How to Cook with Chinese Cooking Wine
By: Karen Le
The use of wines in cooking is not limited to just French cuisine. A particularly popular wine used worldwide is Chinese cooking wine, also known as Shaoxing cooking wine.
Made from fermented sticky rice, it is a translucent amber colour with an alcohol percentage ranging from 14 to 20 percent. The fermentation process brings out a complicated dry flavour that combines sweet, bitter, sour, spicy and savoury.
It’s a common beverage in China and an ingredient that adds a kick to Chinese recipes. It adds depth and complexity to sauces, broths, and anything it’s added too.
Chinese cooking wine may sound like the ultimate secret weapon, but it’s important to understand how to use it while cooking.
5 Reasons to Cook With Chinese Cooking Wine
The saying “a little goes a long way” is very true with Chinese cooking wine.
Compared to other Asian cooking wines, it has a stronger flavour than regular wine, hence most stir-fry recipes only call for 1 to 2 tablespoons of it. It’s also commonly used for braising and in marinades.
1. Remove Greasiness and Unpleasant Smells
Adding it to your marinades can help reduce the raw or fishy smell from your protein while infusing a pleasant flavour to the dish. The fats from the meat that contains the odour are dissolved in the alcohol and are carried away when it evaporates. This reduces the amount of grease as well.
2. Enhance Aroma
Chinese cooking wine is fragrant and mellow. It is very harmonious with the aroma of the food. It not only adds flavour, but it also enhances the aroma of the food, making the dishes full of fragrance.
3. Add Flavour
It’s main purpose is to deepen and enhance the flavour of the other ingredients. The amino acids in this mild liquor are versatile and complement the highlights of a dish, creating a stronger flavour profile.
4. Tenderize Meat
Similar to how Chinese cooking wine reduces the greasiness of a dish, it can also tenderize meats. It does so by penetrating into the food tissue and dissolving a small amount of the organic matter, which makes the meat more tender.
5. Keep Dishes Fresh
The chemical make-up of Chinese cooking wine not only produces a wonderful fragrant aroma, but it also contains sodium. The dish itself does not become saltier as the sweet notes cancel out the salt. But the salt from the wine keeps the dish fresh as time goes by, acting as a natural preservative.
4 Health Benefits of Drinking Chinese Cooking Wine
Other than boosting the flavours of a dish, warm Chinese cooking wine is popular on cold winter days as a beverage in China.
Although it cannot be compared to other types of wine, it can be beneficial for your body. Its primary benefit is to warm the body, but there are many other health benefits to it.
Here are 4 health benefits of Chinese cooking wine.
Fights Colds – It has antibacterial properties that help fight germs within the body. Adding some ginger can further boost these properties.
Warms the Body – In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese cooking wine has warm yang energy, also known as qi. This can help dispel the opposite cold yin energy from your body and warm you from the inside out.
Relieves Stomach Aches – The citric and lactic acids in it can help relieve digestive issues, such as stomachaches, and promote better digestion overall.
Stomachaches can also be caused by too much yin qi in the body. As mentioned above, it contains warm yang energy, so it can help to balance out the yin energy and relieve stomach aches.
Reinforce Medicinal Function of Herbs – There are some herbs and medicines whose medicinal effects cannot be properly obtained by dissolving in water, while alcohol works very well. The alcohol content in it also helps reinforce the medicinal function of the herbs, while accelerating the speed in which they take effect.
It is important to remember that Chinese cooking wine is still an alcoholic beverage and should be drunk in moderation. The recommended maximum is 200 mL per day to achieve its health benefits.
The traditional way to drink it is to warm it first. To do so, place a bottle of it in water and heat the water up to 35°C to get the best aroma and enhance its health benefits.
Chinese Cooking Wine Recipes
Although many recipes call for Chinese cooking wine, there are some that are more well known for the ingredient.
Certain recipes are labelled as “drunken.” This term highlights the use of Chinese cooking wine in the recipes, such as Drunken Chicken or Drunken Clams.
Try the recipe below and let us know what you think! If you enjoy this recipe, check out our other recipes here.
Drunken Clam Recipe
Prep Time: 35 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 1 lb Manila clams
- 1/3 cup kosher salt (iodized will kill clams)
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 2 inches fresh ginger, cut into thin match-like strips
- 2 stalks scallion, julienned
- 1 cup Chinese cooking wine
- Salt to taste
- A dash white pepper powder
- A dash sesame oil
- 1 hour before cooking, mix the kosher salt, cornmeal, and some cold water in a large bowl. Add clams and refrigerate for 1 hour to remove sand.
- Remove clams from cornmeal mixture and scrub well under cold running water. Strain the clams and set aside.
- Heat oil in a wok on high heat.
- Stir-fry the ginger until golden brown.
- Add the clams and Chinese cooking wine. Cover the wok and let it steam for 3 minutes.
Note: If you like your dish extra intoxicating, and your clams really drunk, go ahead and use 2 cups of it instead.
- Remove the cover and add in a dash of sesame oil, white pepper powder, and salt to taste.
- Cover the wok again for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until all the clam shells have opened.
- Discard all clams that did not open.
- Remove from the heat and transfer to a plate. Garnish with scallions.
- Ready to serve!