Cider Appreciation Dinner @ Ming Cafe

The recent Borneo Jazz Festival led me to a gastronomic adventure. This time around cider appreciation at Ming Cafe with Strongbow. While the name may seem a tad deceiving, Ming Cafe ranked number 1 in Trip Advisor out of the 36 restaurants that were evaluated in Miri.

This deliciously fun dinner was led by GAB’s Beer Ambassador Keith Nair who walked us through the many interesting aspects of cider.  While many of us are accustomed to having our cider chilled in a glass or the bottle itself, Keith reveals there is more to that. 
There are more ways to enjoy your Strongbow cider. Think beyond chilled bottles of Strongbow!

Strongbow is made from culinary and bitter apples with a rich golden hue to it. Slightly effervescence with the natural sweetness of apple, I love Strongbow during hot days. And I realise that its moderate sweetness and refreshing taste makes it a good drink when chatting with friends. For those who enjoy a good meal, then a meal paired with cider is totally possible as Keith showed us.

Our dining room was all set in a gorgeous warm setup with plenty of glasses set for everyone of us. Definitely akin to a set up during wine appreciation dinners. Am I excited? Super excited would be the correct answer.

3 glasses per person to be precise. Each glass was filled with cider but each at different temperatures. From left to right it is room temperature, chilled and served on ice (my fave style these days).

Its never easy to do pairings with local food especially when our local noms have such a plethora of flavours in every dish. Kudos to Ming Cafe and Keith for being such whiz!

This dish of Pork Lalapan served with vegetables is one of Ming Cafe's signature dishes. I will add that the sambal belacan that is served with this dish is such a memorable item that these days, whenever I taste sambal belacan, my thoughts will always be "I wish I can have Ming Cafe's sambal belacan".
Pork Lalapan is basically grilled pork served with a variety of vegetables which are normally blanched or raw. The grilled pork is good to be eaten on its own. Its gorgeously tasty, crispy on the outside and tender juicy inside. Dip it into the sambal belacan for an interesting twist and kick.
Here, our glass of iced cold Strongbow on ice compliments the saltiness of the grilled pork since the sweetness is now more prominent when colder. For me, Strongbow served in this manner seems to cut through the fat and cleanse my palate. 

Not much of a stingray fan because too often I come across foul tasting ones that seem akin to eating ammonia. Here at Ming's Cafe, its perfect! Our second dish of Grilled Stingray served with Midin (that I often read in Sir Arthur's blog) an indigenous wild fern that is only found in Sarawak. A little similar to our sayur pakis in West Malaysia.
Similar to the Pork Lalapan, this is also another full bodied dish (though I must say less intense than the salty pork and spicy sambal belacan) with the presence of belacan (shrimp paste) used in the midin. The chilled Strongbow gives this dish a refreshing explosion of flavours. 

Still on an intense trail, we are next served a dish of spiced free-range Iban chicken and a medley of flatbread. I would have loved this with a glass of chilled Strongbow. However Keith in turn had this lovely dish paired with a mojito! 
Free range chicken is certainly tastier. There is more bite and flavour to the meat. Needless to say the flatbread or naan came in handy as I was actually famished after my run.
Strongbow isn't meant to be drunk on its own. This lovely concoction of Strongbow Apple Mojito is nice and cold. The refreshing and slightly minty mojito works brilliantly to contain the masala and curry leaves from the chicken. 

The last dish of Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Cangkok Manis and Anchovies is also paired with Strongbow Mojito. Perfect pairing too especially with the salty and crunchy anchovies. Though honestly, I was contented to eat this with a glass of chilled Strongbow!
Plain looking but its one of the best stir fried noodles that I have had. 

No meal is complete without dessert. I was expecting to have a local dessert but Keith sprung the surprise with with an Apple Tart with Matcha Infused Strongbow Crème. A delightful and pretty little tart! Much say that I never in the world expected macha to go so well with Strongbow cider. The result is something light and refreshing. 

In the good old fashion days, ciders were served in flute like champagnes. Taking us through an interesting experience is the Neo Classic Black Velvet which consist of Strongbow cider and Guinness ice cubes. No complains at all as these are two of my favourite drinks made into one very elegant cocktail!
Something that takes a bit of time to make but it will be one of my celebration drinks soon.

The dinner does not end just like that. We learn that ciders make awesome party drinks too e.g. the interesting train below:D

On a serious note, this cider appreciation dinner showed me a new perspective of cider. Its not just a girly drink. Paired correctly it can be an awesome experience like a wine appreciation dinner. I had recently replicated my experience with cider during one of our pool side dinners with the besties. Stay tuned as I will be sharing it soon.

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