Winter isn’t just a time of hibernation for animals; it’s a time of hibernation for people, too! With the sun setting before it’s time to leave the office, freezing wind tunnels at every turn, and the oh-so-tempting notion of riding out January and February in a wardrobe that basically consists of sweatpants, this isn’t the time to be venturing out for sustenance. Let’s face it: Winter is most of the reason why takeout was invented. What’s a better cold-weather takeout option than warming, spicy, hearty Thai food?
As an overarching rule, white wines tend to work better than red wines when it comes to pairing with spicy food like Thai, and white wines that have a bit of residual sugar work even better, as sugar combats and cools a spicy palate. Off-dry Riesling is the No. 1 catch-all for a smorgasbord of takeout Thai dishes. For die-hard red wine lovers, reds can work with Thai food, too, particularly with milder dishes. When pairing red wine with spicy dishes like curry, stay away from anything with too much tannin, unless you’re a serious seeker of spice. Tannins actually elevate the level of spice on the tongue, so takeout night might become a little painful!
Looking for the perfect pairing with your favorite takeout order? Here are some picks for the most popular Thai food dishes:
Thai Spring Rolls
Whether made solely with vegetables or with the addition of shrimp, spring rolls offer a fresh bite to the start of any Thai feast (plus, all of the veggies totally negate the carbs you’re about to house). Look for a high-acid, neutral white wine that hinges on freshness, like those from the Alpine slopes in northern Italy. Prié Blanc from the Valle d’Aosta almost smells like winter air after a new, powdery snow. It will be flavorful but not overwhelming.
Tom Kha Gai (Coconut Chicken Soup)
The only thing better than chicken soup is chicken soup with rich coconut and a zing of citrus. Tom Kha Gai is characterized by its melange of flavors: coconut milk, lime, lemongrass, fish sauce chile paste, and other herbs. A white wine with just as much zing, like Muscadet from France’s Loire Valley, works well, particularly because Muscadet tends to be a neutral but minerally wine, allowing the layers of the dish to sing.
This noodle dish with its accompaniments of fish sauce, bean sprouts, peanuts, and more is probably the go-to Thai takeout dish. As it leans more toward mild flavors than spice, dry wines will absolutely work. A savory, salty white such as Assyrtiko from Santorini will add texture to the richness of the dish while lemon flavors brighten everything up. A light, juicy, fruit-driven red could work as well.
Pad See Ew
If you’ve got a late-night, post-bar-hopping craving for takeout, there’s nothing better than fried noodles. But why not get a head start on the evening by pairing Pad See Ew with a glass of wine for dinner? Made with sweet soy sauce, broccoli, and eggs, this dish is a hearty umami bomb, perfect for staying warm in winter. Balance it out with round, lush fruit in the wine. A Pinot Noir from the Central Otago region of New Zealand offers elegant red fruit with more freshness than most other New World versions, brightening up the savory flavors of the dish.
When it comes to Thai curry, yellow curry is the least spicy of the bunch. With layered spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, bay leaf, and more, this hearty, savory curry can stand up to both full-bodied white wines and red wines alike. A soft, earthy red like a Côtes du Rhône will accentuate the curry’s spices while mellow red fruit rounds the flavors out.
Now things are spicing up. Along with spices like cumin and coriander, red curry paste is comprised of red chilis, which pack some punch. Coconut milk and lime generally make up the rest of the dish, so the key is to look for a wine with body, fresh fruit, and a touch of sugar to balance out the spice. Off-dry Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, like Vouvray, works perfectly; acidity keeps the pairing refreshing and round, and apple fruit flavors balance the curry paste.
Green curry tends to be the spiciest of them all, with a curry paste made of green chilis, lemongrass, lime peel, cumin, and white peppercorns. This is definitely not the time to mess around with dry wines. A little bit of sugar will cool off the tongue! Off-dry Kabinett Riesling from Germany is like a drop of peach-lime freshness, with delicate, high-toned flavors to match the bright herbs and green chilis.