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can you substitute shao xing cooking wine for sake

d
divadmas Jul 16, 2012 02:18 PM

lately i have been keeping a bottle of shao xing cooking wine handy and it keeps pretty well. can you sub for sake which does not keep and is often needed in small amounts? what about mirin which is sweetened cooking rice wine and keeps well or michiu cooking wine?

  1. todao Jul 16, 2012 09:04 PM

    Any time you see the words "cooking wine" on a bottle, run the other way. "Cooking wine" is cheap wine, usually adulterated with salt and, IMO, unfit for human consumption. You can substitute a dry white wine for Saki (although it's a whole different character for your prepared dish) but I would not. Rule of thumb for wine is, if you wouldn't drink it, don't cook with it.

    2 Replies
    1. re: todao
      ipsedixit Jul 16, 2012 09:14 PM

      That's too glib of an answer, and wrong.

      The refrain of "never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink" maybe true for Western cooking, but it certainly does not hold for Chinese cooking.

      The traditional alcoholic beverages used in Western cooking, be it wine, port, sherry or cognac are made from fruit, and as a result they all have sweet undertones. They are complimentary ingredients and they add their own distinctiveness to the dish that is being created.

      Chinese wine (or "cooking wine") on the other hand is a supplementary ingredient, in part to due to its earthy and slightly salty flavor. This allows it to blend into a dish, remaining unidentified by the untrained palate. This makes it unique. Don’t judge it by its raw taste.

      One of the famous dishes in Chinese cuisine -- the drunken chicken -- is made with Shaoxing Wine (or "cooking wine"), and I wouldn't have it any other way.

      1. re: ipsedixit
        todao Jul 17, 2012 08:57 AM

        I'll confess to being somewhat glib with the response, but "wrong"; no way. An opinion is not wrong and the part of my statement ""Cooking wine" is cheap wine, usually adulterated with salt" is perfectly accurate. Good quality wine, whether fermented from fruits or grains, that can be marketed at a premium price isn't adulterated with salt to make it marketable as cooking wine.
        The part of your comment that reads "The traditional alcoholic beverages used in Western cooking, be it wine, port, sherry or cognac are made from fruit, and as a result they all have sweet undertones. They are complimentary ingredients and they add their own distinctiveness to the dish that is being created. Chinese wine (or "cooking wine") on the other hand is a supplementary ingredient, in part to due to its earthy and slightly salty flavor. This allows it to blend into a dish, remaining unidentified by the untrained palate. This makes it unique. Don’t judge it by its raw taste. " fails to make the distinction that Saoxing is a rice wine.
        Any distilled fruit or grain used in making cooking wine with salt added (I understand the salt is added as a preservative) is not, again IMO, worth buying. The Chinese have been making wine from grains and fruits, many of good quality, for about four thousand years. There's no reason that I can think of to use something preserved in salt.
        The prosecution rests .....

    2. JungMann Jul 17, 2012 08:11 AM

      I've tried substituting shao xing for sake in traditional nabemono dishes and was not pleased with the results. The wine is a little harsher tasting than the sake.

      1. t
        travelerjjm Jul 17, 2012 08:59 AM

        The two wines taste totally different. shaoxing wine tastes a lot like sherry. Sahoxing *cooking wine* is regular shaoxing wine with lots of salt added. If you choose to use it in dishes, use low salt soy sauce as it will make your dish saltier. I really like drinking shaoxing and have had it (warm) in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, London and other places. It has a wonderful rich taste when served warm. It does not, however, taste at all like sake. If you need a sake substitute, use a light white wine.

        Here, sake is much less expensive than shaoxing (when I can get the latter) and I drink it regularly so I always have some on hand.

        2 Replies
        1. re: travelerjjm
          d
          divadmas Jul 17, 2012 11:03 AM

          i thought all shau xing wine was cooking wine, at least what is available here. i just checked bottle and it is less than 1.5% salt, taste is salty but not bad. alcohol16% by volume. not to be used as beverage. $2. 750ml.
          i mostly throw it in marinades for meat. i like it because it keeps and i dont have to open a bottle just to use 1/2 cup.

          1. re: divadmas
            t
            travelerjjm Jul 17, 2012 11:10 AM

            I buy both the cooking version and the drinking kind (there are multiple varieties of that, BTW). I use the cooking variety because I cannot get the drinking kind here in NM and because it keeps. This discussion is making me want to open the last bottle of the drinking variety that I have left.

            I am also almost out of the cooking kind as I just started the marinade for tea smoked duck (although I am using game hens) for dinner.

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