Street Pairings

By Michael Russen 2019-04-29 15:08:21

Ever thought to pair Xiaolongbao with wine? Well after reading this you surely will...


Xiaolongbao – a delicate soup dumpling filled, usually, with pork and a hearty, warming meat broth – is one of Shanghai cuisine’s greatest hits. They’re not only delicious, but fun to eat too; whether you nibble a hole to slurp out the soup or let them cool and eat them one all at once, everyone has their own favourite method for enjoying these beauties.

They are not, however, known for being paired with wine. It’s a bit of a tough task, but there are definitely a few pleasantly surprising combinations out there when it comes to matching xiaolongbao with a bottle of the good stuff.

To really find the perfect wine pairing for this ubiquitous Shanghai treat, you need to break it down into its constituent elements. Despite being light overall, the smooth, hearty core of the dish is the pork soup, rich in meaty, umami flavours. This is rich and quite fatty, so the ideal is a wine that can cut through that with some acidity.

This is where white wine comes in handy, particularly dry, fruity blends that come from France’s Côtes du Rhône. These wines – typically a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, and Viognier - are known for their sophisticated depth and floral aromas, as well as for being relatively light-bodied. Their citrus flavours are just right for contrasting with the luscious richness of xiaolongbao soup.

If you’re unsure, then, a white French blend will probably be a good look.

If you’re looking for something a little more off-the-beaten-path, try a Grüner Veltliner. This is the most famous grape of Austria, known for producing wines that possess a sharp, very appealing acidity and some light peppery, herbal notes. If you can get your hands on one, it could provide a great counterpoint to some indulgent soup dumplings.

We hear what some of you are saying right about now, "but I drink red". This one’s a little trickier, thanks to xiaolongbao’s delicate nature. There is hope, however. A typically fruity Pinot Noir can be a good friend here. This most food-friendly of reds often possesses a lightness that can cut through the richness of the soup as well as a mild acidity which can prove to be a good complement to the vinegar most often used for dipping.

Of course, you should think that this is an exhaustive list. Wine pairing is a delicate and subjective art. But if you’re stumped next time you’re in your favourite hole in the wall, or want to impress someone at a dinner date in Din Tai Fung, at least now you know where to look.