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#20: wine x food pair | AUSSIE RIESLING X GOCHUJANG CARAMEL SALMON 🐟
A BBC Good Food reliable, viral cookie recipe and a freezer raid created this. Paired with a delightful Riesling full of pineapple and dieselly notes.
This week is a hybrid of Korean and Vietnamese flavours, which deserves some of the more unusual whites that you can get that’s rich in flavour. Probably the most creative I’ve allowed my juices to get so far, and if any of these are new to you - I recommend you dive in and give it a whirl! It will pack quite the punch, guaranteed.
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The Wine 🍷
We’re going to the New World here, although Riesling is typically grown in its native Germany. Tall slopes and resistance tto spring frosts bring this wine a lot of character even in the coolest of climates. It can be sweet, it can be dry, it can be sparkling and it can vary in flavour to boot. Riesling might give anyone familiar with the 80s and 90s blends a little PTSD, which is not a reason to avoid it - yes, sickly sweet wines had their moment but we’ve moved to much more elegant styles since.
When we move down to Australia, Riesling is most likely in a dry style, but still quite aromatic. Australian wine is somewhat new in the market in terms of being taken seriously as a fine wine producer, but regions outside of the mass produced South East Australia region on a label will generally be worth the investment. Riesling is renown in the Clare or Eden Valley which is still South East, close to Adelaide. You’ll get an amazing burst of lime here. With a bit of ageing, the scent starts to get a little waxy or petrol-ish. For anyone that scoffs that note as a bit snobby, all I can say is when you know, you know. This doesn’t fare well on forums or product reviews and not to everyone’s taste, but it’s something that might need a bit of an acquired taste to get there.
My pick: Mount Horrocks Cordon Cut, Virgin Wines, £15. Supermarkets (particularly Aldi or Lidl) will get some good Australian Riesling in chunks that is generally at knockdown prices. Grab some while you can, but this is a good benchmark to start with otherwise.
The Grub 🍟
I’ve mashed up a quick fish recipe that I did with sea bass, but it will work well with basically any fish that you can get your hands on.
Caramel trout is a doddle of a recipe from my most beloved BBC Good Food, and I’ve used it with different types of fish nicely. It’s amazing how much flavour and restaurant quality food that you can get out of melting a bit of water and sugar together in a pan. You could add butter if you want to be a bit more decadent about it and make it nice and crisp too.
Inspired by Eric Yu’s Gochujang Caramel Cookies that were something of a storm on the New York Times a few months ago, I decided to merge these two recipes together. And it was a hit! For those not familiar with gochujang, it’s a spicy red chili paste that’s a staple in Korean cooking. It’s fermented so it has a little more umami and depth than you’d expect from the likes of sriracha or fresh chillies, and gives the smokiness that delicious Korean fried chicken has enchanted us with.
I tried to make Eric’s cookies which were delish, but the presentation wasn’t as pretty as I didn’t have the patience to do the swirls and they all mushed into one big clump. But they were relatively easy to make, tasted something like a hipster Ginger Nut and made an excellent companion to some vanilla ice cream.
Why they pair well together 🧪
The fish has a mix of sweetness and spice, which can be tricky to get a wine pairing to match with. Generally if you go too dry of a white, it might end up making the dish feel a little dull - so I wouldn’t put this together with a Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc. Similarly, high alcohol is also a tricky one with spice as if it’s too high, it will add to the spiciness and make it all that little bit overbearing. Even though this Riesling is dry, they’re super fruity and around the 12.5% mark which will hold up to plenty of the flavours that will come out with this dish nicely.
A good quality German Riesling that’s off-dry would also go nicely here if you want something a teeny bit sweeter. You’re looking for the words Spatlese or Auslese on the label, which means there’s been a little but not a huge amount of sugar. Riesling’s are generally a good shout if you’re looking for something to go with spicy Asian food - they’ve enough flavour to hold up, as well as cut through some of those richer flavours that can be drowned or overpowered by the wrong mix.
The recipe 🧑🍳
This serves one if you’re hungry, or two if it’s with enough little sides that can be done on one pan. You can up the quantities accordingly but might be a bit chaotic for a dinner party beyond 6, as you’ll have to cook in fresh batches to get the best flavours. I served this with some rice and spinach, but a cold noodle salad (vermicelli would be yum) would work really well here.
What you need
2 salmon fillets (white fish will also do here), skins on
30g dark sugar (I used muscovado, but cane sugar will work just as well if that’s what you have in the cupboard
One level teaspoon of gochujang paste (you’ll get this in an Asian supermarket or online) - or ramp it up a tiny bit if you like a kick
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh red chillies and coriander for garnish (if you want to get fancy/add a little more spice)
What you gotta do:
Add the sugar to the pan, and add just enough water to cover the base. On a low to medium heat, gently let the sugar start to dissolve into the water, stirring regularly with a wooden spoon.
Once you’re getting the sugar to dissolve, add the gochujang paste to the pan. It’s not going to fully disperse, but try your best to mix it in and distribute it so it will coat the fish nicely.
Once you’re starting to see the mix reduce down on the pan with slowly forming, sticky bubbles, you’re at the right spot to add the fish. Pop the garlic in and stir until you get a waft of flavours, before adding the fish fillets skin side down.
Pop a lid over the pan, and keep the fish on a medium heat for 5 minutes. The skin should be getting a little bit crispy while it’s being poached.
Flip the fish over. If the caramel seems to be getting a little too sticky or there isn’t enough liquid to the consistency to keep it going for 3 minutes, turn the heat down slightly and don’t be afraid to add a little bit of water.
The fish will have cooked beautifully after about 10 minutes at the right heat, but might take a little longer if you’ve done it gradually. You should have a nice crispy skin on the fish, and it should start to flake a little bit when you gently prod it with a fork.
And that’s it! Serve with whatever tickles your fancy, with chopped chili and coriander on top.
IMPORTANT TIP: Add some boiling water to the pan, or some water to return it with a gentle heat for a few minutes afterwards. As you’ve made caramel, that’s gonna get sticky on the pan and a dishwasher or scrubbing brush won’t do it. A slight pain to do when you’re ready to serve, but you’ll thank yourself later on for not having to bin a pan.