Green papaya salad
Look for a white blend from Vienna or Austria that's sweet with a crisp minerality, such as a Gemischter Satz. Phan especially likes it with the 2011 Bernreiter Gemischter Satz, a field blend grown within the city limits of Vienna, typically drunk only at a Heuriger (a wine tavern attached to one of the city's many wineries). Gemischter Satz can have up to 20 varietals blended together. Some add acidity, some musky sweetness some crisp minerality.
Grilled pork chops with sweet lemon grass marinade
Look for very dry, minerally Rieslings from the Wachau or Kamptal in Austria. "Most people mistakenly pair a big red wine with our grilled meat dishes," Phan says. "In fact, only a select few red wines go well with our food. They need to be delicate, have lots of acid and no tannins — tannins and the fish sauce we use in virtually every dish taste bitter and metallic when they meet. Instead we urge people to try something like the 2007 "Heiligenstein" Riesling from Willi Bründlmayer in Kamptal. Slight notes of dust, resin and citrus marry with the lemon grass, while the purity of the Riesling minerality cuts through the fat and richness of the pork."
Carmelized lemon grass shrimp
Look for a German Riesling, preferably a Kabinett or Spätlese from the Rheingau. "Caramel sauce shows up in a lot of our dishes," Phan says. "In order to cut the heat and cleanse the palate of all that sweet and spice, we always suggest a German Riesling. Pairing a Kabinett or a Spätlese is really the only way to go to fully enjoy the dish — dry wines seem bitter and flat when they come in contact with the caramel coating your palate and do little to quench the heat. We like anything from Johannes Letiz. His wines always have a piercing acidity and brightness balancing out the residual sugar. They are filigreed loveliness designed to keep you eating and talking late into the night."
—S. Irene Virbila