Having visited Japan and Europe this year, I learnt quite a few things about eating and drinking the following things and quite frankly, I was #mindblown.
1. Belgian beer... or any other kind of craft beer, really
You can live your entire life drinking a different Belgian beer every day (starting from when you turn a legal age to do so, of course) without sampling all the beers that Belgium has to offer. That's cos they have at least 90,000 breweries in the country alone, and most brands produce more than one type of beer. Having just spent a lot of my time on my recent trip to Belgium in bars, I learnt a lot about how to pour the perfect beer and, as it turns out, a lot of us (even bartenders here in Singapore) have been doing it wrong all along. As it's a rather complicated process (who knew?), it'd be easier to break it down in point form.
(i) The glass: You'll notice that there is a variety of glassware for beers in Belgium. Some are shaped like goblets, others are shaped like chalices, and yet others are tulip-shaped. These serve more than just an aesthetic or branding purposes; they're actually the result of careful research and experimentation by the beer brewers to find out which shape best brings out the taste of the beer. So the next time you're having a Belgian craft beer at a bar, be sure to reject any glass that's not the same brand as the beer you're drinking.
(ii) The pour: Bartenders in Belgium would wet the glass with cold water before tapping or pouring beer into it. Not only is this practice in the best interests of hygiene (it gets rid of any dust or dishwasher residue), it also ensures a better pour. Pouring beer into a dry glass causes more carbon dioxide to come out of the beer and create unnecessary foam.
(iii) The head: Don't complain if you see Belgian bartenders serving you beer with a large head. That, too, serves a useful purpose. Not only does a large head mean that your beer will continue to release its aromatics as you sip your beer, it also prevents your beer from oxidising too quickly and changing its taste.
2. Xiao long bao
From a food tasting at Din Tai Fung some time back, I learnt that there is a "right" way to eat xiao long bao as well. Before that day, I tended to just dip it in vinegar. But for a more balanced flavour, the management actually recommended that the dipping sauce be mixed in a 60/40 vinegar to soya sauce ratio. Since I started mixing soya sauce in my vinegar, I found that I could better taste the meaty broth in the XLB. Also, for many of us, eating XLB is a messy affair because when we first bite into it, the soup spurts out onto the spoon and we often find ourselves just shoving the whole thing into our mouths. The right way to eat it, apparently, is to first bite off the top of the XLB and slurping up the broth before proceeding to eat the rest of it.
Every time you mix the wasabi into the soya sauce, then proceed to drunk the rice part of the sushi into the mix, rest assured that there is a Japanese person observing you and cringing on the inside. When you eat sushi at higher end Japanese restaurants, the sushi chef would have already placed some wasabi in between the fish and the rice so it's unnecessary to pile more on top of it (it's akin to smothering an expensive, well-prepared steak in ketchup). And you're not supposed to dip the sushi rice side down into the soya sauce because it will absorb too much of the sauce, resulting in the sushi being too salty and soggy. Instead, dip the sushi fish side down in the soy sauce, and put the whole thing in your mouth - don't bite off half the sushi. Also, the ginger slices are NOT to be eaten with sushi but between different pieces of sushi to function as a palate cleanser.
4. The bread basket at French restaurants
I was in Paris recently and it didn't matter whether I was dining at a casual bistro or a more formal restaurant, if there was one thing I could be sure of, it was that a basket of bread would appear on the table with my wine. Italian and French restaurants in Singapore do it too, and I always assumed it was a starter - why else would it arrive with my drink? When I was eating in Paris though, I noticed I was the only one munching on the bread before my food arrived. Turns out, the bread is supposed to function more as an accompaniment to your meal. For instance, you could spread your steak tartare on it and enjoy it that way or, if your dish is sauced-based, you can use the bread to mop it up you've finished your meal.
Material World is a women’s lifestyle website started by four former magazine editors specialising in beauty, lifestyle, and self-improvement.