Match Made in Singapore

This one is for keeps! An A-to-Z guide on pair­ing wine with Singapore’s favourite food

Wine & Dine Cookbook - - DRINK 101 - WORDS ED­WIN SOON

Sin­ga­porean cui­sine re­flects the melt­ing pot of eth­nic groups on the is­land: Pre­dom­i­nantly Malay, Chi­nese, In­dian and Eurasian, with in­flu­ences from the colo­nial Por­tuguese, Dutch, and British, early mer­can­tile Arabs, and neigh­bor­ing Thais and In­done­sians. Some dishes re­main true to their cul­tural ori­gins while oth­ers are a de­li­cious blend of in­gre­di­ents from sev­eral eth­nic back­grounds. Nonya cui­sine is the food of the Per­anakan sub-eth­nic group hail­ing from Malacca, Singapore, and Pe­nang. Re­flect­ing their eth­nic ori­gins, the cui­sine com­bines Chi­nese and Malay in­gre­di­ents and culi­nary styles. Eurasian cook­ing, mean­while, re­flects the Por­tuguese and Dutch ori­gins of the com­mu­nity. Both Nyonya and Eurasian dishes are of­ten very spicy but can be en­joyed with the right wines.

In pair­ing wine with Singapore favourites, it helps to have an un­der­stand­ing of the taste com­po­nents, tex­tures, sen­sa­tions and flavours of these dishes as well as those of wine. Here is a handy A-to-Z wine pair­ing guide for lovers of lo­cal food.

Ang Ku Kueh

These rice-tapi­oca cakes with mung bean fill­ing are best washed down with a glass of Cream Sherry.

Ayam Goreng

Chicken mar­i­nated with turmeric and curry pow­der and then deep-fried is at once crunchy and savoury. Serve with Cava or a New World sparkling wine. This wine also works with ayam per­cik roasted chicken.

Ayam Masak Merah

Lit­er­ally red-cooked chicken, this dish is spicy hot, red in colour due to the chill­ies, and quite pow­er­ful. It calls for the quench­ing, wa­ter­melon flavours of a White Zin­fan­del.

Bak Kut Teh

This Chi­nese herbal pork rib soup is usu­ally eaten with rice, and of­ten served with yu tiao (strips of fried dough) for dip­ping. The soy sauce may con­tain chill­ies and minced gar­lic. A fruity Mer­lot or Nero d’Avola will han­dle the spice but will also marry well with the pork dipped in the savoury soy sauce.

Bak­wan Kepit­ing

This clear light soup con­tains hand-rolled meat­balls made of crab, pork, and bam­boo shoots. The flavour of the soup is pure and calls for an equally pristine wine, such as Spätlese Ries­ling.

Char Siew Rice (or noo­dles)

Rice or noo­dles, the dish with bar­be­cued pork in a thick sauce goes best with a fruity red wine from the New World with lots of resid­ual sugar such as Shi­raz-Caber­net blends, Caber­net-Mer­lot blends and Zin­fan­del.

Chicken Wings

Serve a Mer­lot, prefer­ably from Cal­i­for­nia with some resid­ual sweet­ness, to match hot and spicy chicken wings or any spicy sauce served with the wings. Crav­ing a white wine? Try Gewürz­traminer.

Clay­pot Chicken

Rice cooked with soy sauce in a clay­pot, then topped with braised chicken and Chi­nese sausage. The umami from the oil and shi­itake takes to Mer­lot and Pino­tage.

Curry Puffs

Spice-lovers will dig the curry flavours in these spicy veg­e­tar­ian, chicken or pork pies. Serve with a chilled sweet Sherry.

Duck Rice

This dish of braised duck with rice cooked with yam and shrimp comes with side dishes of braised hard-boiled eggs, pre­served salted veg­eta­bles, and firm bean­curd (tau kua). Taste wise, the duck pre­dom­i­nates and so Pinot Noir has a place here.


Christ­mas in a Eurasian home is not com­plete with­out this curry of minced meat, liver and in­nards. The curry is best en­joyed with a crusty baguette and a glass of Moscato. If the curry is not too spicy, a Zin­fan­del also works well.

Fish Head Curry

This dish of red snap­per head and okra stewed in a thick savoury-sour gravy of tamarind, lemon­grass and co­conut is pop­u­lar around Asia. The Sin­ga­porean ver­sion has a thin­ner gravy spiced with co­rian­der, cumin and fenu­greek. To pair, the wine must have some sweet­ness to parry the chilli, and also some tangy acid­ity to main­tain bal­ance. Blended whites such as Chenin-Verdelho, Semil­lon-Sauvi­gnon Blanc or Pes­sac-Léog­nan can work magic.

Ice Jelly

Jelly topped with shaved ice, lime and fruit is heav­enly with a Mus­cat de Beaumes de Venise.

Ikan As­sam Pedas

This hot and sour fish dish is sim­ply the per­fect foil for a Sauvi­gnon Blanc or Fumé Blanc.

Ikan Pang­gang / Ikan Bakar

Fish mar­i­nated with a spice paste, wrapped in ba­nana leaves, then char­coal-grilled is a Malay clas­sic. Its flavours are smoky and quite strong. Pick a wine that will not be over­whelmed, such as a Chardon­nay aged in oak.

In­dian Ro­jak

This Mus­lim-In­dian dish of var­i­ous veg­eta­bles and seafood deep-fried in bat­ter is served with a thick, sweet sauce. For palate­cleans­ing prop­er­ties, a Treb­biano white wine or a blended white from Fri­uli, Italy works here. Al­ter­na­tively, try a Chenin Blanc late har­vest.

