One of the hottest trends in the restaurant industry of late includes breakfasts, spices, kids meals, condiments and food trucks inspired by global cuisine. Flavors borrowed from Hawaii, South America, Africa and Asia are adding variety when fused with locally sourced, fresh ingredients and traditional, regional staples.
While Poke Bowls have been sweeping the fast-casual market, Nation’s Restaurant News reports that lesser-known Hawaiian dishes such as loco moco, lomi salmon, laulau, poi, lilikoi, chicken long rice and even Spam are finding their place on mainland menus. In Folly Beach, SC, the Wiki Wiki Sandbar features Southern fried coconut shrimp and a Hawaiian Plate lunch (meat or fish entree, two scoops of rice and a scoop of macaroni salad), that celebrates of the “meat-and-three” lunch menus of the South. At his HashTAG restaurant in Denver, CO, Hawaiian native and chef-owner Troy Guard serves fried rice with Spam and charred ahi tuna “Taco Sushi” with mango salsa and li hing mui, a salty dried plum powder.
Korean food has been having a moment, particularly in the food truck arena. According to USA Today’s Larry Bleiberg, Korean items like barbecue and kimchi are finding popularity when fused with Mexican dishes like tacos, burritos and quesadillas.The “Flaming Ball” – cheesy kimchi fried rice with spicy pork paired kimchi cheddar cornbread is popular at LA’s Seoul Sausage restaurant. At Milkwood, in Louisville, KY, Korean BBQ and kimchi served on biscuits or mixed with collard greens offers an unexpected Korean-Southern mash-up. In Chicago, the “bibimbap”, a rice bowl topped with vegetables, chili sauce, meat and a fried egg, is the most popular item at En Hakkore.
Looking to branch out from standard breakfast staples like huevos rancheros and breakfast burritos? The most important meal of the day is becoming even more of an international affair. The article “The Breakfast Ethnic Food Trend” highlights cross-cultural standouts such as eggs benedict with curried hollandaise, frittatas with Chinese pork sausage and Silog – the national breakfast of the Philippines – with variations of cured beef, rice, sausage and eggs. Indian favorites like kitchari (lentils and rice), curried potatoes and roasted vegetables wrapped in a spiced lentil crepe served with chutney are popular for breakfast at D.C.’s Dosa restaurant.
According to Statista, ethnic-inspired dishes are leading the trend in kids’ meals. Plain pasta, a kids menu staple, is being subbed for soba or rice noodles. Adding a thai peanut sauce to chicken elevates the kid-friendly peanut butter and chicken fingers. A mild chicken Tikka Masala served over white rice allows kids to sample Indian flavors. The family-friendly website Red Tricycle recommends a few global recipes your kid will love including: Portuguese Caldo Verde (green soup), and for the sweet tooth, Pannukakku (Finnish Pancakes) and homemade paletas (Latin American fresh fruit ice pops).
Peruvian cuisine continues to standout as a enduring trend. With its blend of ingredients, techniques and pairings reflecting the diverse geography, agriculture and history of the country, Peruvian food can be found in all parts of the U.S., from NY to Central CA, Florida to Chicago. Favorite dishes include roasted corazon (beef heart) paired with Andean potato and corn. Both ceviche and its cousin tiradito use fresh fish and seafood soaked in marinades and spices, making for a light, healthy choice. The use of duck in such dishes as ‘anticucho’ (duck tongue) and ‘arroz con pato’ (duck rice) is an esteemed dish popular in Northern Peru.
Traditionally, African flavors and techniques have blended with southern cuisine to bring together soul food favorites like jambalaya, hoppin john, hush puppies and fried okra. More recently, the influence of Northern and Central African flavors are enhancing the culinary scene. Originating from countries like Ethiopia, Eritrea, Nigeria and Morocco, spice blends like Harissa (a hot paste), Dukkah (a nut, seed and spice mixture), and Berbere and Ras el Hanout (varying mixtures of garlic, cardamom, cumin, clove, ginger, chili peppers, coriander and fenugreek), are being used as rubs and seasonings for lamb, chicken, ribs and even popcorn. Nbambe, a stew of tomato, lentils, kidney beans and vegetables steamed with spices, is served with the West African staple, Jollof rice. This mixed rice dish, similar to Asian fried rice in its use many ingredients and flavors, uses tomatoes and tomato paste, palm oil and spices. Traditionally vegetable and grain heavy, African food satisfies the adventurous eaters’ need for healthy, yet distinctive tastes.
Whether trying out the latest fusion food truck or branching out in favor of sauces like wasabi aioli and spices like za’atar, global flavors are as varied and exciting as they are delicious.