Shaoxing Wine – also known as Chinese Cooking Wine or Shaosing Wine – is an essential in Chinese cooking, the secret ingredient that makes recipes truly taste like what you get at Chinese restaurants. Chinese restaurants use it by the gallon in everything from stir fry sauces to soup broths, marinades and wontons!
Shaoxing Wine is used in practically every single Chinese recipe I’ve shared – because it’s key ingredient!
WHAT IS SHAOXING WINE?
Shaoxing Wine is also known as Chinese Cooking Wine, Shao-hsing or Shaohsing Wine. I call it Chinese Cooking Wine in almost all my recipes.
Chinese Cooking Wine is a rice wine that is made specifically for cooking. It has a salty, harsh alcoholic flavour and it’s not intended for drinking!
Along with soy sauce, it is probablythe most important ingredient in Chinese cooking. Just like in Western cooking, it is used to add depth and complexity to sauces, broths and anything it is added to.
It’s usually used in small quantities – most stir fries only call for 1 or 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing Wine – and you can’t distinguish the taste of it in the finished dish. You just know it’s better! 🙂
SHAOXING WINE SUBSTITUTE
The best substitutes for Shaoxing Wine / Chinese Cooking Wine are as follows:
- Dry sherry – that’s right, just every day cheap and cheerful dry sherry;
- Mirin – a Japanese sweet cooking wine. If you use this, omit or reduce sugar called for in the recipe because Mirin is sweeter than Chinese Cooking Wine. If there’s no sugar to omit, that’s fine, just know that the sauce will be a bit sweeter;
- Cooking Sake / Japanese Rice Wine – this is a bit lighter in flavour than Chinese cooking wine, but is an acceptable substitute.
These work well because they are alcoholic, like Chinese cooking wine, so they bring a similar depth and complexity to sauces.
Caveat: I understand that there are some people who can’t get or can’t consume alcohol, whether for health or religious reasons. But because Chinese cooking wine is such a key ingredient in Chinese sauces, I cannot promise the same recipe outcome if it is made without using an alcoholic substitute.
But for those who can consume alcohol, I really urge you to use one of the alcoholic substitutes above. You will thank me! 🙂
Pictured: Chop Suey / Chicken Stir Fry
WHAT IS SHAOXING WINE USED FOR?
Every Chinese restaurant uses Shaoxing Wine in almost every savoury dish. You’d be hard pressed to find a single dish on a Chinese restaurant menu that does not use Chinese cooking wine!
IT’S THE SECRET INGREDIENT
If you’ve ever made a Chinese recipe and wondered why it didn’t taste quite as good as what you get from your favourite Chinese restaurant, then Chinese Cooking Wine is probably the missing ingredient.
You can get every other ingredient “right” in a stir fry sauce, but if you don’t use Chinese cooking wine, it will be missing that extra something-something that makes it truly taste restaurant quality.
My general advice is that if you come across a stir fry recipe in your internet travels that does not call for Chinese cooking wine, I would proceed with caution.
Or if it really looks tasty and you really want to try it anyway, add a splash of Chinese cooking wine and know you’ve just improved the recipe. (*She ducks as food bloggers all over chuck rotten tomatoes at her* 😉 )
Pictured: Chow Mein
IS IT SAFE FOR CHILDREN TO CONSUME?
Chinese Cooking Wine usually has an alcohol content of between 15 – 20%. Because stir fries are cooked quickly, the alcohol content does not cook out. But recipes only use a small amount of Chinese Cooking Wine – usually only 1 or 2 tablespoons for a stir fry that will serve between 3 to 4 people.
So the amount of alcohol in the cooked dish is very small. And you certainly cannot taste it!
But if you are concerned about consuming a small amount of alcohol in food, then I would advise you to not eat any Chinese food from Chinese restaurants because Shaoxing Wine is such a key ingredient in Chinese cooking, it is used in almost everything. Certainly in all the take out favourites!
In fact, I would advise you not to eat Chinese, Japanese, Korean or Thai food from any restaurant because all these cuisines use cooking rice wines in a similar manner. 🙂
THE BRAND I USE
I use a brand called Double Pheonix (red bottle, above right) which I get from Asian grocery stores which costs a whopping $2 per bottle and will make 40 or 50 stir fries.
There are plenty of different brands at Asian stores and to be honest, I’m not furiously loyal to Double Pheonix, it is just the most common brand that I see. I’ve used others and not noticed a difference.
Chinese Cooking Wine is also now sold in supermarkets here in Australia. A brand called Pandaroo (above left bottle) which is perfectly adequate – though more expensive than real Chinese brands!
Pictured: Egg Fried Rice
I hope that’s helped to answer some questions you might’ve had about Shaoxing Wine! You’ll find that I use Chinese cooking wine in virtually every Chinese recipe on my site.
POPULAR RECIPES THAT USE SHAOXING WINE
Try these popular Chinese takeout recipes at home:
DUMPLINGS & STARTERS