Here's the third chapter of our feature story devoted to the 2020 edition of “Zhong Can Yi Jiu”, the culinary guide from the project “Chinese Cuisines meet Italian Wines” in which Li's recipe is included.
Crab and Sauvignon, culinary elegance at its best
Some of our readers may already know Kevin Li for its Do Ville's recipe and this time, too, he tested his skills with seafood. For Cantina Rauscedo's Sauvignon he realized an exquisite dish: steamed mud crab and Chinese yellow wine. Once again, according to the Huaiyang style, he chose to put freshness and simplicity first, with few but extraordinary ingredients, no spices and a low-temperature cooking method.
When going to the grocery store with the list in your hand, ready to buy everything you need to try it at home, make sure you'll find there the dish's main flavour: Huangjiu, or the renowned Chinese yellow wine.
A legendary drink whose origins could be traced back as long as four thousand years ago, Huangjiu (meaning “yellow wine” in Chinese) is brewed from fermented boiled grains of rice or millet. There are hundreds of variety, depending on the method of production and fermentation. Despite its name, the colour may vary from light yellow to orange or brown and some brands let the bottles ageing up to 20 years.
Chinese people use to serve Huangjiu warm, so it's perfect for cooking: it leaves some sweet traces in the mouth and as the crab meat's sweet too, the pairing with Rauscedo's crisp Sauvignon is just a match made in heaven. Also of a yellow colour, yet Sauvignon brings in different nuances like sage, green pepper and fresh fruits, making it a good counterpoint to chef Li's dish.
A legendary wine: the story of Huangjiu
The Chinese yellow wine could be as old as the hills, according to the many legends surrounding its alleged origin. Its creation is generally credited to Du Kang, the divine patron of winemakers in China.
The most popular tales identify Du Kang with Shao Kang, the son of Xiang and the sixth Emperor of the Xia dynasty (17th– 15th century BCE). One of the many stories about him goes that, after his father was killed in a battle against the Zhou dynasty, he had to flee along with his uncle to escape retaliation. But they got caught by a local landlord who forced them to work in the fields for him: as his uncle fell sick, Du Kang began saving part of his grains' ration, and putting it in a hollow tree. There, he would later find the wheat and millet mix had turned into a scented pulp, from which it dripped a miraculous yellow nectar: by drinking it, Du Kang's uncle recovered from his illness completely. Huangjiu was thus born!
But there are countless version of Huangjiu's origins and, by the way, Du Kang can hardly be dealt with as a real historical character. There are many doubts about his actual personification: some sources identify him with a Han period (206 BCE-220 CE) governor, some others with a granary official of the Yellow Emperor (2.700 BCE). Being a well known character of Chinese mythology, he appears in many popular tales as well as in celebrated poets' rhymes. According to a famous saying, “one bout of Du Kang's fine wine can make you drunk for three years”.
Want to know more? Here's a very interesting reading: “Chinese Wine” by Li Zhengping, Cambridge University Press.