By Jim Boyce | I met chef Dustin Merrett two years ago at Jing-A Taproom in Beijing to deep-fry baijiu, China’s potent national spirit, one that typically packs a 58 percent alcohol punch. Mike Signorelli of Sig Wine had sent me a recipe for deep-fried tequila and we decided to localize it. Merrett’s binge covered three different baijius, plus a tequila and a Bourbon, and had us buzzing by lunch. While I have already written about those experiments, I just now got the videos from that day online.
The videos total two minutes and give an idea of the process. The first step: soaking sponge cake with booze. In the video, we use a bottle of Niulanshan that cost a mere 11 kuai or USD1.6. My favorite was Xiaohutuxian as the tropical flavors survived the frying process in a pineapple cake kind of way.
Once that cake is soaked with baijiu, it’s time to slip the cubes into the fryer. This one was set at 190 degrees: Merrett suggests having it well over 200 degrees for a crispier outside. And be careful of splashing oil!
The last step is dressing the baijiu and eating it. Merrett used powdered sugar, whipped cream, blueberries and mint, but there are plenty of other possibilities. It would be fun to try jams, fruits like hawthorne and pomelo, maybe even local honey, and to do so against different styles of fried baijiu.
We found the pungency that turns many people off this spirit was tamed by the cooking process. And with sugar, whipped cream and fruit, it was pretty tasty. By the way, the deep-fried Bourbon was even better: rich, sweet and flavorful. Certain rums would also seem to have potential.
Thanks to Jing-A for kitchen space and for joining World Baijiu Day by making themed beer, to Steve Schwankert and Richard Ammerman for being tasters, to Mariano Larrain at La Cava for providing baijiu, to Stefan Schmid at nearby Q-Mex for a last-minute sugar donation, to Signorelli for the deep-fried tequila recipe, and to Merrett for testing out that recipe. Seems like it’s time to do a few more experiments!