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Chinese Rice Wine ... ?

Is that the same thing as Chinese rice cooking wine? Is that a product I buy in a grocery store, or in a liquor store? I always keep my distance from products labeled "cooking wine."

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  1. I think I've always bought it at Chinese markets, not the liquor store.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MMRuth

      I've been told by Chinese cooks that the rice wine, which I believe is called xing shao, that is bought in markets, even Chinese ones, is of inferior quality and that you should try to find, especially if you are near a Chinatown, a liquor store to buy better quality rice wine there for cooking.

      1. re: markabauman

        Makes sense - I'll have to check out some liquor stores next time I'm in Chinatown. Thank you.

      2. re: MMRuth

        This is what I do also, but thought I'd throw this site into the mix... explanation:

      3. My Asian market has many brands at many price points. All labled in "Chinese". Anybody know what to look for?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Shrinkrap

          Are they labeled "cooking wine"?

          1. re: CindyJ

            One I have right now has in English "Shaosing rice cooking wine". H.E.I. seems to be the brand or importer. Some only say 'Shaosing" in English or something close. Some have no English, but are in the same section.I assume they all have salt in them for government regs. Got some in Chinatown once that may have had no salt.

            1. re: Shrinkrap

              I've seen products similarly labeled in the supermarkets, and I've been wary of the "cooking wine" designation.

        2. This has become quite perplexing. I live in Pennsylvania, where the government dictates what types of wines and spirits are sold. After a few phone calls to PA "premium" state stores, I've concluded that Chinese rice wine is NOT sold anywhere in the state of PA. (In PA, all of the wine stores carry the same products.)

          No problem, I thought, since I rarely shop for wine in PA anyway. So I phoned the largest wine store in nearby Delaware, Total Wine, to ask if they carry rice wine -- they do not!

          Sake is widely available, but Chinese rice wine is not. What's the story with this product? Is it, in fact, the Chinese cooking wine I've seen on the grocery store shelves, or is there really a wine product called rice wine? Can I substitute sake for rice wine in recipes? Most importantly, where can I buy it?????

          4 Replies
          1. re: CindyJ

            Cooking wine, in general is salted, is not vey pleasant to drink by itself, and thus is usually not sold in liquour stores.

            Most Chinese grocers in Toronto, anyway, seem to carry one type or another of cooking wine. One, called "Shao Shing' is brownish in colour, the other, "cooking liquor" is clear. Both are usually made in China, although i once did find a Canadian-made one in Montreal. I find both work pretty well.

            1. re: CindyJ

              Yes, non-salted, non-"cooking" rice wine exists but judging by its availability in NYC, it's a niche product. Here, you only see it in liquor/wine stores in Chinatown(s) so I assume that's probably true elsewhere. If MD lets grocery stores sell wine, you might find it in an Asian market, and you'd almost certainly find a cooking-wine version there.

              As for substituting, sake really tastes nothing like Chinese rice wine so I wouldn't make any effort to get it over the time-honored dry sherry...

              1. re: MikeG

                I don't know about MD, but, as a rule, PA does NOT let grocery stores sell wine or any other alcoholic beverages. Exceptions have been made recently for certain supermarkets, but even in those cases, rice wine would NEVER be included.

                I've seen Chinese cooking wines in the grocery stores but always assumed they were like all other cooking wines, i.e., not fit for any use. Maybe I'll just stick to dry sherry.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Yeah, I'm familiar with the PA alcohol sales laws so I just skipped that entirely. ;) NJ is another option, but I assume MD is closer to you...

                  I'm not quite sure the cooking wine thing holds as true for the Asian cooking wines as for Euro/American/grape wines. I think wines like shaoxing and the others are made primarily for cooking in the first place and salting is done for taxation purposes where applicable as much if not more than wine-sales laws. If the search is for authenticity, a "good" brand of cooking wine might well be the thing.

                  But still, I really don't think it's worth a road trip just to get it instead sherry. ;)

            2. Here's an interesting old(2001) article on the run on Chinese rice wine in Taiwan because of WTO entry:


              From the article, I gathered that:

              1.) Taiwanese people buy their rice wine at the market
              2.) It is used for cooking and not drinking
              3.) Rice wine used for cooking in Taiwan is not generally salted

              For what it's worth, my mom buys the rice wine she cooks with from the Asian market. Don't think it's really necessary to hunt down some specialty drinking rice wines to cook with. That's kind of like using a $50 bottle of red wine in your pasta recipe. No idea which ones are salted or whatever, though.

              1. Keep in mind that rice "wine" is not a wine at all, but technically much closer to a beer. I have bought many different brands, and price points. Most of it is salted (1.5%) which is how it can legally be sold in a market without a liquor license. I doubt the salt has much of a quality impact for Chinese cooking purposes--who doesn't add salt to his/her dishes when cooking? Soy sauce is what?--30% salt for example.

                Tasting the stuff straight, it tastes like salty sherry. I'm sure the old advice to substitute sherry is fine. I have tasted some that had no salt--I suspect that what the label says and what goes into the bottle at those little factories in Taiwan or wherever don't always match.

