Pairing Wine with Thai Food

Pairing wine with Thai food is a unique way to explore new wines and discover new notes in familiar wines.

Many wine drinkers are familiar with the concept of pairing wine with New American, Italian, and French dishes, but many dismiss pairing wine with food from other cultures. Thai cuisine follows similar wine pairing guidelines, but Thai flavors can bring about a different type of synergy. Upon your first Thai-wine pairing, you’ll quickly identify characteristics in both the wine and food that you may not have picked up on before.

Pairing wine with thai food

Quick Reference for Pairing Wine With Thai Food

  • Spicy Dishes: Sweet wines like a Riesling or Gewurtz.
  • Sour Dishes: Medium to high acidity wines.
  • Fatty Dishes: Sparkling wines like Champagne.
  • Creamy Dishes: Oaky wines.
  • Seafood Dishes: Pair with acidic or sparkling wines.
  • Sweet Desserts: Very sweet (dessert) wine like port or fortified wine.

Bubbles: Pair with fish, lemon, oily

Sweet (Gewurtz/ Rielsing): Pair with spicy foods

Rose: Pair with white meat/duck

Pinot Noir: Pair with Mushrooms/savory/earthy/beef broth/cilantro

Gruner Velt: Pair with fried foods, not spicy

The spicier the dish is, the sweeter the wine should be because the spice brings fruity notes in to the forefront and balances out the spice. A Riesling Kabinett or the Gew├╝rztraminer would be a good choice on balancing spice.

For Thai dishes featuring greasy or fatty meat like fried chicken, chose a sparkling wine. The bubbles cut through the richness of fatty meat.

Oaky chardonnays work well with creamy dishes using coconut milk/fat because the buttery and fruity notes complement the subtle sweetness of the coconut.

One Vietnamese restaurant dined at makes an exceptional bun salad with shrimp in a light citrus dressing. This dish pairs wonderfully with a wine with more sour notes, like a sauvignon blanc.

Pairing wine with thai food pok pok portland
Elevated Thai at Pok Pok, Portland (Now closed)

Spicy Dishes

Pairing wine with thai food lotus of siam duck curry
Duck Curry from Lotus of Siam

Red wines which are a lot more tannic, such as the tongue-drying nature of the Sangioveses, Cabs and Malbecs, will accentuate the heat of chilies and perhaps numb the tongue to the more delicate spices of Thai food. While some people enjoy that sensation that can come with a big, heavy red when paired with a very spicy (hot) flavor, it can be overwhelming.

Fruit-forward light pinots are generally better but it depends on personal preference.

Sour Dishes

Coconut curry with minced fish and krachai, made with coconut milk
Khanom Jiin Naam Yaa Plaa: Coconut curry with minced fish and krachai, made with coconut milk. Served over thin rice vermicelli with house pickled mustard greens, bean sprouts, bai menglak (lemon basil), cabbage, long beans, and a boiled egg. 
Pairing wine with thai food sour dishes pok pok kaeng som kung mangkawn
Kaeng Som Kung Mangkawn- Sour orange curry with lobster tails, kohlrabi, scallions and Savoy cabbage

Sour flavors are used extensively in Thai salads, soups, dips, and some drinks. Sour notes come from tamarind (makham) both fresh immature fruit (which is light green and very sour), leaves and paste(made from mature brown pulps), lime juice (nam ma nau), Fragrant Kaffir lime leaves, Lemongrass and white vinegar.

Fatty Dishes

Fatty dishes - pairing wine with thai food
Northern Thai sweet pork belly and pork shoulder curry

Creamy Dishes

Pairing wine with thai food creamy dishes
Thai Red Curry Noodle Soup with Chicken

Seafood Dishes

Stir-fried manila clams with chiles, galangal, garlic, krachai and thai basil
Phat Hoi Laai – Stir-fried manila clams with chiles, galangal, garlic, krachai and Thai basil.

Sweet Desserts

Mango sticky rice
Mango Sticky Rice

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