Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Chinese Mystery Box


Recently I was gifted a lovely package from China. I was told that it was some sort of booze, but the giver neither drinks or reads Chinese so the type of booze was a mystery. She had only put her trust in the duty-free that it wasn't some kind of ceremonial household cleanser.


I began tasting and Googling and the closest I have been able to guess is that it is a semi-dry variety of Huangjiu, a fermented "yellow wine" made from rice, wheat or millet. If I'm right, most likely it is the Huangjiu ceremonial variety known as Jiafanjiu. The packaging certainly suggests a ceremonial gift.

It can be drank hot or cold or used in Chinese cooking. I was okay with any of these uses and began to play with it. I am still operating under a lot of assumptions as I have yet to match either a photo or any of the characters on the jar to my guesswork. I'm also not wowed that the best source of information I've found so far is a citation-poor wiki. Still, onward I go.

The flavor is earthy and a little fruity, most unlike the Chinese whiskey I have enjoyed in San Francisco's Chinatown bars with their grenade of herbs flavor. The wine is more subtle and much lower in alcohol. Huangjiu is supposed to come in at around 16% or 20% alcohol which seems right.

After a bit of tasting my first thought was to try adding it in to Manhattan as it had similarities to sweet vermouth, particularly Carpano Punt e Mes. I added a half shot of the mystery beverage and it did indeed bring a nice flavor to the drink. I'm not going to be making it a regular addition to my Manhattan any time soon, but it was quite a tasty change of pace. Next I'm going to try it in a stir fry and perhaps marinating some tofu in it. I'll report back with the results in a future post.

In the meantime, do any of you know what it is? I'd be curious to hear any facts or theories that may lead to a solution to the mystery of this gift.


For now I suppose I'll make another Manhattan and enjoy it with the other, less mysterious, part of my gift. Happy hunting, Chowbaccans!