By Jim Boyce | I met chef Dustin Merrett two years ago at Jing-A Taproom in Beijing to try our hands at deep-frying baijiu, China’s potent national spirit, one that typically packs a punch of 42 percent to 58 percent alcohol and comes in a wide variety of styles. Merret, who had already messed around with baijiu at work, went on a deep-frying binge that brought the heat to three different baijius, plus a tequila and a Bourbon, and had us buzzing by lunch. While I have written about those experiments, I just now got the videos from that day online.
The videos below total two minutes but give you an idea of the process. The first step: soaking sponge cake with baijiu. In this case, it was a bottle of Niulanshan that cost a mere 11 kuai or USD1.6. My favorite of the day, though, was Xiaohutuxian: it had some tropical aromas that came through in the finished dish in a pineapple cake kind of way.
Once you have that cake soaked with baijiu, it’s time to slip the cubes into the fryer. This one was set at 190 degrees: Dustin suggests having it well over 200 degrees to get a crispier outside and more booze inside. And be careful of splashing oil!
The last step is fancying up the baijiu and then eating it. Dustin added powdered sugar, whipped cream, blueberries and mint, but there are plenty of other possibilities. It would be fun to try some jams, fruits like hawthorne and pomelo, maybe even local honey, and to do so against different styles of fried baijiu.
All in all, a fun way to spend the morning, and it seems high time for more experiments. By the way, the deep-fried Bourbon was rich and flavorful, and the tequila was okay, too. Certain kinds of rum would seem to have a lot of potential!
Thanks to the team at Jing-A Taproom for the kitchen space and for participating in the last two World Baijiu Days by making themed beers, to Steve Schwankert and Richard Ammerman for being tasters, to Mariano Larrain at La Cava for providing baijiu, to Stefan Schober at Q-Mex for a last-minute powdered sugar donation, to Mike Signorelli of Sig Wines for sending me the idea of deep-fried tequila, and to Merrett for making the sponge cake, bringing it and other ingredients to Jing-A, and going on that deep-frying frenzy.