Cuisine a la biere

Cooking with beer and matching food with beer

First published: SCMP June 2002

Cuisine a la Biere

With such delightful beers available all around, it is no surprise that chefs in Europe are hitting the bottle. Cooking with beer is fast becoming an art, going beyond the Irish Beer Stew, and beer is being used as marinade, for sauces, in vinaigrettes batters and doughs, for braising, caramelising, poaching and even preserving. Intriguing dishes are being created in Belgium (Mussels steamed in Lambic or Salmon Fillet with creamy Rodenbach Sauce), in Germany (Pan-seared steak in Bock beer and mushroom sauce) and in Italy (Pasta and Eggplant in Lager).  Even Michelin-starred French chefs are adding beer-dishes to their oeuvre: entrees like Potjevlesch (pate made with lager and juniper berries), fish dishes like Perch Meuniere with Beer Sabayon, the traditional Carbonade Flamande ( beef braised with brown ale and onions) and innovations like Venison Ravioli and Shiitake Mushrooms simmered in Pilsner. Beer also adds a wonderful touch to desserts like Mocha mousse made with Brown beer and Chocolate cakes baked with Stout.  < XML="true" PREFIX="O" NAMESPACE="">

Choosing the right beer to go with food is a delicious ever-evolving experiment and mercifully there are no hard and fast rules. Some like to pair light beers with light dishes and denser beers with heavy dishes while others prefer to complement, say, the slightly spicy  Belgian Hoegaarden with hot Sichuan or Thai and the smoky German Rauchbier with smoked meats or sausages. Most agree on the two classic combinations: red meat with flavoursome English pale ales and fish with well-hopped Pilsners. The contrasting flavours of Stouts like Guinness and raw freshness of  oysters is a timeless match. Another relatively failsafe technique is to go ethnic: German dark lagers with Bratwurst, Singha beer with Thai food and malty Japanese lagers with Sushi. The Czech like their Pilsner Urquell with roast pork, cabbage and dumplings while the Belgians sip their Lambics with soft cheese, silverskin onions, radish and brown bread. And the French, who regard themselves as the last word in such matters, accentuate chicken or pork dishes with the nutty spiciness of Biere de garde