Regular readers would know I visited Chung Ying Central recently (and thoroughly enjoyed the experience too!). So when I was invited to return for a Whisky and Chinese food pairing along with Joe Ellis from Maxxium, how could I say no?
To start off, a quick Tsing Tao and the requisite Prawn Crackers – perhaps the ultimate Chinese food accompaniment? Our selection of whisky went across a fair selection of the brand:
A varied selection as you can see, this was being partnered up with a range of Chinese cuisine (and a dish closer to home):
- Duck in Plum Sauce
- King Prawns in Black Bean Sauce
- Crispy Belly Pork
- Sweet and Sour Chicken
- Salted Caramel Brownie
For each course, Joe introduced the particular whisky we would be sipping, what flavours and scent to expect and why he’s paired it with the specific dish.
To begin, we had Duck in Plum Sauce and The Macallan Gold. The Macallan Gold is a single malt. They replaced the previous age statement varieties with colours five years ago. It’s produced from 9-15 y.o. first fill and refill sherry casks, it’s quite a bodied whisky with a citrusy note, which matched the duck well, as you could expect.
The duck was delicious though plum sauce is not my natural choice. I usually go for Hoi-Sin sauce with duck but the plum was balanced out by the citrus and vanilla in the whisky, giving it a fruity pairing.
Next was The Naked Grouse with Sweet And Sour Chicken. The Naked Grouse is a recent joiner to the Famous Grouse stable. It was one of the last creations of the company’s long-serving Master Blender, John Ramsay, who retired after forty years shortly before the whisky was released. As it’s a blended whisky, it takes on elements of other parts of the Maxxium brand in The Macallan and Highland Park. It’s got quite a mix of flavours in there, mainly dried fruits with a hint of spice.
The sweet and sour chicken was artfully presented with a carved radish. Sweet and Sour chicken is one of those dishes that will never go out of fashion in the UK, as is General Tso’s chicken in the US. This was a solid example, with the fruity tang people expect, and the chicken had a nice light tempura style batter.
Then it was onto one of my all time favourite dishes, Crispy Belly Pork, paired with a Highland Park 12 Yr Old. Back to single malt territory, this is a lightly peated whisky. I LOVE peated whisky (can you guess which one will be my fave of the night?). This is classed as the gold standard all rounder, bringing the peats of Ilsay, the heather of the Highlands and the fruitiness of Speyside, with a sherry cask finish into one glass. This would be the bottle I’d have in the cupboard to cover all guests, if I only kept the one bottle!
There is not much to say with Crispy Belly Pork; it’s one of those ultimate indulgent foods for me, and one which is tricky to replicate at home. This version had the skin just slightly ballooning giving that light crunch, keeping away the toughness that is the downfall of many versions of the dish.
Our penultimate dish was King Prawns in Black Bean sauce paired with Laphroaig 10 Yr Old. This is the original Laphroaig, with malted barley which is dried over a peat fire. The smoke from this peat, found only on Islay, gives it an almost medicinal flavour and the peaty vapours make this one of my favourite winter drinks which warms from the feet up.
These king prawns were beasts. For some reason, I’ve noticed king prawns seem to be shrinking recently (or is it just my imagination?). These kept their shape and remained plump swimming between the onions and peppers, the sweet ingredients countering the deeply savoury black bean sauce.
Our final pairing was a Salted Caramel Brownie with a Jim Beam Double Oak. Bourbon is an American whisky, distilled from corn rather than the malt or wheat as is tradition in Scotland. This Double Oaked variety is first aged in charred American white oak barrels, then we pour it into another freshly charred barrel to mature for a second time. It was actually too oaky for me as I’m more of a peat fan (as you’re probably aware by now!) but I can see why it’s sharpness was paired to cut through the sweetness of the brownie.
Covering the brownie side, these were supplied to Chung Ying Central from Mrs Mills Makes Cakes. As mentioned previously, the Salted Caramel Brownie is a deliciously slice of unctuous goodness, which I heartily recommend.
This was an interesting evening as I’d never considered pairing Chinese Food with Whisky but this worked really well, and it was nice to see Scottish and American rather than Japanese whiskies being used.
Disclaimer: For this visit, I was a guest of Chung Ying Central & East Village PR, this provides no bias to the post. This blog is my own personal opinion and strives to provide an independent view, promoting, enjoying and reviewing the range of exciting food and venues in and around Birmingham.
Where: Chung Ying Central, 126 Colmore Row, Birmingham, B3 3AP
Who: Chung Ying Group