Marry Asian food with respectful wines, expert says

Tue Nov 10, 2009 2:56am EST
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By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - If you've ever puzzled over the perfect wine for Thai tom yum soup or south Indian fish curry, a book by Asia's only master of wine takes the guess-work out of pairing an essentially Western drink with Oriental food.

Jeannie Cho Lee, a wine writer, judge and lecturer based in Hong Kong, said the sheer diversity of Asian food, and the fact that one meal can have a myriad of flavors, made it extremely challenging to find matching wines.

But with wine playing a bigger role in Asian dining, she said the two key elements to look for were acidity and versatility.

"Because of the way we eat, which is more communal and has a huge variety of flavors, any wine must be able to go with this range, but also not to overpower it," Lee told Reuters.

"It is also very important for wine to be refreshing, with enough acidity to stand up to our spicy, fried food."

Lee's book, the glossy, coffee-table offering "Asian Palate" launched last week, highlights the increasingly prominent role of wine in a part of the world that only really started embracing the drink in the last decade.

Divided according to the cuisines of 10 cities from Hong Kong to Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur and Mumbai, the book distills what has been a labor of love for Lee, the only Asian to hold the "Master of Wine" title from the Institute of Masters of Wine, dedicated to promoting the wine trade.

South Korean-born Lee's interest in wine began at Oxford University in Britain, where she spent a year as an exchange student. "I was exposed to some very good Bordeaux, and during that time, wine became for me like food, something really rooted in history and culture," she said.   Continued...

<p>A waiter serves a glass of red wine from Spain during a tasting session at Vinexpo Asia-Pacific, the International Wine and Spirits Exhibition for the Asia-Pacific region, in Hong Kong May 28, 2008. REUTERS/Victor Fraile</p>