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Chinese rice wine

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Hey everyone, I'll be heading to China and Hong Kong next week. Can't wait to try all the tasty treats there. One thing I do want to try is their rice wine especially the "flower" one. I'll be in Beijing, Shanghai, Hanzhou, Suzhou and Hong Kong. Any suggestions as to where I can find some good rice wine? I am on a budget since the travels will take a month.

Thanks CHs!

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  1. In Canada, the law only allows one to get 'salted' rice wine in Chinese grocers. However, in Hong Kong and China, its totally different. One can actually purchase the real thing! As such, I'll use your allowance to get top notch 'Mei Kuei Lu' ( rose droplets ) from Tianjin province - rose fragrant, very aromatic, use for making great tasting soya chicken. The other type is 'Shao Xing' from Zhejiang province. Try getting an aged one, preferably a 5years+ one. This is the favourite cooking wine of Shanghainese. Use in almost all their dishes, especially those involving hairy crab meat, and for marinating meats eg., mince pork use in dumplings etc. Both wines should be readily available in provision stores and/or supermarkets. Do note that since they are not salted, they will be treated as regular alcohol items by customs. Meaning?! You need to declare them or risk being confiscated! Good luck!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Charles Yu

      In the US (or I should say California) you can get the drinking wines and the (salted ) cooking wines side by side in the markets. Yes, my wife uses Shaoxing wine in cooking almost everything. I'll have to admit I'm not a fan of Shaoxing wines for drinking, regardless of quality, because they are too sweet as a style. Having said that, let me recommend the Gu Yue Long Shan label for Shaoxing wine, not in the least because my wife owns stock in the company ;-)

      1. re: Xiao Yang

        Thanks for the replies. I'm hoping to find a place that servers the drinking kind where I can sit down and enjoy during my visit.

    2. I'm in Shanghai right now and noticed that the Trust Mart across the street has a good selection. A major supermarket or big box store might be the place to get what you are looking for at the right price.

      1. If you are going to be in the Shanghai, Hangzhou area you will be an hour away from the "Napa Valley" of Asia...Shaoxing! Great city...very cultural, with a wonderful history of scholars and poets. They have a number of famous restaurants that serve Chinese Rice Wine. One brand that I prefer is "DaYue Shaoxing Wine". Be sure to get something matured at least 10 years. If you would like more info please feel free to email me at scott@chinesericewine.com

        6 Replies
        1. re: ricewinelover

          ricewinelover, I understand you're trying to market a product to Americans who know little or nothing about it, but "Chinese Rice Wine" cannot be used interchangeably with huangjiu, and specifically that which comes from Shaoxing. It would be like someone who is marketing Bordeaux and strictly Bordeaux calling it "French Wine", not only is it incorrect, but you're losing the special nature of the product.

          Personally, when I think of Chinese rice wine, I think of the southern/southwestern style that you will often find at Yunnan restaurants, similar to the Korean makkali, far more palatable (ie, it doesn't taste like alcoholic soy sauce a la huangjiu) to me.

          1. re: modernleifeng

            Probably out of context, but how do you keep / store chinese rice wine (Shao Xing)?

            I got one for cooking, and the label said "Best before: <date>".

            Today, I ditched that one because it has been expired more than 6 months ago according to that label.

            Do you keep it in refrigerator? Or just place it in a dry cool place?

            Or am I missing something that there are chinese rice wine NOT for cooking? :)

            1. re: ewlung

              There is chinese rice wine (from Shaoxing, but from other places as well) that is meant for drinking and not cooking, its huangjiu and is best aged, like wine, though its a very unique flavor and not enjoyed by everybody.

              I keep my shaoxing cooking wine in a cool, dry place and that's usually enough for it.

              1. re: modernleifeng

                Shaoxing HuangJiu is very famous. But most time I use them only as cooking wine

              2. re: ewlung

                You ask a good question and in fact there is a Chinese Rice Wine that is referred to as "Drinking Quality" Chinese rice wine. Most of the CRW that makes it to the U.S. is Chinese cooking wine. This wine is likely matured less than 1 year, and is full of Sodium or salt, which obviously changes the way the CRW is meant to taste. My Shaoxing brewer/supplier is so proud of his "wine" that refuses to sell CRW for cooking. They dump the salt in the wine for a couple of reasons, 1) most Americans use CRW for cooking, and they figure that they will simply add salt anyway, 2) It is much easier, and cheaper, to import a wine for cooking, than it is to import a wine for drinking. If it's a cooking wine, your label probably says something like, "Not to be used or sold as beverage". Drinking-Quality CRW is usually aged at least 8 years (we have sell a 5 year), and I've seen bottles of CRW that have apparently been aged 100 years in China. Like grape wine, and unlike Sake, the older the CRW gets, the better. As modernleifeng points out, there are as many different kinds of CRW in China, as their are wines in Napa Valley. Gan Bei!

              3. re: modernleifeng

                modernleifeng - I completely agree with you. Chinese rice wine is a broad term, that covers a wide range of alcohols from China. In fact, one of the challenges that I have in marketing CRW to Americans is getting them to understand that CRW is not Baai Jiu, or Sake, or Mi Jiu, or whatever it is they had when they were in China, and now think that all alcohols from China/Asia taste like that. That said, HuangJiu is perhaps the most widely distributed of Chinese alcohols, and specifically wines from Shaoxing. There is even a Shaoxing wine, that come from Taipei, Taiwan. My challenge is to first create awareness, and then to educate about the many differences of CRW. Your input would be greatly appreciated....Thanks.