                I did find a very high end, 3 year Chinese cooking wine recently, in an Asian market--it comes in a very handsome ceramic jar shaped like a ginger jar, with a red ribbon over the stopper. Brand name not translated. It has the standard government warnings on the back label, and does not mention salt. We'll see.

                3 Replies
                1. re: johnb

                  Please give us a review! Sounds like one of the bottles I saw!.

                  1. re: Shrinkrap

                    So far it's too pretty to open. I may break down though and do it.

                  2. re: johnb

                    That sounds a lot like the taste of Japanese mirin to me.

                  3. So today, while looking for coconut vinegar for the adobo in the home cooking thread, I happened upon the liquor section of the Asian grocery store, and found the NON-cooking wine section. Again, several shelves of choices. I'd post a picture if I could figure out how to get it off my phone. None with salt. I chose a mid- priced one, $ 5.99; 'aged 8 years", as opposed to more or less. Classy looking bottle and lable. Brand seems to be "GU YUE LONG SHAN" shaoxing rice wine. Rest of the label in Chinese characters. Oh, and I got the coconut vinegar too! That store ( Country Square I think) is the bomb! I just ate a mango to die for.

                    Found this on another forum. Half way down is a review of Gu Yue Long Shan Shaoxing rice wine.Looks like I got lucky!


                    "Here’s a follow-up to the Chowhound thread from September 2002. I believe it was written a few months later. I thought I posted it but am unable to find it in the Chowhound archives. The following is the old post with a few minor additions.

                    Previously my last visit to Diho in Westmont was over ten years ago. I used to go with a Chinese friend who liked the crullers and soy milk from the International Mall food court. The liquor I bought at Diho Market a decade ago (see 25 Sep 02 post) was likely Chu Yeh Ching Chiew (see link below), a medicinal brew. It was quite tasty and made me feel much better even though I felt fine to begin with.

                    A few months ago I got back to International Mall and to Diho. The food court looks remarkably similar though I’m sure some individual stalls have changed ownership. I looked a little more carefully at Diho’s liquor and wine, the best selection I’ve noticed in the Chicago area (I should note my only trips to Richwell Market have been very rushed so I’m not very familiar with their stock). I bought three bottles of wine: two rice wines from Shaoxing and a flavored grape wine from an unknown (to me) area in China. All spellings are taken from the labels.

                    The grape wine is only labeled Kuei Hua Cheu Chiew, 14% alcohol. I found this stuff to be damn near undrinkable. The traditional version is made from laurel buds but this seemed synthetic, as if concocted from grape juice, alcohol, and cheap perfume. I suspect there may be good versions of this wine but I have to believe this wasn’t one. I managed only two sips over several days then poured it down the drain.

                    The next was Nu Er Hong, a rice wine brewed by Zhejiang Winery in Shaoxing. It’s 18% and comes in a cool turquoise-glazed spherical bottle, maybe its best feature. This wine was clearly a step above most of what I’ve bought from Argyle groceries but had a slight mustiness, maybe oxidation due to its odd cork and plastic closure. This wine was yellowish-brown but I wonder if it was mostly from caramel rather than from age. Still, an interesting wine to sample.

                    Gu Yue Long Shan Shaoxing rice wine (aged 8 years) was quite extraordinary, at a completely different level than the others (and what I’ve bought on Argyle). It had a richness and complexity I hadn’t tasted in a rice wine before. Even though it wasn’t particularly sweet, I’d describe it as treacle-like. I didn’t get around to cooking with this but bet it would be interesting to play around with in the kitchen. This wine has so much flavor that I imagine it could overwhelm many dishes. They make at least two other versions, one younger, one older, all in tall squarish bottles with a screw cap. I can’t wait to try the oldest one and to see what other rice wines might be available at Diho. They also carry quite a few distilled liquors including true Mao Tai (quite expensive) and lots of knockoffs. A very interesting selection to explore.

                    I haven’t found too many good references on Chinese wines and liquors. Here’s a website http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/9666/11... well worth a look before visiting Diho. Click on each bottle’s picture to get more information. Finally for those interested in the history of Chinese wine (and much more) let me again plug a book RST first mentioned here a while back. Science and Civilisation in China edited by Joseph Needham is the definitive work in the area. Volume 6 is on Biology and Biological Technology and Part V of that is on Fermentations and Food Science by H T Huang. This 740 page book (ISBN 521 65270 7, published by Cambridge U Press in 2000) is beyond amazing but is neither easy reading nor inexpensive. "

                    1. Cindy, there are a couple of huang jius (yellow wines) that are made out of rice. One of the most common, Shaoxing (from a region of the same name), is either drunk straight or used for cooking (especially to marinate a famous dish called "drunken chicken"). I personally find most huang jiu kind of nasty to drink, but plenty of Chinese men take it in shots with dinner.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: cimui

                        From my shopping attempts, I've concluded that my choices are (1) Chinese rice cooking wine -- the salted variety -- or dry sherry. Next time I'm in Chinatown in either Philly or NYC, I'll make it a point to look for Shaoxing.