What to Eat in Shaoxing

Shaoxing secured its place in the Chinese culinary pantheon with Shaoxing wine, the best yellow rice wine in the country. Although cooks around the world know the nutty-flavored wine as a marinade and seasoning, in Shaoxing the fermented brew of glutinous rice is put to a variety of uses, from drinking straight up (as early as breakfast) to sipping as a medicine (infused with traditional herbs and remedies). Like grape wines, Shaoxing mellows and improves with age, as its color deepens to a reddish brown. It is local custom to bury a cask when a daughter is born and serve it when she marries.

The wine is an excellent accompaniment to Shaoxing snacks such as pickled greens, baked rice cakes, and the city's most popular street food, chou doufu (stinky tofu). Usually paired with a bright red chili sauce, the golden-fried squares of tender tofu have a pleasant flavor and texture, if you can get past the pungent odor. Also, look for dishes made with another Shaoxing product, fermented bean curd, colloquially known as "moldy bean curd." With a flavor not unlike an aged cheese, it's rarely eaten by itself but complements fish and sharpens the flavor of meat dishes.

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