Itek Tim

Also known as kiam chye ark t’ng, this is a soup of salted mus­tard leaf and duck. It is salty with flavours of nut­meg, savoury Chi­nese mush­rooms, tangy toma­toes, and pep­per­corns. The ac­com­pa­ny­ing wine with this com­plex dish should be red­dish and sweet. Try Marzemino, Lam­br­usco and Bra­chetto d’Ac­qui, fail­ing which, White Zin­fan­del.

Kueh Pisang

Ba­nana cakes with vanilla and co­conut flavours are eas­ily matched to an ice wine or Bon­nezeaux.


Com­pressed rice cakes in a spicy veg­etable soup is all co­conuty in taste with the crunch of veg­eta­bles. Rosé is the wine of choice here.

Mango Ker­abu

This spicy sweet mango salad, dif­fer­ent from the Thai ver­sion, is made from ripe sweet man­goes. The sweet taste is tem­pered with a tinge of chilli and lifted by fra­grant cilantro. Any dry wine will taste sour along­side, so ven­ture a dessert wine: ice wine, Barsac, Moscato or late har­vest Ries­ling.

Nasi Le­mak

This pop­u­lar dish of co­conut rice with chicken or beef rendang, fried an­chovies, peanuts, boiled or fried egg, chilli sam­bal and cu­cum­ber is spicy and sweet, so try an ice-cold Aus­trian Beer­e­nauslese.

Nasi Goreng Kam­pung

This tra­di­tional, vil­lage-style fried rice is usu­ally very spicy. Think Mal­va­sia, Marsala or any sweet wine here.


A stew of chicken or pork with pota­toes and mush­room, sug­ar­cane, fer­mented soy­bean, and Per­anakan spices is quite savoury and can be paired well with a Mal­bec.

Pork Vin­daloo

Orig­i­nat­ing from the Por­tuguese set­tle­ment of Goa in In­dia, this dish fea­tures meat mar­i­nated in a blend of hot chill­ies, gin­ger, gar­lic, and other spices. Vine­gar adds a mouth-wa­ter­ing tang to the dish. Try a Re­cioto di Soave, which is crisp and sweet and of­fers a good bal­ance to the chilli tang.

Sam­bal As­sam Udang

The use of tamarind, chilli, sugar and can­dlenuts gives this prawn dish a sweet­sour-pi­quant taste. Mir­ror the sweet and sour flavours with a Sauvi­gnon Blanc that brings with it a grassy edge.

Sam­bal Pe­tai

This dish fea­tures bit­ter (some would say foul-smelling) beans in a sweet­ish chilli sauce; some­times crispy fried an­chovies are added. It is then con­sumed with rice and other dishes. As such, the wine should play a sec­ondary role. Wash ev­ery­thing down with a chilled ‘blush’ wine or White Zin­fan­del.

Se Bak

Pork loin, mar­i­nated overnight with herbs and spices, and cooked to per­fec­tion over a slow fire will take to most red wines. Shi­raz– Caber­net blends, Neb­bi­olo, and Mer­lot have their place here.

So­tong Kun­yit

Turmeric squid with sam­bal paste and kaf­fir lime leaves are cooked in light co­conut cream sauce—the dish would go with a Pinot Blanc.

Stir-fried Pork with Cincalok

Cincalok is a po­tent condi­ment made by fer­ment­ing tiny shrimps with salt, water, and sugar. As lime juice is usu­ally added to cincalok dishes to brighten the flavours, wines such as Vin de Savoie, Picpoul de Pinet, Shilcher or Vinho Verdean play the same role and make the mar­riage.

Tauhu Goreng

Fried tofu with sweet sauce is some­times served with crushed peanuts or prawn paste. Nei­ther ver­sions will over­power an oak-aged Soave Clas­sico or Span­ish Al­bar­iño Bar­rica.

Tem­peh Rendang

In this ver­sion of tem­peh—in a cooked­down dry curry stew of rendang—the creamy co­conut taste can take on reds such as Beau­jo­lais or Bar­dolino.

Ter Thor T’ng

Soup of pig stom­ach and strong white pep­per­corn spic­ing calls for a sweet wine. Any late-har­vest wine served ice cold will play a con­trast­ing role in taste and tem­per­a­ture.

Udang Nanas Le­mak

This pop­u­lar dish com­prises prawns in a spiced gravy stud­ded with chunks of pineap­ple. Its creamy co­conut gravy with a hint of bela­can, turmeric and galan­gal is quite com­plex tast­ing, if mild in terms of chilli pi­quancy. Pair with an un­oaked Chardon­nay from a warm New World coun­try, which of­ten has trop­i­cal fruit nu­ances.

Yong Tau Foo

The taste of this Chi­nese bean­curd dish is dic­tated by the dip­ping sauce, usu­ally a sweet one with a lit­tle spicy edge. Be­cause of the sweet sauce, choose a generic red wine with some resid­ual sweet­ness. Try South­ern Euro­pean wines and New World wines from warm coun­tries.

Yu Sheng

This Chi­nese raw fish salad with sweet, nutty and tangy sauces is al­ways served dur­ing Chi­nese New Year, and is best paired with a lightly sweet wine. For the cel­e­bra­tory spirit, un­cork a demi-sec or a doux (richly sweet) Cham­pagne.

Curry puffs

Clay­pot Chicken with wine

Sam­bal Pe­tai

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