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May 13, 2009 02:23 PM

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.