Food & Drink

You Must Try Pairing Chinese Food With Cognac

The smooth, complex Cognac is a good match to the bold flavors of most Chinese dishes.
IMAGE COURTESY HENNESSY
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There’s always a reason to celebrate in the Philippines. Filipinos never run out of milestones–from milestone birthdays to anniversaries to triumphs in the workplace and achievements at school. And really, there’s no reason not to make merry on all things good that come our way.

For a full-on feast, one of the best places to celebrate is at a Chinese restaurant. Chinese cuisine has always been celebratory, with platters of food to share and a multitude of options on the lazy Susan to choose from. Of course, a celebratory meal is never complete without the proper libations. It has been customary to pair Chinese dishes with beer, wine, and anything sparkling. What you probably haven’t tried, however, is pairing your Chinese feast with Cognac.

The pairing is a revelation. The smooth and complex Cognac is a good match to the bold flavors of most Chinese dishes. Textures are just as well highlighted when chasing a morsel of salted egg crab or sweet vinegar diced chicken with this beverage of choice. China Blue’s Jereme Leung partnered with Hennessy X.O. to showcase just how well cognac pairs with food and how it can also be an ingredient for many dishes. He quips, “There’s a saying, 'Is there ever a wrong time to drink Champagne?' Change that to Cognac.”

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Here are five ways you can introduce Cognac to your celebratory Chinese feast, as shared by the esteemed chef:

1. Kick things off with a Cognac cocktail.


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Just as your guests arrive, hand them a cool cocktail made with Cognac. Cognac doesn't need to be reserved for just after dinner. Having it is a good start to a lengthy meal of heavy hitters. Make sure it’s cold to ward off the heat and stress caused by travel. A refreshing hint of citrus will do the trick as well. 

2. Tickle taste buds with a Cognac sip.


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In place of serving the usual starters of cold cuts and peanuts, serve bite-size pieces of Chinese treats featuring various flavor profiles instead. Chinese cuisine has often been criticized for never offering anything new to the palate. Such is not the case when you pair a variety of textures and tastes with the bold yet subtle Cognac. Leung shares his creations that you can try yourself: steamed chicken curry bun, abalone and mushroom pastry puff, and a refreshing duck salad.

3. Have cognac in your soup.


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That bottle of Cognac can be your best friend in the kitchen, too. Go ahead and add a drop of the alcohol to your soups, stews, and sauces to give them a delicate yet strong flavor dimension. The alcoholic taste should be the least of your problems because the Cognac, instead, offers sweetness and depth to a rather boring dish. Take for example Leung’s soup of king coconut, abalone, and pork dumplings. Just a tiny spoonful of Cognac mixed into the light broth immediately elevates its richness.

4. Pair cognac with your mellow mains.


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These days, the softer the meat, the better. Whether it be a hot pot of wagyu beef cheeks or baked snow fish with miso sauce, the standard of indulgence is the delicateness of preparation done by the kitchen. These mellow mains are best paired with something that packs a punch. Try serving neat Cognac on the side of these mains to elevate flavors and offer a good soft-strong contrast.

5. Round out your meal with even more cognac.


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No meal should come to a close without the proper desserts. And of course, this meal-ender should not be without Cognac. Ice cream is always a great option and adding a drop or two of Cognac to the ice cream base makes sure it remains smooth, creamy, and free from ice crystals. Mixing cognac and tea is a revelatory experience, too. The spiked beverage offers a mellow, bitter contrast to any sweet dessert.

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Idge Mendiola
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