Some Like It Hot: How Spicy Dishes Keep Cool With Vinho Verde

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Though summer is finally behind us, the heat is on for your palate when you indulge in spicy foods this winter to stay warm. From Korean and Thai to Mexican and Indian, so many dishes are immersed in hot decadence that it takes an extremely crisp, cool wine like Vinho Verde to keep them in check. Instead of numbing your palate when clearing your plate, you can find harmony and balance by pairing its low alcohol, bright fruit flavors and gentle sweetness with the fierce flavors spicy dishes have on display. A low alcohol and subtly sweet combo can tame high levels of heat, and they can also help enhance the taste of unique seasonings.

Cumin Lamb Stir-Fry Recipe

Reprinted with permission from The Meat Hook Meat Book

This spicy, fragrant dish, with origins in Northwest China, is not for wussies. For those not familiar with the "tingling" effects of Sichuan peppercorns, they basically make your mouth go a little numb and throw off your sense of flavor (and balance) a bit. Still interested? We hope you are, because when the peppercorns are married with a beautiful leg of lamb and earthy cumin, there really isn't stopping your dinner party from becoming a real international food party. Wine might just be required.

Servings: 2-3


1 pound boneless leg of lamb


2 tablespoons ground cumin

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine

1 tablespoon sesame oil, toasted

2 cloves garlic, finely minced

3-4 Sichuan peppercorns, crushed as best as you can

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2-3 tablespoons peanut oil or toasted sesame oil

5 hot dried red Asian chiles (the little skinny ones)

1/2 cup raw peanuts, optional

1 bunch scallions, cut into 3-inch lengths


  1. Place the lamb on a cutting board and slice it into strips as thin as you can manage using a sharp 8- to 10-inch chef's knife. (Chilling the meat beforehand will make it easier to slice; place the package from your butcher in the freezer for 20 minutes.)
  2. If the strips are wider than 1/2 inch, stack them a few at a time and cut lengthwise in half.
  3. Mix all the marinade ingredients well in a medium bowl and then toss the meat with it, coating thoroughly.
  4. It's best to allow this to sit overnight, covered, in your fridge, but if you don't have time, let it marinate, uncovered, at room temperature for 1 hour.  
  5. Heat a large wok or skillet over high heat until smoking hot.
  6. Add 1 tablespoon of oil, then add the chiles and peanuts if using and let them sizzle until they start to blister and take on color.
  7. Add the meat and stir-fry until just cooked with some browning, about 2 minutes. If you need to add more oil to make the browning happen, then add a little more now and cook for 1 minute longer.
  8. Use a spoon to pull the meat and chiles out of the pan and onto a waiting plate.  
  9. Add more oil to your wok and get it very hot before adding the scallions.
  10. Stir-fry the scallions just until they turn bright green, about 2 minutes.
  11. Return the meat and chiles to the pan and toss for a few moments longer, just until everything is hot but not so long that the scallions get mushy, about a minute or less.
  12. Serve immediately over rice.

Level of Difficulty: Easy

Prep Time: 30 minutes plus marinating time

Cooking Time: 10 minutes