Wine & Food Killers: East Asian-Inspired Pulled Pork Sandwiches and Christian Binner Si Rose

The first time I tried Christian Binner's Si Rose, I laughed involuntarily. The
wine was hard to believe.

For weeks I'd been meaning to open it, tempted by its eye-candy shade and long-necked Alsatian bottle. As soon as my nose came within a foot of the glass, it was overwhelmed by the wine’s fragrance: there was rosewater and ginger, lychee and tangerine. If Si Rose smelled like a Turkish delight, it tasted even better. Though dry on the palate, the wine's abundant aromatics gave it an impression of nectar-like sweetness. It struck me as the kind of ambrosia that should be sipped by sultans in the gardens of the Topkapi Palace.

 The source of this wine's lusciousness is Gewürztraminer: the pinky-hued, noble grape, native to Alsace, is known for its flamboyant profile and its low levels of acidity – no wonder it sometimes feels like drinking perfume. In this case, winemaker Christian Binner wisely tempers the Gewürztraminer with higher-acid, blush-coloured Pinot Gris. Thanks to the time the Pinot Gris spends resting on its skins, the wine shares its lovely hue as well as some balancing structure.

The result is Si Rose – "So Pink" – and may be perhaps best enjoyed in moderation: its name seems to pun on "Cirrhose" or "Cirrhosis”, given the pretty pink liver illustration on its label.

Moderation may be a challenge for me. Si Rose is already in the running for my favourite wine of the year and, for all of its sumptuousness, it's a versatile pick with food. Gewürz is a famously popular pairing for dishes from across Asia, and works with everything from Thai or Indian curries, Sichuan dishes to stir-fries and beyond.

 It’s a perfect pick for these East Asian-inspired pulled pork sandwiches. If you find yourself doing most of your socialising from a distance in friends' gardens these days, pulled pork is the perfect candidate. No need for a grill: you can make it at home and tote it anywhere, then just slap it on a bun, alongside some crunchy slaw.

 For this recipe, I wanted a pulled pork that deviated from the norm, and with ingredients such as soy sauce and rice wine, gochujang and five-spice powder, this version makes a striking impression. In that way, this dish and this wine are very much alike.

East Asian-Inspired Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Loosely adapted from the New York Times
Serves 8-10

For the marinade:
1 2 ¼-kilo boneless, skinless pork shoulder
6-8 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons gochugaru, Aleppo chili flakes or crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper

For the pulled pork:
2–3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 4-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
3 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
2 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons light soy sauce
4 tablespoons gochujang
1–2 tablespoons hoisin

To serve:
Buns of your choosing (preferably Japanese milk buns)
Asian slaw or sesame pickles

1. Preferably the night before you plan to cook the pork, cut the shoulder into 3 or 4 pieces and place in a non-reactive bowl. To make the marinade, mix together all the ingredients in a ramekin or small bowl. Add to the pork and rub until each piece is evenly coated. Cover and chill overnight.

2. The next morning, prepare to cook the pork. If using an Instant Pot pressure cooker, like I did, turn on the sauté setting and add the toasted sesame oil to the bowl. When hot, add the pork pieces. Sear on all sides, using tongs to flip frequently, until evenly browned. Transfer the pork pieces to a plate. (If cooking your pork in a slow cooker, do this step in a large saucepan on the stove over high heat. If you plan to roast your pork in the oven, use a Dutch oven or other large heatproof, lidded pot.)

3. Next, add the onion to the Instant Pot bowl or saucepan/Dutch oven (drizzle in a little more oil if needed), and cook for 2–3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until softened. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for roughly 1 minute, or until they've lost their raw aroma. If lots of nice brown bits have stuck to the bottom of the pan by this point, deglaze by adding a splash of water and scraping them up with your spoon.

4. Turn off the sauté setting of your Instant Pot or remove your saucepan/Dutch oven from the stove. (If cooking your pork in the oven, preheat it now to 150° Celsius/300° Fahrenheit). Return the pork pieces and any accumulated juices to the Instant Pot bowl (or place in the slow cooker/Dutch oven). Add the Chinese five-spice seasoning, light brown sugar, Shaoxing rice wine, rice vinegar and soy sauce.

5. If using the Instant Pot, seal and cook the pork on the high-pressure setting for 90 minutes before letting it depressurise naturally. If using the slow cooker, cook for 6-8 hours, or until tender. If using the oven, place a lid on the Dutch oven and cook for approximately 2.5-3 hours, removing the lid and spooning over liquid every now and then, until the pork is falling apart and easily shredded by a fork.

6. Whatever your cooking method, when the pork is ready, gently use tongs to transfer it to a plate or cutting board. Using a fork or two, shred the pork. If you're using an Instant Pot, return the meat to its bowl (there should be a fair amount of liquid left) and turn on the sauté setting. If using a slow cooker, carefully transfer the pork and liquid to a large saucepan, and place on the stove over medium-high heat. If the pork was roasted, transfer the Dutch oven to the stove and remove the lid before turning the heat on.

7. Cook for 10-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the pork is very soft and supple. Add the gochujang and the hoisin, and mix through. Taste and add any additional seasoning if needed.

8. To serve, lightly toast the buns. Add a generous heap of meat to each and top with the slaw or pickles. Serve immediately. (Alternatively, this pork is also delicious served atop garlic fried rice.)

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, won Best Book at the 2019 North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards and is available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Read more of Claire’s food writing for us here.