Impossible food wine pairings: pad thai!

OK, it’s not a seasonal dish. But it’s a popular one!

Help us in the latest food challenge — which wine would you pair with: shrimp pad thai!

I don’t think it needs any explaining. But in case you haven’t picked up a take-out menu in recent years (or been to one of the many Thai BYOB restos), the main wine challenges are the sweet-ish spicy sauce, a little egg, rich shrimp, and the chopped nuts. Go crazy!

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31 Responses to “Impossible food wine pairings: pad thai!”

  1. I would go with an semi-dry Riesling. The main concern for me is the peanuts, which are definitely not wine-friendly. I’d probably only have a few sips of the wine with the noodles, and drink the rest after dinner.

  2. For me it would be a decent bottle of Prosecco – one with just a little sweetness. It should easily handle those peanuts.

  3. A white, I would try a Greco di Tufo.
    A Red, I would try one with low tannins like a Pinot Noir

  4. I’ll second the Prosecco. Or a rosé Champagne. Best of all, though, a cold bottle of Sigha!

  5. Viognier, of course. One reason it’s such a great pairing is texture: the silky noodles and the silky white wine make a good pairing in my book. Plus the sweet impression, but the typically dry flavors, are a good counterpoint to the sweet/salty/spicy flavors of pad Thai.

  6. A Methuselah of ’95 DP wrapped in white gold.

  7. This dish blends nuttiness, creaminess, sweetness and richness with some savory elements. I often enjoy a well-done, bright and not over-ripe Malvasia bianca with Asian foods which blend spice, creaminess and sweetness.

    Viogneir, Marsanne and Roussanne made with restraint and showing bright acidity rather than the cloying high RS style are good pairings as well.

    I think a dry and crisp Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Grenache blanc or even Pinot grigio might do. The Grenach blanc and Albariño might contribute almond or other nutty characteristics to the dish. I am not sure that any RS in the wine would be a good idea.

    For reds, I would go with something light which underwent carbonic maceration like Beaujolais Nouveau (or Gamay from CA done in that style) or a Valdiqué.

    Of course, there are different was to approach wine and food pairing and it’s all a matter of what kind of culinary experience you are after.

    To this end, the interaction between food and wine could fit into several categories:
    1) the wine and food flavors stand alone and can stand side-by-side without any interaction,
    2) the wine flavors might also be more subdued than those in the food but its acidity may serve to cleanse the palate for the next mouthful and finally,
    3) the wine flavors can match/reflect the flavors of the food,
    4) the wine flavors might complement the food, expanding the palette of flavors,
    5) the wine and food flavors come together in synergy, resulting in new flavors that are not present in either the wine or food alone.

  8. Vouvray. With a hint of residual sugar, fresh pear, and for me, a light sweet peanut flavor, it would be a fun wine to start and end with.

  9. Vouvray.

    With a hint of residual sugar, fresh pear, and for me, a light sweet peanut flavor, it would be a fun wine to start and end with.

  10. Chris C said:

    A Methuselah of ‘95 DP wrapped in white gold.

    After laughing for a minute, I stand up and salute you. Well-played.

  11. I would go with a textbook Grüner, like a 2004 Huber. Clean as a whistle, and wouldn’t clash with any of the ingredients– from the scallions to the shrimp.

  12. “A Methuselah of ‘95 DP wrapped in white gold” – I can’t think of anything that that wouldn’t go with. As for Pad Thai Champagne is actually quite a good idea – I would say a Blanc de Blanc like Ruinart or even Tattinger Comtes. Otherwise a white Rhone – nuttiness, acidity and richness to match the flavors on the plate or a big fuck-off gewurtz like Nick Nobilo’s Vinoptima from Gisborne.

  13. […] to commenter Chris C for working this into a food-pairing […]

  14. I’m going to go with either an Australian Verdelho or an Aligote. I think you need something somewhat austere to balance out the pretty rich flavors of pad thai. I agree with the Greco di Tufo suggestion up above, too. For some reason I’m thinking minerality is necessary here.

  15. My first thought was Riesling or Gewurtztraminer. But the more I think about it, an Alsation Pinot Gris might do the trick.

  16. With Asian foods I usually reach for a light sweet beer. But if you must have a wine I’m definitely in the bubbly category. The bubbles will cut through the strong flavors of the spice and cilantro. Look for a bubbly that is slightly sweet but not too sweet. Simpler is better than complex. It shouldn’t fight with the rainbow of flavors from the dish but should help wipe your palate clean.

