Friday, May 27, 2011

Udon Noodle Soup with Thai Curry Paired with 2008 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Udon Noodle Soup with Thai Curry Paired with 2008 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay-4

For the faithful followers of my humble little blog (thanks to all of you!), it will come as no surprise that I speak frankly about the recipes, wines, and pairings.  This honesty unquestionably extends to the less than pleasant surprises as well as the happy coincidences.  I do this in the firm belief that we learn as much from our failures as we do from our successes.  And with that prelude, on with the story.

This pairing occurred on the Friday night of Memorial Day weekend 2011.  Chef Sue was able to get away from the office early so we could extend the holiday weekend.  Chef Sue was able to leave DC for our secret Potomac lair a day in advance of my arrival.  Before I left DC, I selected four wines from the Cavernous Corl Wine Cellar, thankful I could remember the cypher lock code and my DNA had not been altered since the last update of the biometric security system.  I called Chef Sue and gave her my selections and asked that she consider some pairing dishes.

Udon Noodle Soup with Thai Curry Paired with 2008 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Chef Sue was inspired and decided on a Japanese – Thai fusion of udon noodle soup mashed up with a thai red curry coconut sauce with chicken.  This dish was selected for pairing with 2008 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay.  When Chef Sue announced the pairing, my mind started quietly raising the red flags – silently of course.  In general, Chardonnay does not have the big fruit, sweetness and acidity to stand up to a spicy dish.  Further, I remain convinced that mixing oaked wines with spice can work on the rare occaision, but can also introduce some undesired flavor surprises – I prefer to avoid food and wine surprises.

2008 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Chadonnay

With the red curry paste and coconut milk certain to dominate the palate, wines with tropical notes like pineapple, mango, peaches, apricots, would pair well with these strong flavors.  A balancing acidity is also important to standup to the acidity of this dish, and sweetness balances the heat nicely.  I would have chosen a Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Grigio, a dry Rosé, or a Proseco.

Sauteed Onions

The wine did not turn out to be a train wreck.  Quite the opposite, it was very enjoyable.  The 2008 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay was opened while Chef Sue was cooking…thirst took over.  This Chardonnay is soft and complex with dominant flavors of green apple, a buttery feel, and toasted nuts.  In other words it can be likened to a freshly baked apple crisp in a bottle.  Nice.  Unfortunately when faced with the daunting aggressiveness of the Thai red curry, the Chardonnay became a wall flower.  It added nothing with respect to the pairing – not the fault of the wine, but rather a faulty choice (sorry Chef Sue).

Sauteed Shitake Mushrooms

The pummeling of the wine was made worse by a tragic wrong turn with the recipe.  When preparing this dish, Chef Sue followed the directions on the tiny little can of Thai red curry paste (you’ve seen those little 4 oz cans slinking around the international section of the grocery) that directed the use of all 4 ounces of the paste.  Oh my!  Maybe a translation error (and there were a few of those on the can)? After a few bites Chef Sue and I looked at each other with the mutual knowledge that the nuclear waste level heat of this dish was sure to conclude with unpleasant consequences.  Don’t let the pretty pictures fool you.  The piper will be paid!

Chopped Cilantro

Oddly enough, as we sat down to enjoy this fire festival, Man vs. Food was playing on the television – an episode which required the host to eat a dozen chicken wings lathered in “shut up” sauce, complete the challenge in 10 minutes, and keep it down for another 5.  You know things are going bad when you have to don a pair of latex surgical gloves to eat a meal.  I’m happy to report that he suffered far more than we did.

Chopped Cilantro-1

Have no fear my friends.  The recipe at the end of this post has been recalibrated to the human palate.  We have not yet gone back to the kitchen to validate it, but I am confident the rebirth of this fusion plate will be quite enjoyable.  I stick with my wine pairing recommendation.  Save the 2008 Frei Brothers Reserve Russian River Valley Chardonnay for another day – it has potential and is a good value.

Chopped Green Onions

Between crabbing, cookouts, sailing and other traditional Memorial Day weekend festivities, we will be doing more cooking and more pairing.  I hope to report some great success rather than lessons learned.

Red Curry Coconut Sauce



  • 2 packages (8oz) precooked udon noodles
  • 1 large onion sliced
  • 8 oz. shitake mushrooms
  • 1 chicken breast (about 8 oz.) sliced into 1/4 inch strips laterally
  • 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 gallon chicken broth
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3/4 chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup miren
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 3/4 cup sliced green onions for garnish
  • Olive oil for sauté
  • Salt to taste


  1. In a large skillet or medium pot, add the curry paste, coconut milk and chicken broth. Allow to simmer while the balance of the recipe is prepared. Stir occasionally. The mixture should be brought to a boil just before adding to the rest of the ingredients. At about the 5 minute mark, add fish sauce, cilantro, ginger and miren.
  2. Sauté sliced onion in a skillet with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. When translucent yet firm, place in a large bowl (the bowl needs to be large enough to fit everything in the recipe).
  3. Sauté shitake mushrooms in the same skillet as the onions. When done, add to the bowl with the onions.
  4. Sauté chicken in the same skillet once the mushrooms are done. Add to the bowl with onions and mushrooms.
  5. Add precooked udon noodles to the bowl.
  6. With any luck, your curry paste - coconut milk - chicken broth is at a boil now. Don’t let it boil long - just get it to a boil, and you are done.
  7. Add the broth mixture to the bowl, cover and let sit for five minutes.
  8. Plate to bowls and garnish with green onions.

In vino veritas, buen provecho.



  1. Just made this recipe with scratch udon noodles. Excellent! Will be making it again! Added a little fresh garlic in the chicken saute. I'd start with half the fish sauce and taste for saltyness. 4T was a tad too salty for the brand I had. Thanks for sharing this Craig.

    1. I'm very happy you enjoyed...and took the time to make the noodles from scratch. If you would care to share your recipe for making the noodles, I would be pleased to share it. You make a good point with regard to the fish sauce. All fish sauce is not created equal and should be treated false step can ruin a dish.