Here are the yummy beef skewers I made for the Asian Cajun seminar at the New Orleans Food and Wine Experience (NOWFE). Before I share my recipe, I want to tell you all about my incredible experience in the Big Easy!
Here I am pictured with my Asian Cajun co-panelists: the amazing sommelier at Commander’s Palace, Dan Davis, and the fabulous Laura Williamson, master sommelier at Jean Georges in New York. Our panel was about the influence of the Vietnamese population on New Orleans cuisine and how challenging it can be to pair wines with the sweet, spicy, sour and salty flavors found in Southeast Asian cuisine.
Here I am in the immaculate kitchen of Commander’s Palace prepping for our wine seminar. We sampled Lemongrass Beef Skewers and Mango and Prawn Salad for the seminar. We were so lucky that James Beard award-winning executive chef, Tory McPhail, let us take over their kitchen for a couple of hours. Chef Alex Hamman graciously lent us two of his students from the Louisiana Culinary Institute. Although you can’t see her in this picture, my incredible sous chef, Stacy Mears, was behind us grilling 150 beef skewers!
Before I share my recipe for Lemongrass Beef Skewers, I’d like to give you this primer for pairing wine with Asian cuisine. So many of my friends ask for advice on this topic given the myriad of complex and contrasting flavors in Asian dishes especially when their wine cabinets are filled with chardonnays and cabernets (a general no-no with Asian food!)
Primer on pairing Asian food with wine
As a general rule of thumb, dry sweeter white wines pair well with Asian cuisine. Dry Rieslings and dry Gewerztraminer all pair particularly well because of their crisp brightness and touch of sweetness which compliment the spicy, sweet and intense flavors found in Asian cuisine. Chardonnays are not a good match for Asian cuisine nor are classic reds such as Cabernets or Merlots as they tend to over power versus balance the flavors in Asian dishes due to their high alcohol content and low acidity. In the case of Cabernet and Merlot, the fact that they’re hard in tannin.
In my experience, however, I’ve found that there are numerous and interesting wine pairings in the world of Asian flavors just waiting to be discovered including a number of reds. Here’s a cheat sheet to some of my culinary findings:
With its zesty, peppery and fruity flavors, Zinfandels are a refreshing choice for Southeast Asian dishes and compliment any dish with heat, garlic, ginger or vinegary flavors. I love pairing Zinfandels with everything from Szechuan Beef to Chicken with Thai Cashews and Chilis.
Pinot Noirs are my go-to wine for any Thai dish because they’re full of depth, and strong enough to stand up, but not so strong as to fight with the flavors. I love to pair Pinot Noir for everything from Pad Thai to Panang Red Curry Beef.
Sparking wine and Champagne:
It’s no secret that sparkling wines and champagne pair well with fried foods. Therefore, they make an excellent choice for fried wontons, eggrolls and fried dumplings. It’s also a wonderful choice for Vietnamese Summer Rolls with Sweet Thai Chili Sauce. The acidity in the sparkling wine or champagne is a terrific compliment to the heat in the chili sauce.
Malbecs and Shiraz
These wines are big and bold enough not to be overpowered by Asian sweet and spicy Barbeque flavors like Thai Barbecued chicken.
When a meat is heavily seasoned, look for a red wine with lots of spicy notes like a Syrah. I love to pair a Syrah with Crying Tiger Steak or Asian Spiced Pork.
Even though Viogniers are more like Chardonnays because of their low acid content and high alcohol content, they are an excellent choice for many Asian dishes because they are amazingly fragrant (unlike Chardonnays). They pair well with many dishes as long as they aren’t too hot or too sweet. They are an excellent choice for Thai curry dishes.
Now, that you’re an expert on Asian food and wine pairings here’s my recipe for Lemongrass Beef Skewers with Spicy Peanut Sauce. My personal favorite wine to go with this dish would be a nice chilled glass of viognier. You can find a variety of amazing wines to pair with Asian recipes in the gourmet section of Cost Plus World Market.
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
- 2 teaspoons peeled and minced fresh galangal or ginger
- 3 tablespoons minced lemongrass
- 1 tablespoon palm sugar or brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons fish sauce (nam pla)
- 1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 teaspoons oil
- 22-25 wood skewers
- 1.5 pounds top sirloin steak, cut into thin strips
- 2 tablespoons crushed roasted peanuts
- 2 tablespoons cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
- Peanut Sauce
- 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
- 4 tablespoons thick coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon red curry paste
- 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons palm sugar or brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- Crushed roasted peanuts for garnish
- Soak the wooden skewers for at least 30 minutes.
- Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a large mixing. Place the beef in a large resealable plastic food-storage bag. Pour the marinade mixture over the beef. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Make the peanut sauce: Heat the peanut butter, coconut milk, red curry paste, lime juice, soy sauce, palm sugar and crushed red pepper over medium-low heat in a small saucepan until the mixture begins to simmer, stirring constantly. Transfer to a small serving bowl and garnish with peanuts.
- Insert the meat through the wooden skewers. Pre-heat a grill. Grill for 2-3 minutes each side or until desired tenderness. Remove from the grill and garnish with peanuts and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.
Stacy and I enjoying the yummiest beignets at Cafe Du Monde! We got inspired to create a lemongrass beignet recipe with coconut sauce. We’re testing it this week so stay tuned!!