Despite what you think, it isn’t difficult to pair brandy with local delicacies.
Renowned cognac producer Rémy Martin invited Wine & Dine for a brandy and hawker food pairing session at Old Airport Road Food Centre to show us how the spirit need not be served as just a digestif. It isn’t a far-fetched idea. After all, if you could pair a Chardonnay with roasted pork belly, then why not a cognac with some of our local delights?
The flavour spectrum of raisins, vanilla and spices found in cognac may appear a little too narrow for a wide food pairing exercise, but the trick is to look at the spirit’s age grade—VSOP, containing eaux-de-vie aged for at least four years in casks; or XO, containing eaux-de-vie aged for at least six years in casks—to determine its richness. Generally, older cognacs offer fruitier and spicier notes. You can also experiment with mixers to fizz or sweeten things up.
Rémy Martin’s VSOP with soda water and ice, for example, works with very oily dishes such as char kway teow as the fizziness of the soda water helps temper the noodles’ greasiness. The VSOP’s sweet notes also stand up well against the umami accent of the char kway teow. Similarly, the VSOP with soda water is also the perfect foil for the slick Hokkien mee.
When served frozen, Rémy Martin VSOP’s dried fruit notes become subdued, while its savoury, nutty flavours come to the fore. Rémy Martin recommends pairing this with the luscious oyster omelette, but we find that the chilled brandy’s earthier character works better with the roasted duck, reminding us a little of the classic marriage between a rustic Pinot Noir and a roasted fowl.
Chicken satay with peanut sauce is always a tricky dish to pair—the heavy sauce can easily mask a cognac’s fruity notes and velvety character. To counter this, try mixing a Rémy Martin CLUB (eaux-de-vie aged in Limousin oak barrels for up to 20 years) with ginger ale. The CLUB has a richer aroma and texture that stands up to the peanut sauce, while the ginger ale component ensures its finish is a little refreshing and fizzy enough to complement the smoky, grilled skewers.
This story was first published in Wine & Dine’s Mar/Apr 2018 issue – Wonder Women in Pairing as ‘Cognac with Satay and More’.