Vietnamese cuisine; local beer pairing

‘When it comes to the brews to pair, I often instinctively reach for a similarly light and fragrant style. While American-style Pales Ales would have the citrus tones to match, their bold flavours often overpower the light texture of classic Vietnamese dishes . . .’

Mark DeWolf

I’ve always loved Vietnamese cuisine. The flavour is fresh and fragrant with fish sauce, and herbs and spices including lemongrass, ginger, lime, cilantro and mint, all playing a major role.

Even the accompaniments seem lighter, with vermicelli noodles, pancakes and a variety of simple rice dishes all contributing to the overall delicacy of the cuisine.

As for the sides, there is a fair amount of tropical fruit such as mango and papaya mixed in. Thai salads always seem to have a pleasing mix of tangy acidity and delicate sweetness.

When it comes to the brews to pair, I often instinctively reach for a similarly light and fragrant style. While American-style Pales Ales would have the citrus tones to match, their bold flavours often overpower the light texture of classic Vietnamese dishes such as Banh (steamed rice cakes), Pho (rice noodles served in broth), and Goi (tropical fruit based salads, often garnished with shredded carrot, crushed peanuts and fresh herbs such as cilantro and mint).

Pilsners are texturally a better match and their subtle flavours won’t overpower the cuisine, but an alternative choice would be to pair with citrusy-style wheat ales, such as those labelled as Hefeweizen or Witbier.

The local beer movement is embracing lighter styles to complement the typically richer ales the industry has been based on.

Breweries such as Dartmouth’s Spindrift are focused exclusively on lagers, while others such as Tatamagouche Brewing Company are producing some lighter ales, like their Kolsch inspired North Shore Lagered Ale that makes an excellent pairing with lighter Asian cuisine.

With so much diversity in local beers, there is always one to go with whichever regional Asian cuisine you are enjoying.

Vietnamese Summer Rolls

6 to 8 Servings

  • 1 cup Bibb lettuce, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup cooked bean threads
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1/4 cup basil, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup mint, chopped
  • 6 oz cooked shrimp, peeled, deveined, coarsely chopped
  • 8 8-inch round sheets rice paper
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp chili paste
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp mixed vegetables, diced

Directions: In a large bowl, combine lettuce, bean sprouts, bean threads, carrot, onions, basil, mint and shrimp. Set aside. Add 1-inch depth of hot water to a large, shallow dish. Place one rice paper sheet in the dish; let stand 30 seconds or just until soft. Place sheet on a flat surface. Arrange one-third cup of the shrimp mixture over half of the rice paper, leaving a half-inch border. Folding the sides of sheet over the filling and starting with the filled side, roll up like a wrap. Gently press the seam to seal. Place the roll, seam-side down, on a serving platter (cover to keep from drying). Repeat procedure with remaining filling and rice paper sheets. Make the dipping sauce by combining sugar, rice wine vinegar, fresh lime juice, chili paste and soy sauce in a non-reactive bowl. Add diced vegetables, green onions and carrots. Stir well.

Occasions Recommends

  • Spindrift Coastal Lager, 473 ml $3.99
  • Tata Brew North Shore Ale, 4 x 473 ml $16.95

Next Week

We look at the roots of European beer cuisine starting with Belgium, a country that has long had a tradition of serving beer with dinner.

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