Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, May 23, 2001


How to Speak Geek

Exploring the world of food and wine


Rieslings go
best with curries

Not long ago, an old fisherman friend cooked up a Thai-style curry dish flavored with lemon grass, kafir lime leaves, black beans, a kilo of garlic and some sambal (chili-garlic sauce). He served it with sweet Indian prawns and a ton of red clams. Although the dish was only moderately hot, it was packed with the bold aromas and flavors you'd expect from heavy-handed Thai or Indian influences. I could still taste that dish the next day . . . zesty!

When you run across similar dishes, whether they be Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese or Indian -- with those soulful flavors that require two bowls of white rice -- consider a light-bodied white wine.

First, what beware of: Anything high in alcohol, because it will make the dish seem hotter, and anything with too much wood, because it will turn unpleasant and bitter when paired with a salty dish.

Now, consider this: A young wine with fresh fruit aromas and flavor, as well as some sweetness, will offset the heat. Sort of the chutney-with-curry combination. Also, good, crisp acidity is a quality that complements saltier dishes and freshens the mouth between bites. It also has a cooling quality when dealing with chilies.

A German Riesling fits the bill perfectly. Thankfully, there are many great selections to choose from: Egon Muller, Scharzhofberger Kabinet, Riesling, 1999, which retails at about $25, would be an ideal match -- Riesling doesn't get any better than that.

Rieslings are a perfect match for island cuisine. In fact, they do well with many warm-climate cuisines and have been the rage around the equator for some time. With the wide range of fresh seafood we prepare here, both at home and in our restaurants, it's a sure bet.

Thankfully, we have an abundance of great Rieslings in Hawaii, in both dry and fruity styles. Hands down, they offer great value across the board. So the next time you're in the store or restaurant keep an eye out for your next favorite wine.

Remember, the proof is in the tasting.

Value on the wine:

Zilliken Estate Riesling, 1998, retails for about $15. To me, drinking Hanno Zilliken's wines is like having Dom Perignon or Chateau Lafite for pennies. It's real value.

Mark Shishido is restaurant manager for Alan Wong's Restaurants. "How to Speak Geek" is a weekly lesson in wine pairing written by a rotating panel of wine professionals.

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