What popular food trends are taking prominence on restaurant menus this year? Food industry specialists predict the proliferation of spices and flavors from around the world. Let’s take a closer look at what they have to say, including the specific ethnic cuisines taking center stage, why the modern surge in global flavor exploration, and what chefs need to know about ingredient selection and cooking methods for preparing an authentic ethnic dish.
Ethnic Spices and Flavors in Demand
Consumers are clamoring for global cuisine! They are looking to excite their digestive juices and whet their palates with ethnic spices and flavors from the Middle East (such as the starring role of the hot sauce shug), modern African foods, flavors from the Pacific Rim and Latin America, and the sour and complex tastes of Filipino foods.
What are the ingredients to success as foodservice professionals try their hand in this unfamiliar territory? According to the pros, the sweet and savory answers can be found in ‘culinary mash-ups,’ where familiar ingredients are creatively combined with global flavors to create exotic new taste combinations.
Foodservice Industry News: Trending Modern Cuisines
In the words of the experts themselves, here are some of the emerging food trends making food industry headlines:
- Expect to see flavors and spices from around the world on menus this year. African and Middle Eastern flavors like za’atar, harissa, and sumac have been popular for a few years, but expect to see them take a more prominent role this year.
- Unexplored African Cuisine is hitting the world’s food industry and unveiling an array of new spices, flavors and cooking methods. Those who have experienced the food of South, East, West and North Africa know how diverse it can be. African cuisine will rank close to first place on the food menu of 2019 in many parts of the world.
- Roger Lane, marketing manager of savory flavors for Sensient Flavors, adds that not only is the food spectrum refocusing on Africa and Asia, but that the most recent news is the exploration of smaller regions, such as the Philippines and Vietnam, that offer a unique flavor profile or story behind the cuisine. Filipinos, for example, are being hailed as masters of layering and fusing sweet, salty, and sour flavors together.
Hot and Spicy Flavors In Demand
Not only are globally inspired menus on the rise, but the spicy ingredients in demand are getting more complex and specific. For example, rather than wanting merely ‘hot’ or ‘mild’ flavors, consumers are hungry for specific pepper varietals such as ancho, poblano, and guajillo, and are interested in pairing them with other savory, tangy, and even sweet flavors.
Partially accounting for these nuances and for the sophistication of consumers’ palates is the fact that more millennials – today’s largest dining-out demographic – are traveling the world and have a desire and willingness to try new foods. And for those who cannot travel, connectivity via the internet and social media have made consumers aware of what the world is serving for dinner tonight.
Finally, gazing into the crystal ball for a glimpse at food trends for 2019, the food-and-beverage gurus from the iconic Michelin Dining Guide also put a spotlight on the introduction of micro-seasonal menus, where chefs more frequently switch up ingredients to create exotic new recipes packed with flavor.
Professional Chef’s Guide to Preparing Ethnic Dishes
If your restaurant, catering service, food truck, or other foodservice business is wisely trying to stay competitive by following current market trends, here are some practical ways you can best incorporate global spices and flavors into your recipes and dishes.
According to the Technomic 2018 Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report, today’s consumers are not only exploring ethnic cuisines, but they often have high expectations for authenticity and are even willing to pay more for that extra helping of reality.
To help your chefs successfully deliver an authentic culinary experience for your customers, knowledge about the selection, taste, and aromas of the ingredients used, as well the traditional cooking processes, are essential. Here is some practical professional advice on how to prepare an authentic ethnic dish:
- Provide flavor and sourcing information about each ethnic dish for your customers, so they can be informed rather than intimidated by new ingredients
- Make it part of your chef’s job to study and learn about the specific preparation and cooking methods used to create various authentic flavors. For example, you may want to research how any particular cuisine roasts its peppers or prepares its proteins, as well as how to incorporate the exciting new ingredients into your existing recipes and dishes.
- Finally, you want to truly understand the history of an ethnic dish, however, don’t stop there: To genuinely represent the original experience, be sure to also research the original plate presentation, which will take your recipe to the next level – and hopefully boomerang your business to the top of the food industry ranks as well.
Cooking with Za’atar
You can begin exploring ethnic cuisine by trying your hand at the following two Middle Eastern recipes featuring za’atar. Za’atar is a spice mix that combines oregano, thyme, ground sesame seeds, sumac, and salt – and it is expected to increasingly make its menu debut at restaurants across the country. You can also check out some of the retail products appearing on grocery store shelves, including Zesty Z, a spread that can be drizzled on baked chicken or grain bowls, and the Sprouted Hummus Crackers with a “taste of za’atar” from Harvest Stone.
Za’atar Chicken Recipe
- 2 chickens, cut into eighths
- 2 tbsp. za’atar
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- 1 finely chopped red or green onion
- 1 tbsp. poupon mustard
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 cups freshly cooked chickpeas
- Cover cookie sheet with parchment paper
- Spread chickpeas on parchment paper, with chicken on top
- Mix the remaining ingredients and smear over the chicken
- Bake at 400 degrees F for approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes
- Chicken should appear golden brown
- Bonus (optional) Serving Suggestion: Serve with salad and quinoa
Za’atar Oat Crunchies Recipe
A savory alternative to granola, these oat crunchies are delicious as a snack, added to salads, or as a dessert topping.
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1 cup brown rice cereal (or Rice Krispies)
- 1/4 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
- 1/4 cup raw unsalted pumpkin seeds
- 1 tsp. nutritional yeast
- 4 tsp. za’atar
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric
- 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1/8 tsp. chili powder (or more to taste)
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 egg white
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a rimmed baking sheet with baking parchment paper
- In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients
- In a small bowl, whisk oil and egg white until combined
- Add oil mixture into the cereal mixture and distribute evenly with a spatula
- Place mixture on baking sheet, spread out well
- Bake for 10 minutes, stir briefly and bake for another 10 minutes
- Cool and enjoy!