  17. A German Gewurtztraminer Kabinett(trokken if available). The key to matching a wine to this Asian dish is not to select complementary or contrasting fruit flavours, but to enhance the already complex flavour and aromatic combinations with the naturally high oily acidity and beautifully floral and perfumed nuances of nice ripe gew..The natural residual sugar in this style of wine should be able to shoulder a responsible amount of spice. ALT.: Alsatian Grand Cru Sylvaner

  18. Arj,

    I like and agree wiht your approach.

  19. Hmm, the pungency of Thai food can be tricky to pair with wine. Having said that, I’ve had some luck with a couple of different approaches. I find the delicacy of the classic aromatic white matches (dry riesling or gewertz) can sometimes be overpowered by Thai flavours (as opposed to Cantonese, for example), and that the intensity of a Pad Thai often calls for something correspondingly generous on the wine front. A dry rose style works well, as does a fuller white that is high in acidity (Chablis-style Chardonnay, for example, or the aforementioned Vouvray). Perhaps surprisingly, I’ve had some luck pairing Thai food with fuller bodied reds on the spicy end of the flavour spectrum, such as cool climate Australian Shiraz.

    I must say, though, I do find myself reaching for the lighter beer styles when I go Thai.

  20. A quality Argentine Torrontes, esp one from the La Rioja region where the grape still shows plenty of natural acidity.

  21. theres a reason why sweet and spicy are trademarks of thai food (korean food too at that). with that being said, the gewurz kabinett is a great suggestion, the classic acoutrement to bold asian foods. however, im beginning to wonder how a nice scheurebe with a modicum of residual sugar would hold up to something like this.

  22. usually when I order pad Thai I get it with tofu since I am a vegetarian. My wine of choice lately has been a dry Rose and it works really well. Prior to this I used to order a nice riesling.

    Good question – but now I am hungry for Thai at 9am. 🙂

  23. No doubt, a good Gewurtz will do the trick!

  24. I love Pad Thai, only 4 or 5 restaurants in Sao Paulo have it. No takeouts, unfortunately…
    I would go with a Rosé wine: two choices actually, a Portuguese ‘Monte seis Reis Rose’, which is almost a clairette and a Brazilian one: Villa Francioni Rose, an assemblage of 8 grapes.

  25. I would go with a nice Zweigelt Rose like Tegeershoff 2006 (sp?, $12-15), or as a commenter suggested, a very classic gruner. My particular fave recently has been Rudi Pichler’s 2006 Smargad Wachau ($22-26).

    Another suggestion would be an Austrian sparkler such as Brundlmayer or Schloss Gobelsburg Brut Reserve 2004 (both $27-32) (can you tell I like Austrian wines?).

    If you’d like a Riesling, I would imagine that a lower Mosel one would be a good bet. Knebel 2005 Kabinett Feinherb ($20-25) would be a solid choice, I think. It has a nice velvety structure that is subtly aromatic. I think it would pair well with the Pad Thai. On the sweeter side, something with a serious level of minerality like Willi Schaefer’s Graacher Domprobst 2005 Spatlese #7 ($28-35) or Schloss Lieser’s Brauneberger Juffer 2006 Kabinett ($20-25) would do the trick.

    If you’re not too keen on the Germanics, I think a daring pairing choice would be a Dolcetto d’Alba. I’ve generally found it to go well with quite a wide variety of food.

  26. Thai ice tea. Oh wait, we’re talking wine. I’d go with Grenache, slightly chilled.

  27. Prosecco, Cava, and more young inexpensive sparkles!

  28. Semi Dry Riesling. The pad thai sauce is composed of lime juice, fish sauce, and brown sugar (some also put a dash of green tamarind) along with red chilis for the heat.
    True pad thai then has garlic, ginger and cilantro. The spice, lime and cilantro aspects all fall towards riesling. The peanuts are simply a light garnish, so unless the pad thai you are having is laced with different ingredients, or an abundance of peanuts…S-D Riesling…

  29. There is a marvelous Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, the Lotus of Siam, with an extensive wine list. The major category is German Riesling. The same is true of the Slanted Door in SF’s Ferry Building.

  30. So many great suggestions.

    I have to say that I am quite intrigued by the idea of Prosecco. Some time ago, while in Sydney, I paired a simple, inexpensive Brown Brothers NV Pinot Noir Chardonnay with Vietnamese with great results.

    However, I think that the people suggesting German grapes and wines might be on to something. In fact, there’s a fairly popular Thai-German fusion restaurant in Bangkok. So, I think my vote is for a German Riesling. The Schloss Schönborn Hattenheimer Pfaffenberg Kabinett is a bit of a winner.

  31. I work in a wine store, and this is actually a very simple food and wine pairing compared to the recommendations I have to give. I have had customers ask me for a wine to go well with scrambled eggs! I think a nice semi-dry riesling or viognier would work best with the dish. Reds are trickier, but anything with low tannins would be suitable.


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