No matter how well prepared a dish is, if it doesn’t have the right mix of spices and flavors, it will be bland and boring at best and an utter failure at worst. And in today’s environment of Instagram and other social media outlets, who can afford that?
McCormick & Company and Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants both recently shared research that provides some clues on what flavors and dishes are expected to grab diners’ attention this year.
According to McCormick, those trends include flavor fusions and sauces galore:
Handheld Flavor Fusion
Take to the streets for the latest fusing of global cuisines. Carts, trucks and food halls are merging high-flavor fillings with unique crepes, buns and breads for loaded street fare you eat with your hands.
- Sizzling Egg Crepes: Called jianbing in China and dan bing in Taiwan, these thin pancakes are griddled, filled and rolled up like a burrito. Stuff these Asian wraps with regional American tastes like smoky pork, crisp slaw and tangy sauce for a Southern twist.
- Gyros Meet Arepas: Arepas are the taco-sandwich hybrid you must try. Split and fill these crispy corn cakes with sliced meat, veggies and spicy tzatziki sauce–it’s a blissful union of the best tastes and textures South America and Greece have to offer.
- Dessert Bao Buns: In China, these soft, steamed buns are typically served up savory. But, with a simple dough and classic pie fillings, you can create the ultimate handheld dessert–like a British banoffee pie bao with bananas, cream, cinnamon and toffee.
A Bite of East Africa
East African cuisine is a treasure trove of flavor. The signature seasonings, BBQ marinades and sauces of Tanzania and Ethiopia are being explored across the globe.
- Berbere Spice Blend: Ethiopia’s most popular seasoning contains an array of spices like paprika, allspice, coriander, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and red pepper. Its hot, sweet and citrusy flavor lends richness to whatever it touches, whether rubbed on meats, stirred into soups and stews, or sprinkled onto lentils and veggies.
- Tanzanian BBQ: These meat skewers, called mishkaki, are similar to shish kebabs. The traditional marinade blends lemon, tomatoes and green papaya to tenderize the meat, while curry, garlic, red pepper and ginger add bold flavor.
Japanese Izakaya Eats
Sushi isn’t the only bite-sized food Japan has to offer. Izakayas–Japanese gastropubs–serve up casual tasting plates, similar to Spanish tapas. Featuring bold glazes, seaweed seasonings and tangy dipping sauces, these dishes are an explosion of flavor.
- Miso Sake Yakitori Glaze: It’s all about the glaze. This tangy, sweet and savory sauce adds excitement to grilled chicken and seafood skewers. Brush on to instantly impress dinner guests with a distinctive char and bright, glossy look.
- The Essential Furikake Seasoning: In Japan, furikake is sprinkled on everything from rice and noodles to veggies and seafood. This coarse mixture of seaweed, sesame, dried seafood, sugar and salt offers umami deliciousness and a subtle, sweet flavor.
- Onigiri– Stuffed Rice Balls: Rice balls filled with flavorful goodness are served in almost every izakaya in Japan. Stuff them with ginger & plum vinegar-infused chicken for a sweet and zesty snack.
Drink to Your Wellness
Wellness never tasted so good. Breakfast boosts, snacking soups and end-of-day sips feature robust flavors and uplifting ingredients like cucumber, dandelion greens, ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper. Awaken, stay energized, rebalance and above all, enjoy.
- The Morning Jumpstart: Swap your coffee for a wake-up call that’s packed with tart green apples, refreshing cucumbers, tangy-sweet clementines and a bold kick of cayenne.
- The Afternoon Soup: Power through your day with a drinkable soup. Oyster mushrooms, avocado, thyme and sage provide satisfying flavor for the ultimate pick-me-up.
- The Evening Elixir: Rebalance after a busy day. For the ultimate replenishing mocktail, muddle fresh pineapple with ginger, turmeric and dandelion greens, then top with a splash of sparkling water.
Globetrot with Hot Pot
Throw an Asian hot pot party and leave the cooking to your guests. Gather friends around a steamy pot of deeply flavored broth. Offer meat, seafood and veggies for dunking, then finish with various toppings for a new DIY meal. This East Asian favorite can be easily changed up to go Mexican, Caribbean and more.
- Puebla Hot Pot: Steeping ancho chile, smoked paprika and spices in chicken stock gives this Central Mexican-inspired hot pot a smoky, savory taste. Use it to cook chicken or pork, and finish with corn, avocado crema and fresh garnishes for a festive feast.
- West Indies Hot Pot: This hot pot features an amazing spiced coconut milk broth. Bay leaves, thyme, turmeric and allspice add intense flavor to the broth, which quickly cooks the seafood. Top it off with a chile papaya pica sauce and plantain chips for a Caribbean vacation right in your kitchen.
Chifa and Nordic-influenced cuisine, nut-based spreads, visual filters, sour beers and upcycling of ingredients are among the top dining trends of the year, according to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. The forecast findings were uncovered via a survey of leading chefs, sommeliers, general managers and bartenders from 80+ Kimpton restaurants, bars and lounges across 37 cities in the U.S. as well as Kimpton properties in Europe and the Caribbean.
Meat Alternatives Going Mainstream
- A majority of Kimpton chefs said plant-based proteins such as tempeh or beet burgers will disrupt menus and win the hearts of vegetarians and omnivores alike.
- Thirty-one percent of chefs think vegan and nut- or seed-based spreads like sunflower butter and cashew cream cheese will give avocado toast (the reigning darling of healthy brunches) a run for its money.
- Expect to see more Nordic food influences, featuring fresh and colorful ingredients like carrots, cabbage and beets, and the embrace of alternative berries including juniper and lingonberries. From beet-cured salmon with dill cream cheese, cucumber, shaved fennel and pickled mustard seeds to pan-seared arctic char, Nordic flavors and techniques will be in full swing in 2018.
- A rise in Chifa cuisine, the fusion of Cantonese and Peruvian food, provides more evidence of South America’s growing influence on the global culinary scene.
- Reimagined Mexican cuisine and creative twists on classic Mexican dishes will find their way onto menus in 2018. Try the trend with chorizo-stuffed dates or octopus tacos.
- Spices like Za’atar, a traditional Middle Eastern blend of familiar and obscure flavors from sumac to thyme, and Vadouvan, the French interpretation of Indian curry and Kampot pepper – an elusive spice found only in the Kampot Province of Cambodia.
- Thirty-eight percent of chefs agreed that sweet dessert flavors such as Meyer lemon, strawberry, blueberry and blood orange will infiltrate savory courses to create dishes like crispy artichokes and Dungeness crab with ember-blistered lemon curd or an avocado parfait with yogurt and cucumber.
Throwback to Classic Dishes
- Think French onion soup, bone-in steak, tartare and pork chops. These dishes bring nostalgic food memories to the table but with a fresh perspective.
- Instagram culture is here to stay. A majority of Kimpton chefs said their 2018 menu planning will include consideration of full sensory dishes that treat diners to socially shareable moments, incorporating imaginative and artful visual elements.
- Nordic influences will find their way onto drink menus with Scandinavian ingredients like bramble shrub, dill, rhubarb and aquavit. For a classic sour with Scandinavian and traditional fall flavors, try the Aurora Kiruna, featuring Brennivin cask aged aquavit, Absolut Elyx, spiced cranberry syrup and lemon, topped with candied rosemary.
- A growing interest in Japanese whisky, popular with whisky drinkers looking for a lighter, cleaner, floral alternative to American whisky. There are cocktails inspired by Japanese highballs with influences of soft fruit and spice all the way up to herbaceous and smokey.