Germany and beer, beer and Germany… Two things that are definitely connected. The exact ranking depends on the statistics you read, but the country is in the top 5 of countries that consume most beer per capita worldwide. And it’s certainly one of the only countries I know of where it’s perfectly normal to walk around on the street with an open bottle of beer in your hand: whatever the season, whatever the time of day.
Recently I went to Munich in the south of Germany. It quickly turned out that in this city beer is everywhere. It was, quite literally, the answer to every question the guide on our walking tour asked. I was in Munich to meet up with friends who I had not seen for a very long time, coming from all over Europe. And what is a better way to catch up than by sitting in the sun with a drink, chatting about the shared past times and the separate paths everyone has taken after? So this is what we did for much of our time in Munich. Of course in classical Munich style. Because even though nowadays they are very popular all across the world, this is the area where beer gardens originate from. And there are some beautiful ones there. Traditionally, those places are located in the shadow of chestnut trees, since their luscious foliage helped to keep the beer cellars cool during the times before there were fridges. Of course, they still help to keep the guests cool on a warm day. And the days we were in Munich were warm spring days. So we enjoyed sitting in the shadow of the chestnut trees, that were still full of pink and white flowers during that time of the year. In the evenings, we went inside into the breweries. Like in the beergardens, there are often long wooden tables that can be shared by groups of people.
Both are places where people get together with friends and family and spend many hours enjoying their time together. And with so much beer, it is of course important to eat properly as well. The food in those places is typical German food: among others pretzels, potatoes cooked in different ways – from dumplings to mash – sauerkraut, and a lot of sausages and pork meat. In general I am not the biggest fan of large pieces of meat. But I have to admit the combination of a liter of beer and a dish like a roasted pork knuckle works very well.
So back home in Berlin I got to think about this quintessential combination of pork meat and beer. Hence this recipe, which uses this combination in another type of dish that goes well with a cold beer: tacos.
Beer and pork tacos
Regarding the beer, you can use any type of it. Just pick your favourite. I would advise using a type of beer that is not too bitter, since the bitterness makes it harder to balance out the flavours in the meat. Personally, I like using the typical German Hefeweizen.
In this recipe I use large dried chillis. Those are not as spicy as the very small ones, but they bring a nice warmth and fragrance to the dish instead.
Finally, like with many things, the best is to use homemade tortillas. But especially in Mexican or general South American specialty stores you can usually find good corn tortillas.
Ingredients (dinner for two, or for more to share with some other dishes)
- Pork meat for braising, like pork shoulder – 400 grams
- Bottle of beer – 500 ml
- Large dried chillis – to taste, around 6
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- Cumin – 2 large teaspoons
- Cinnamon – 2 large teaspoons
- Oregano – 1 large teaspoon
- Bay leaf – 2 or 3 leaves
- Bunch of coriander
- Olive oil
- Soft white cheese, like feta – 30 grams
- 3 spring onions
- 1 lime
- 1 avocado
- Corn tortillas – 6 to 10, depending on the size
To start the preparation, soak the dried chillis in hot water for at least 15 minutes, until they become soft. Meanwhile, cut the onion in small pieces. Mince the stalks of the coriander, keep the leaves separate for later. Peel the cloves of garlic and smash them with the flat side of a knife. Cut the meat in chunks. Take the chillis out of the water and chop finely. Set the water in which the chillis have soaked aside.
Heat the oil in a large pot over a medium fire. Add the onions and cook them slowly until they are translucent and soft. Add a good pinch of sugar to the onions as well. Once the onions become soft, add the garlic, the coriander stalks and the chillis. Cook for a few minutes while stiring, before adding the cumin and cinnamon. Fry until the spices become fragrant, then add the meat and fry this until it is browned on all sides. Add a good pinch of salt, the oregano and the bay leaves. Then add enough beer so that the meat is almost covered. Bring to a boil before turning the fire down to a low heat and covering the pot. Leave to cook for at least 2,5 hours. The exact cooking time depends on the cut of meat and on how large you chopped your pieces. Check now and then if the meat is not getting too dry. If this would happen, add some of the water that you used for soaking the chillis.
Just before serving, chop the spring onions finely and the coriander leaves roughly. Peel the avocado and mash the flesh together with half of the spring onion, half of the coriander, and some lime juice and salt to taste. Check on the meat. Make sure to adjust the seasoning if needed. There should still be some moisture left in the pot and the meat should be soft enough so that you can easily pull it apart using two forks. Pull the meat apart and take the bay leaves out of the mixture.
Serve the tortillas with the meat mixture and some of the mashed avocado. Sprinkle with the cheese, spring onions, and coriander leaves. Serve with the lime so you can add this to taste, and of course with a cold beer!