How To Pair Wine With Rice Dumplings: It’s Bak Chang Season!
Happy Dragon Boat Festival! Did you know: it’s also called the Dumpling Festival, since the Chinese stuff their faces with the delicious glutinous rice dumplings known as bak chang (meat dumplings).
This year’s festival falls today on 25 June, so we thought it would be a good time to share our wine pairing tips for the different types of bak chang available, as some of them are more savoury, sweeter, or even oilier than others. Even if you didn’t manage to get your hands on the greasy leaf-wrapped dumplings this time, you’ll still be able to find rice dumplings in speciality stalls around Singapore throughout the year. Shall we begin?
Hokkien Bak Chang
The most common style of bak chang you’ll find in Singapore, the Hokkien variety is dark and more aromatic than others, thanks to the rice being stir-fried with five-spice powder and dark soy sauce. Common fillings are marinated pork belly, chestnuts, dried shrimps, and salted egg yolk.
Since it is pre-cooked and well-seasoned, it has a strong flavour that is well-matched with a relatively dry sparkling wine. The light-bodied Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco Superiore DOCG NV (Current Promo price $35, RP$47) is fresh and youthful, with just the right balance of acidity and sweetness to play out the bak chang’s profile.
Cantonese Bak Chang
Cantonese bak changs are much lighter in appearance as the rice is only seasoned with salt and garlic oil. These are usually filled with pork lard, lean meat, Chinese smoked sausage, and green beans. They are also more savoury and less sticky than the Hokkien style dumplings.
Teochew Bak Chang
The Teochew style of bak chang is special, because it uses a mixture of sweet and savoury fillings, such as red bean or lotus seed paste, and also shiitake mushrooms, dried shrimp and pork belly.
Rieslings are known to be perfect pairings for most Chinese cuisines, in this case, its great for this style of bak chang! We recommend to try Weingut Hüls 18303 Kabinett Riesling 2018 to go with this. Its a must try!
Depending on where you get your dumplings from, it might veer towards the sweeter side, in which case we might choose a nice sparkling sweet red like Marenco Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG Pineto Red 2018 ($39) to match the dumpling’s sugars and freshen the palate.
Modern Bak Chang
As ba zhangs get increasingly complicated – think those filled with truffle and Kurobuta pork or even mashed sweet potatoes, it opens up even more opportunity for wine pairings. We have to say, go with your gut for this one.
The sparkling sweet Marenco Strev Moscato d’Asti DOCG 2018 (Current Promo price $17, RP$35) is relatively versatile for sweeter creations and make for a good thirst quencher when things get too jelak (cloying). Alternatively, we really like the complex Pieropan Amarone Della Valpolicella DOC 2015 (Current Promo price $84, RP$112), which will likely go well with braised meat and powerfully flavoured dumplings.