Thursday, June 19, 2008

Kampei - Shaoxing Wines

Here is a display of different products of Pagoda Brand Shaoxing Wines.

A crock of Shaoxing wine is always a great gift for any friend who is interested in Chinese Cuisine.

In the days gone by, drinking amongst the earliest Foochows in Sibu was kept at a minimum because the Methodists have a tradition of being teetotallers - no drinks allowed.

The Hoovers kept the early Foochows in line, but exceptional cases also occurred. During one of his travels down the river to visit his flock, he was once called, by letter, to rescue a man who had been arrested for moon shining. He made a hurried trip back and had him released from police remand because what the man had done(brewing for home use) was very minimal to deem arrestable. By vouching for the poor Foochow, Hoover was given the honour of seeing him released almost immediately, and the culprit was repentant. That was 1905 or thereabout. The Reverend Hoover was always very humourous about Foochow misdemeanours.

However in modern days Sibu, wines continued to be favoured by both men and women especially during the various festivals and particularly during the Chinese New Year. Birthday dinners are opportunities for all, both young and old ,to help ourselves to the bountiful drinks available. Weddings seem to be a excuse for us to drink ourselves silly most of the times.

My first wine was my youngest maternal aunt's wedding when I was about 10. It was a great temptation to drink more but when I saw my uncles happy and a little tipsy, I held myself up and thought, one or two glasses of kampei would be enough and my mum was there sticking out her tongue and laughing at the same time. My mother was never a drinker like the rest. My father was a very controlled drinker. But my third uncle was a great drinker. The wedding banquet was held in my grandmother's mansion in Sg. Maaw and more than 15 tables were filled by relatives and neighbours from far and near. It was a merry time. My aunt had been matched to one of the most eligible young man of the Rejang Basin, well educated, English and Chinese speaking, handsome and a man of good reputation. She had several suitors but she only wanted to marry this young man. So every one was fantastically happy. By evening time, my third uncle, was extremely happy, satisfied with all the food he had prepared and had enough. He eventually was snoring away to everyone's delight.

(I would continue to enjoy my third uncle's good company and drinking sessions for many years. He was just so sporting and helpful. It was also a well known fact that my grandmother lived a very long life because she always had a glass of wine every evening. She was never sickly in her life time.)

Shaoxing wine was used in the cooking of most of the dishes, and bottles of it were passed around next to beer,XO, Martell, Black Label and others during a wedding or a birthday celecration. The the bride and groom, the new in laws, and the celebrants would go from table to table to drink a toast or kampei. They had to do at least one round.

At a wedding feast, the best man was a very important figure. He was the one who was the life and soul of the party, as he was expected to call the shots and give to cue for any activity. He would lead the toasting.

That kind of celebration is what I consider. until today, a real Foochow celebration.

The Shaoxing wines are most favoured for cooking. In most Foochow kitchen a bottle or a crock of Shaoxing is never missing. The ubiquitous mee sua in Sibu tastes very much better with a tablespoon of Shaoxing wine.

According to my grandmohter, when the rubber prices went up in the 50's, some imported wines started to arrive in Sibu and Shaoxing was definitely the number one imported wine. She said that it was the best wine she ever had. Unfortunately she never lived to enjoy the more recent Australian and American wines.

Homemade Foochow red wine,on the other hand, continued to be brewed for confinement, cooking and every day consumption right up to these days. Because this is still not not legal, the Foochows continue to brew in secret. And sales have always been done in whispers.

Shaoxing wine continues to be the most valued of the table wines. This is because it is good for confinement, general health, celebration dinners and gifts.

There is a lot of information about this wine nowadays.

Below is an article about Shaoxing and other drinks:

China has produced a variety of fermented wines and distilled spirits for centuries. Most are still available in Taiwan. The most popular dinner beverage is Shaoxing wine, a smoky brew fermented from rice. Dried plums are steeped in the wine, which is served piping hot. The best grade is a fragrant, amber vintage called huadiao. Always drink Shaoxing wine at blood temperature and reject cold Shaoshing wine. Maotai is a potent spirit distilled from sorghum and used mainly for venerable Chinese custom of toasting. For serious drinkers. Kaoliang and Bai-Gar are also made from sorghum but repeatedly distilled until they reach 150 proof. But the overwhelming choice of people who eat in Taiwan or anywhere Far East is chilled beer. Although imported, the adaptable Chinese find beer is the perfect beverage for the Chinese cuisine. Taiwan produces its own brand of brew called Taiwan beer.

Note : Try the popular Pagoda brand which is considered the best bottled Shaoxing - Hua diao . It can be found all of the world in fact.

You can also try a Shaoxing in a brown ceramic crock with red ribbons (Shaoxing Hsieng Hsueh Chiew) and the content is usually dark and fragrant .

Final note : if you cannot find Shaxing wine for your cooking, any Sherry can take its place. A tablespoon of Shaoxing wine in your meat soup, and any meat dish will definitely improve your cooking.

An here's kampei to a good writing life!

1 memories:

fallen leaf said...

I really love Shaoxing ricewine and I'm planning to stock up some boxes with bottles for the future. Should they be kept lying horizontal like french wine to age to perfection? Especially the ceramic crocks with corks in it?

Kind regards,
Fallen Leaf


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