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Chinese Sauces: Cooking Wines
Another essential type of Chinese sauces are cooking wines (料酒 liàojiǔ). There are two main varieties that are most commonly used in Chinese cooking.
Both are types of rice wine and are a key component of many Chinese dishes.
Shaoxing Wine 绍兴酒 shàoxīng jiǔ
The most common cooking wine used in Chinese cuisine is Shaoxing wine. This is a type of yellow rice wine 黄酒. As you might guess from the name, it comes from Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province (浙江省 zhèjiāng shěng).
Shaoxing wine can be viewed as being similar to a dry cooking sherry and can be replaced with this if unavailable. The main use of Shaoxing wine is to add depth and flavour complexity to a dish.
It’s used in countless Chinese dishes, however it is a vital ingredient in any “red cooked” braised dishes such as red cooked pork (红烧肉 hóngshāoròu).
It is also vital in any “drunken” dish, like drunken chicken (醉鸡 zuìjī) where it is used as a marinade.
Clear white rice wine 米酒 mǐjiǔ
Clear white rice wine is the other type of Chinese cooking wine that is commonly used in Chinese cuisine.
Unlike Shaoxing wine, where it is used for flavour, clear white rice wine is used to mask the odour or smell of meat and fish, but adds little flavour.
It has a much clearer and purer taste than Shaoxing wine and is best used in more delicate steamed dishes.