Pro Tips for Pairing Chinese Food with Alcohol

Americans seem to instinctively know how to pair beer, wine, and other drinks with foods like pasta, steak, and seafood. It gets a bit more challenging when eating exotic cuisines like Chinese food, with spicier and bolder flavors.

Choosing the wrong drink can dull the taste of the dish or enhance it too greatly while choosing the right one can make the dining experience all the more enjoyable.

Chinese Food and Beer

Josh Waldman, the head brewer at Elysian Brewing Company, prepared a chart to help create the best flavor combinations when drinking beer with Chinese food. Below are his recommendations.

  • Egg rolls and stout beer: The roasted flavor of stout blends nicely with the softness and slight greasiness of egg rolls to offer a memorable eating experience.
  • General Tso’s chicken and pilsner beer: The spicy hops in pilsner beer offsets the sharp and biting spiciness of General Tso’s chicken quite nicely.
  • Kung pao chicken and winter pale ale: This flavor of beer feels warm and smooth as it glides down the throat, which makes for a pleasant combination with the sweet bell pepper taste present in Kung Pao sauce.
  • Lo mein and red ale: Ale beers are known for bread, hops, and malt. This combination pairs nicely with the sweet flavor of noodles in lo mein.
  • Orange chicken and IPA: Fans of IPA beer love it for its bitterness and orange-flavored aftertaste. This goes well with the prominent flavor of orange peels present in orange chicken.

Chinese Food and Wine

For those who prefer wine to beer, consider the preferences of Fiona Beckett, decanter restaurant critic.

  • Crispy duck and pancakes: A fruity wine such as Pinot Noir from the American West Coast or Sonoma blends well with the crispy, bread-like flavor of this dish.
  • Dim sum and sparkling wine: A chilled fino sherry or blanc de blancs champagne are both ideal options according to Beckett.
  • Sweet and sour chicken: A dish especially popular in the United States, sweet and sour chicken goes well with a white blend wine such as TWR from New Zealand, Hugo’s Gentil, or Torrontes. The latter is a good match for a wider range of Chinese dishes.
  • Sichuan dishes and dry rosé wine: As one of the spiciest meals in China, any meal with Sichuan peppercorns deserves something equally as bold. An off-dry rosé or an off-dry Riesling wine fits the bill.

Additional Tips for Choosing the Right Alcoholic Beverage

When selecting wine with lunch or dinner of Chinese food, matching the sugar content of the wine with the spiciness of the meal is a good trick for coming up with a delightful combination. When the wine choice is Riesling, diners would do best to select a wine that is as sweet as possible regardless of the food in front of them.

Wines with softer acidity are typically the best match for hot foods containing a thick texture. Additionally, Berliner Weisse, Pepa Naro, and Saison make excellent beer choices for most Chinese meals.

Diners may not get their drink and food combinations right on the first few tries. That makes it all the more enjoyable when they do find the perfect match.