Does foie gras retain the appeal it has traditionally enjoyed on regional menus? Vicki Williams finds out.
Foie Gras, it seems, is as popular as ever in Asia gracing the menus of Michelin-starred restaurants, fine-dining establishments, and catering company menus.
It may even be argued that it is having a come-back with innovative chefs finding new and exciting ways to serve this premium ingredient.
Foie gras, the fattened liver of a duck or goose, has a rich culinary history dating back to Egyptian times, although it is the Romans who are credited with serving it in a way that we associate with today.
The modern production, consumption and enjoyment of foie gras has to be credited to the French though, with France continuing to be a major supplier to the F&B industries globally.
Chef Bjoern Alexander, group executive chef Kee Group, says that the ingredient’s timeless association with luxury is one reason for its continued popularity, especially among current leading chefs.
“Foie gras is still popular as it’s a luxury product in diner’s minds, but it is only in a few countries where it is highly appreciated still.
“However, the new generation of chefs tend to use less luxury products and are favouring more local ingredients and special cooking methods.”
By association its premium ingredient status means that foie gras is more likely to be found in a fine-dining situation under the direction of a chef who has experience with – and a passion for – using it.
The ingredient has also enjoyed some media attention due to potential health benefits.
According to Monsieur Chatte, a gourmet food company in Hong Kong, foie gras contains unsaturated fatty acids the consumption of which helps to reduce cholesterol levels. Information it provides to customers states: “Several medical studies reveal the inhabitants of south west France, who consume a lot of foie gras, duck meat and goose fat, have a very low rate of cardiovascular disease and a higher life expectancy than the rest of France.”
The company is known for making its own foie gras products that consist of a whole liver that has been de-veined, cleaned, seasoned and cooked in its own fat, without any additives or preservatives, using a recipe that has been a family secret for more than three generations.
The French connection with the ingredient ensures that it is the country of choice for sourcing by many restaurants, hotels or catering companies in Asia.
Foie gras continues to be used in traditional preparations in Asia complete with pairing suggestions from bread to figs accompanied by particular wines such as Sauternes and Monbazillac – that is sweet wines from Bordeaux and Loire Valley.
“I wanted to turn this fine-dining ingredient into something fun and exciting as opposed to just using it as a luxury ingredient,” Alexander says.
His latest innovation is goose liver thousand-layer cake. Inspired by his German heritage, and the cake baumkuchen, it consists of thin layers of foie gras marinated with white miso enveloped in layers of cake served with Reisling jelly and fig jam.
“My style of cooking is to create experiences for guests. To challenge them with unexpected combinations, ingredients or presentations. Using foie gras in this dish I wanted to do something fun and that’s why I have diners taking an expensive product out of a paper bag, like candy. I think it’s an opportunity to show customers that fine-dining can be fun.”
Eating foie gras at Christmas and/or New Year is a tradition in France, one being embraced in the region.
At The Peninsula Manila, foie gras is being used in a modern way. At its iconic and recently renovated restaurant, Old Manila, which serves modern European cuisine, foie gras is the star of the dish pan-seared foie gras, yellowfin tuna, caramelised apple, pickled ginger, and toasted almonds.
At The Ritz-Carlton Macau foie gras is being used in both traditional and modern fusion ways. At the hotel’s Lai Heen restaurant the eight-course degustation menu features foie gras that has been marinated with rose liqueur and tops Alaskan crab cake served with purple glutinous rice.
While at The Ritz-Carlton Cafe a perhaps surprising twist as pan seared foie gras is served with rhubarb and hazelnut; it even makes an appearance at afternoon tea in the form of a smoked eel and foie gras sandwich.
With its continued appearance on menus at such noted restaurants and high-end hotels, foie gras, like Champagne and caviar is clearly a hit with diners, and listening to diner demand is always connected to the bottom line and success.