Do you still remember Art and Joyce, the founders and owners of Hunt Country Vineyards who invited me to join the B.E.V. NY conference with them back in February? They are not only among the nicest people I have met during my time at Keuka College but also experts in wine making. The beautiful couple invited me and my friend Long (Kyle) to come over again for dinner today; their longtime friends, Tom and Sandy, were also invited. However, it’s not a conventional dinner this time because we got to learn how to pair wines with traditional Vietnamese food, right at their new house!
A few days ago, I sent Joyce a list of names and pictures of eight different traditional Vietnamese dishes that I thought were authentic and doable for the dinner, including chicken Pho (phở gà), caramelized pork and eggs (thịt kho tàu), fish sauce chicken wings (cánh gà chiên nước mắm), ginger chicken (gà kho gừng), lemongrass chili chicken (gà xào sả ớt), caramelized pork spare ribs (sườn ram mặn), steamed rice rolls (bánh cuốn), and beef noodle salad (bún bò Nam Bộ).
Here are what you will find when you search these tasty dishes on Google. 🙂
Joyce said all of them looked so delicious and it wasn’t easy to decide. Since Art gave her all authority to choose what food we should make, Joyce picked out three main courses: chicken Pho, lemongrass chili chicken and steamed rice rolls. When I asked Joyce if there was any special reason for her decision, she told me that it was simply because she’d like to have the chicken Pho as it was very iconic and delicious. The steamed rice rolls because it looked beautiful and very different from the others. And since she didn’t select any spicy food yet, she decided to go with the lemongrass chili chicken for the last one. I agreed that it was kind of interesting to serve these three courses at the same time because that way we could test a broader range of wines to pair with Vietnamese food, though we barely have them all at once like this in a particular Vietnamese dinner.
Since we were aware that it was going to take forever if we waited to start cooking at the Hunt’s, Kyle and I prepared as much as we could on campus the night before to speed up the process. We precooked the chicken Pho’s soup, marinated lemongrass chili chicken, prepared the steamed rice rolls and stored everything overnight in the fridge. Therefore, it only took us more than an hour to have the food ready for our wine experts to try and decide what wines would match the best.
Here are our accomplishments!
What I found most interesting was that all the “winner” wines in this case were semi-dry white wines, while many Vietnamese people tend to drink dry red wines such as Bordeaux or Burgundy and pair them with almost everything. Personally, I prefer pairing Vietnamese food with semi-dry white wines to dry red wines, though I understand there is some associated factor between red wines and health benefits, simply because I prefer the delicate flavor to the strong feeling at the tip of the tongue that comes from dry red wines.
Vietnamese food is known to be very harmonious yet sophisticated in taste so the semi-dry white wines are also the “winners” in my opinion. I found myself becoming kind of addicted to pairing the steamed rice rolls with Cayuga White and the lemongrass chili chicken with Valvin Muscat, I do think they are the best combinations! Joyce also said that the Cayuga White was chosen by the Japanese to be the best wine for Japanese food, and surprisingly enough, it pairs beautifully with Vietnamese food as well! If Valvin Muscat wines are prized many times for their fragrant floral character and orange blossom aroma, a touch of sweetness and a long, luxurious finish, the Cayuga White wines also have these characteristics but they are crisper than the Muscat wines and have a hint of peaches. And of course, they were served chilled! ❤
During dinner time, we were talking about all kinds of different topics, ranging from everything about wines (of course!), our school and future plans, the differences between American culture and Vietnamese culture, etc. to much broader topics such as economics, politics and even environment!
We were so immersed in our conversations that we completely forgot about the time. Not until after half past ten at night did we start cleaning up the table. Kyle and I wanted to help but our older friends didn’t allow us to since they said we helped them a lot already! Honestly, it wasn’t an easy feeling for us just to stand and watch, because in Vietnamese culture, the younger ones should be doing this work instead. However, we were extremely happy that everyone was fully satisfied with the successful outcomes of our little “project” on food and wine matching.
We said goodbye and our thanks to each other after eleven then Tom and Sandy gave us a ride to the campus. On the way back, they shared with us their stories and we were so astonished to learn that they started dating in high school and had became husband and wife! How admirable!
It was very nice to know Tom and Sandy as well as learn how to pair wines with Vietnamese food today with the Hunts. Thinking back to all my hard work that is paid off and all the opportunities I have encountered along the way, I can’t help but feel so grateful for living this life. Life is not beautiful itself, it’s beautiful because of the beautiful people around you and yourself, and because you choose to make it beautiful. ❤