Snacks focus: A taste of the Orient

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At the start of June, a group calling itself the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) - and you'd be forgiven for speculating that someone came...

At the start of June, a group calling itself the Consensus Action on Salt and Health (CASH) - and you'd be forgiven for speculating that someone came up with the initials first and then worked out a name to fit - shocked the nation with the revelation that some snacks might encourage some people to have a drink.

No sh*t, Sherlock? The combination of a salty crisp or nut and an ice-cold sip of authentic lager is a truly sublime experience, and not one we should allow the health lobby, under any acronym, to interfere with.

Even so, there's no denying the fact that pub snacks are getting spicier. Alongside familiar varieties such as cheese & onion, snacks using chilli, coriander and other exotic flavours are increasingly jockeying for space.

Fortunately, pubs also have access to a wider range of speciality Asian and Oriental beers than ever before. Having been developed alongside the culinary styles which inspired the new breed of spicy snack, they should complement each other ideally.

Clearly, pubs are crying out for guidance. The only solution was to convene a session of The Publican's Beer and Snacks Matching Panel.

A selection of exotic snacks was assembled, along with a range of beers. A highly trained and demographically accurate sample of people who happened to be hanging around Publican Towers on a Friday afternoon were asked to grade each match using rigorously scientific criteria - grab a beer, pick up a snack, and give the resulting match a mark out of five.

Here's what they came up with, along with some of the more printable comments.

The Snacks

Phileas Fogg Salsa With Mexican Chilli Tortillas​: Part of a range recently revamped and relaunched by United Biscuits, this Phileas Fogg variety features the flavours of both red and green jalapenos along with a tomato salsa. Top match: Singha. Despite originating on opposite sides of the world, this is the beer-and-snack equivalent of the United Nations. "The smoothness of the beer offsets the dryness of the tortilla nicely, leaving you wanting more of both."

Salty Dog Jalapeno & Coriander​: One of the spicier breeds in the Salty Dog kennel, these upmarket crisps are cooked with their jackets on, using intense, natural flavours. Top match: Chang. The intense flavours of the crisp proved hard to match, but this beer was up to the job.

Sensations Lime & Coriander Chutney Poppadoms​: With flavours of zesty lime and spicy coriander, this recent addition to the Walkers Sensations range aims to bring a touch of the local Indian takeaway to the snack shelf. Top match: Kingfisher. A straight-down-the-middle match the bookies would have given short odds on. "I'm magically transported to India - or at least Brick Lane."

Sensations Peking Spare Rib Oriental Crackers​: Another Sensations flavour with echoes of the takeaway, this mixes aromas of smoky, sweet pork with notes of ginger and pepper. Top match: Tiger. "You actually feel the flavours welling up in your mouth - I reckon there's some sort of chemical reaction going on here."

Tropical Tastes Singapore Sunset​: A wild card entry from artisan snack producer Tropical Tastes, Singapore Sunset is an assortment of spicy noodles, rice crackers & wasabi peas. Top match: Tiger. Another national pairing which went by the form book. "Wow".

Darling Spuds Sour Cream With A Hint Of Mexican Chilli​: One of the subtler snacks in this line-up, the Darling Spuds range uses high quality potatoes, and authentic, natural flavours. Top match: Tsingtao - this subtle crisp was overpowered by some beers, but found the right balance here.

Kettle Chips Red Thai Curry​: A slow build chilli flavour combined with coriander, ginger and coconut milk to make a complex crisp. Top match: Kirin Ichiban. "Makes the fragrant Thai flavours dance on the palate."

Kettle Chips Sweet Chilli​: Also from the hand-cooked specialist - doesn't that hurt? - this combines hints of rich tomato, pepper and onion with sweet honey to create a spicy barbecue flavour crisp. Top match: Asahi. This proved to be a sublime sweet-and-dry combo. "The first match where I went back for more."

Tyrrells Thai Chilli Rice Crackers​: Part of the Tyrrells Alternative range of global snacks, these rice crackers have soy sauce and chilli flavours. Top match: Chang. A hard-to-beat Thai twosome, with the authentic flavours of the snack working with the crispness of Chang. "The sweetness works."

The Beers

Asahi​: Brewed by Shepherd Neame to the authentic recipe, Asahi is Japanese for 'rising sun'. The Super Dry flavour should be a match with intensely spiced snacks, reflecting Japanese flavours such as wasabi. Top match: Kettle Chips Sweet Chilli

Chang​: The beer that never forgets, Chang is the Thai word for elephant, an animal that is revered in Thai religion. With Thai-style green and red curries increasingly turning up on pub menus, this should work well with flavours such as coriander. Top match: Kettle Chips Red Thai Curry

Kingfisher​: Another beer from the Shepherd Neame stable, brewed under licence from India's United Breweries, Kingfisher is well known to UK consumers through its presence in the Indian restaurant market, so no surprise that this refreshing lager matches well with curry and chilli flavours.Top match: Sensations Lime & Coriander Chutney Poppadoms

Kirin Ichiban​: Japan's prime brew, as it's billed, is produced in the UK by Wells & Young's. Crisp and rich, this beer should be a match for the spiciest of snack. Top match: Kettle Chips Red Thai Curry

Singha​: Molson Coors UK was recently confirmed as the exclusive distributor for Singha Beer, which has a strong hold on the nation's Thai restaurants. Full bodied, with a rich taste, it would be a bold snack that tried to overpower this beer. Top match: Phileas Fogg Salsa With Mexican Chilli Tortillas

Tiger​: Distributed in the UK by Heineken UK, Tiger was launched in 1932 as Singapore's first locally brewed beer. The clean and crisp flavour made such a mark on WW2 RAF squadron 230 that they incorporated the logo onto their uniform badge. Downing a beer before climbing into the cockpit of a fighter plane is no longer seen as RAF best practice, of course, but the beer should go well with lightly curried snacks. Top match: Sensations Peking Spare Rib Oriental Crackers

Tsingtao​: The fact that Tsingtao was originally brewed by German settlers in China helps explain its purity and crispness of flavour. Distributed in the UK by Halewood International, Tsingtao should be a good match with a full range of snacks. Top match: Sensations Lime & Coriander Chutney Poppadoms

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