Still think that cognac is de rigueur when it comes to pairing with Chinese food? Time for an update. As restaurateurs, chefs and mixologists get adventurous, some unlikely bedfellows are emerging.
At Tung Lok Group’s new instalment Lokkee, which takes a cheeky poke at American-style Chinese takeaway fare, the cocktails themselves are a blend of both worlds. Think a chrysanthemum-bourbon whiskey sour with goji berries mixed in for a hint of bitterness. This is what head mixologist Phyo Wai Linn, who also helms the concoctions arm at Dancing Crab, recommends to go with the Mala Grilled Fish.
“The sweetness and delicate texture of the barramundi go well with the mellow flavours of the chrysanthemum goji berry blend,” says Phyo. “The oaky end notes of the single barrel bourbon also ease off the numbing spice of the Sichuan peppers.”
A similar tack is adopted with the Oolong Collins, a gin-based tipple. Sharp, edgy notes from lemon and pomegranate work with the spicy batter of Lokkee’s Firecracker Chicken (pictured in header), a deepfried delight that comes topped with dollops of mango puree.
Outside of cocktails, whisky neat or on the rocks has found a natural harmony with certain elements of Chinese cuisine. Classy rooftop bar Sum Yi Tai offered a nine-course pairing menu, matching dishes such as steamed bamboo clams and char siew baby back ribs with various expressions of Hibiki whisky. Says Tay Eu-Yen, co-founder of the group behind the bar on Boon Tat Street: “The pairing enhanced (the taste of) both food and whisky.” She adds that the pairings took two months of conceptualisation and tweaking to get right.
Jiu Zhuang, a watering hole in Dempsey that sports an oriental interior, treads between two worlds by offering traditional dim sum and la mian while featuring a bar stocked with more than 200 labels of single malt whisky. So encouraging was the feedback that it has infused whisky into its xiao long baos (meat dumplings), which remain to this day a signature dish.