Wine is one of the most popular beverages in the world. It has become an important drink during ceremonies, events, rituals and even fun sessions with friends.
But wines are more than drinks. There are some wines that are used in the preparation of delicious meals. These wines are called cooking wines.
Cooking wines or cooking sherries are inexpensive. They are used as one of the main ingredients in cooking food. Cooking wines are synonymous with salt as a preservative, flavor enhancer and food coloring.
A chemical reaction happens when a bottle of cooking wine is opened. Exposed to oxygen, a process of fermentation converts the alcohol in the wine to acetic acid. This produces what is called as wine vinegar after some time. The salt in cooking wine slows down this transformation by slowing down the growth of microorganisms that produce acetic acid. The salt is quite important since a bottle of cooking wine may be opened and used occasionally over a long period of time.
Some cooks find cooking wines a convenience. However, many professional chefs do not use them or rarely use them at all. They believe that the added preservative in cooking wines diminishes the quality of the food that is cooked with that wine.
If they have to use wine for cooking, these professional chefs prefer to use cheap but drinkable wine for cooking. In fact, cookbooks and cooking textbooks specify and recommend the use of drinkable wines. These chefs believe that the use of cooking wines is not an excuse since there are good quality drinkable wines that are available for cooking.
By itself, cooking wine is not unappetizing and of very poor quality. There is even a school of thought that discourages cooks to stay away from any wine that would be unacceptable to drink.
In the US and Europe, cooking wines are made out of grapes. In Chinese or East Asian cuisine, rice wines are used. As its name implies, rice wines are made by fermenting starch that has been converted to sugars. The fermenting process of rice wine is similar to that of beer production.
Cooking wines produced by fermentation of rice starch have higher alcohol content than grape wines. Unlike pure cooking wines, rice wines can be drunk as well as used as an ingredient in cooking food.
Popular examples of cooking wines produced from rice are sake from Japan, Mijiu from China, Cheongju from Korea, Rorou de from Vietnam, Sonti from India and Sato from Thailand.
Should you wish to include a dash of cooking wine in your dishes, it is best to use a rice wine.