in Hong Kong. The beer is cold and the bowl is also chilled. I think using bowl rather than glass/cup makes it easier for restaurant to store/chill them. Stacked up bowl takes up less space than stacked up glass/cup.

There is a type is alcohol that is usually being served with crab, but I don't recall its name. It is pretty good if it is not the cheap stuff, some people like to throw in a  preserved plum.

Hi Yuki, was this at Shui Hu Ju/Water Margin/Hutong? This group of restaurants has the same owners and they like to serve their beer in bowls.

The alcohol served with crabs - isn't it just Chinese rice wine? As you said, it can be pretty good (in small quantities) if it's not the really cheap stuff. People add the preserved plum to make it more palatable. I think it's considered warming to counter-affect the "cooling" properties of the crabs.

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Huangjiu is very often served heated, especially in the winter time. One question though, as I said, I'm not a fan of the stuff at all and was really only introduced to it when I traveled in the Shanghai area. I met an American who told me he loved the stuff, but he said that he usually added sugar or other things to it to make it more palatable, as instructed by a Chinese...Is this common?

I will second Gary's point, when ordering beer in China, you must insist you want it cold, or else it could come out room temperature...

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