Appreciating Thai food with Riesling is like one, long, seamless thought. Which makes us wonder, in which bar and where in the world did a Thai meet a handsome German and what song was it they slow danced too… I'd like to think it wasn't something by Ed Sheeran.
People who enjoy Thai food get really excited when they've decided they're about to enjoy Thai food. That's because dishes like Phanaeng, so well balanced, so addicting, are only protected by social graces from a pack of wolves-type situation. And if you're dining solo take-out style, then all bets are off.
The Houston Press investigates this pairing via a takeout order from Morningside Thai:
Thai Phanaeng Curry + Dr. Loosen 2015 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese
Rich with coconut milk, while light-footed with notes of kaffir lime and lemongrass, the Phanaeng heat starts off like a warm hug that finishes with a tight squeeze. It's a type of red curry that in combination with the previous flavors is seasoned with shrimp paste, fish sauce and a hint of peanut. Honestly, I'd be happy with just the sauce and some vegetables over rice I realized as I kept dodging thin strips of well-done chicken breast. The boldness of this dish makes you very thirsty, which not many wines can stand up too. But the noble Riesling can and does.
Of course, it depends on how and where it's grown, but Rieslings are characteristically bright with acid, layered with ripe stone fruit and whether it's "dry" or not, do finish sweetly. A good dry German Riesling, Dr. Loosen 2015 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese; was a killer choice. Spätlese refers to the way in which it was grown; "late picked," which attests to the deep trail of flavor. Certainly bright and mildly acidic, it finishes tartly with the subtle type of sweetness that isn't instantly familiar. Not honey-like, not sugar-like, a flavor more like nectar; natural and rejuvenating. Tropical fruits, also very efflorescent, like guava and pineapple, are pleasantly evident. This single vineyard Riesling is a great introduction into the best of the best as far as this grape is concerned.
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Pretty soon, all that was heard was the clinking of metal on ceramic and quiet slurps. Enjoyed together, the warm heat of Phanaeng and cold Dr. Loosen Riesling, both intricately floral, is a moment that warrants fierce repetition until you run out or roll over.
Phanaeng typically costs between $12 and $14, while Dr. Loosen 2015 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese can be found at Houston Wine Merchant at around $32.99. There are a lot of good Thai restaurants in Houston, some of them BYOB, some of them with delivery, which makes this exact combination, one I highly recommend, doable.
The Houston Press is searching for perfect food pairings and where they can be found. We welcome reader suggestions and ask you to send them to email@example.com.