Shaoxing Wine vs Sake: What’s The Difference?

shaoxing wine vs sake
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shaoxing wine vs sake

Ranging from beef stews to mussels and beef bourguignon, there are multiple recipes that call for wine. It’s safe to say that wine adds a distinct flavor and texture to the recipes.

There are different wines used for this purpose but Shaoxing wine and sake are the most common ones. These two wines are often confused and we are sharing the information about Shaoxing wine vs. sake to help you out!

Shaoxing Wine vs Sake

Shaoxing Wine

To begin with, this wine is also known as Shaoxing wine or Chinese cooking wine. It has become an important ingredient for Chinese recipes (it adds the perfect Chinese flavor to the recipes). It is widely used in Chinese restaurants for soup broths, stir-fries, wontons, and marinades. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Shaoxing wine is a part of nearly every Chinese recipe.  

This is the rice wine which is made for cooking purposes only. As far as the flavor is concerned, it has an alcoholic flavor (it’s extremely harsh), along with a salty taste profile. Similarly, it’s not suitable for drinking purposes. It makes an important part of Chinese recipes (just like soy sauces). When it comes down to western cooking, it tends to add complex and in-depth taste to sauces and broths.

Generally, Shaoxing wine is used in a small quantity, and it will add a distinct flavor (it will be better, of course). It is usually used in savory recipes. For the most part, it will be extremely difficult to find a Chinese dish that doesn’t have Shaoxing wine. That being said, it can be added to chow mein, corn soup, dumpling filling, and potstickers.

For the most part, this wine is a secret ingredient in Chinese recipes. For instance, if you tried the Chinese recipe but it didn’t deliver the right flavor, add Shaoxing wine, and the taste will be perfect. It’s safe to say that Shaoxing wine will add the restaurant-like flavor and taste to the recipes. As far as the alcohol content is concerned, this Chinese wine only has 15% to 20% alcohol content.

When it comes down to the Chinese recipes, it uses a small amount of Shaoxing wine (usually one to two tablespoons). Similarly, if you avoid alcohol, you should avoid eating Chinese from restaurants. In some cases, Shaoxing wine can also be used in Korean, Japanese, and Thai foods. All in all, the wine can be stored in pantry (you don’t need to refrigerate it). Also, always keep an eye on the expiry date!


In the first place, sake is the national beverage of Japan and is known as sockey in the United States. It is a beverage made out of fermented rice and is rendered as rice wine. Sake has been around since the 8th century, which makes it a historical beverage. Sake is made by brewing the sake mai rice (the polished variant), along with mold, yeast, and water.

As far as the alcohol content is concerned, sake has 15% to 20% content. Generally, the sakes are aged for years, and every variant will have different alcohol content. The fine quality of sakes is usually served in chilled form, while cheap sake has to be served after warming up. The warming up will bring the full flavor of sake.

When it comes down to the cheap-priced sake, it will have a rough taste (it will become fruiter and sweeter after warming it up). Sake can be chilled over 40-degrees or can be heated up above 150-degrees. There are multiple variants of sakes out there, but there are two primary categories, such as ordinary sake and special designation sake.

The ordinary sake is usually available, and even the special designation has eight varieties. As for the polishing, it is conducted to remove the bran. Sake is made by brewing with which the starch is transformed into sugar. Then, sugar is fermented into alcohol. Sake is generally served at special ceremonies and is warmed up in porcelain or earthenware bottles.

It is usually sipped from porcelain cups. As far as the flavor is concerned, it has a savory flavor that identifies as umami. With a higher amino acid count in sakes, the taste will become savorier. However, there are different flavor notes in sakes, such as spicy, herby, fruity, and flowery. In some cases, sakes also have banana and apple flavor notes.

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