18 Oct Sophisticated Seasonings: Global Spices & Peppers
As diners, particularly Millennials, seek adventurous dining experiences, chefs must invent unique ways to add bolder flavors to dishes. From ethnic spices and condiments, one of the National Restaurant Association’s top trends of 2016, to newly discovered varieties of peppers, eateries can serve up inventive menu items that appeal to diners. The key is balancing flavors, like sweet or savory, paired with a well-placed spice, to create a complementary dish.
The Spice of Life
Spices can offer a burst of tasty flavor when biting into a well-seasoned dish. Even novice foodies can rattle off a list of traditional herbs and spices: basil, cinnamon, nutmeg, rosemary… but there are new global flavors emerging that can deepen the complexity of a dish to make it truly special. Among those outlined in a recent article by Prepared Foods, Australian lemon myrtle can liven up a seafood or chicken meal, while Japanese shichimi togarashi is a seven-spice blend that makes a delectable meat rub. Aside from international dry rubs and spices, condiments and sauces from across the world can also add amazing flavor. Noodles & Co., a fast-casual restaurant with over 500 locations in the U.S., recently added a meatball dish served with Korean gochujang chile sauce, a fermented red chili mixture, to its menu. Some predict spicy, savory condiments from across the globe like gochujang will soon spike in popularity.
Peppers Pack a Punch
Diners’ preferences are expanding to include a desire for some heat. According to a 2015 study by Technomic, 78 percent of consumers enjoy at least moderately spicy food, including peppers. There are a multitude of peppers available to chefs beyond just jalapeño and Sriracha along the Scoville scale, the international measure of ‘hotness’ in chili peppers. For example, the ghost pepper has become so popular of late that it has even graced the menus of international fast food chains, like Wendy’s Ghost Pepper Fries and Popeyes’ Ghost Pepper Wings. Serious Eats outlines almost a dozen must-try peppers in a 2016 list, including lesser-known varieties such as the lemon drop, which pairs well with savory pork dishes like carnitas.
Whether international seasonings or uniquely spicy peppers, when it comes to experimenting with new flavors, offering a sweet or savory element to balance out any excess heat is key. Longstanding examples are chili-infused chocolate or pepper jack cheese. Many restaurants, however, have succeeded in offering fantastic dishes with complex flavors that complement one another without an overwhelming hotness. For one, Roofer’s Union in Washington D.C. serves up a fried chicken thigh sandwich with honey Sriracha, combining the spice with a savory comfort food classic. Nashville restaurant Bajo Sexto Taco’s ceviche marries earthy wild mushrooms with cool, creamy avocado and the heat of habanero (Restaurant Hospitality).
“Menus that offer marriages of complementary flavors, like sweet and spicy offerings, will succeed in offering variety and uniqueness for consumers,” wrote Darren Tristano of Prepared Foods. In fact, this tactic helps reach a broader audience. Sarah Janssen of Technomic offers that balancing sweet or savory with spicy will entice the adventurous eaters, who are typically younger and male, while also not deterring the female segment that is statistically more hesitant to try spicy foods.
Chefs looking to add a “wow factor” to their dishes can look beyond the basic ingredients in their spice racks to add international seasonings with a global flair. In addition, eateries can also shake things up with new varieties of peppers for diners who seek some heat. By balancing sweet or creamy tastes with the right amount of bold seasoning, guests will enjoy the complementary flavors that are produced in worldly inspired dishes.
For more information about our recipe, visit micfood.com.