While Asian fare, from Japanese noodle bowls to Korean fried chicken, is a huge hit with today’s consumers, its popularity is only going to continue to boom. Technomic’s 2017 Top 500 Chains Restaurant Report shows an 11% growth among Asian and noodle limited-service concepts—the most by far of any menu category. While growth was slower among full-service concepts, Asian and noodle restaurants still were ahead of any other menu category at 4.3%.
While once-niche sriracha sauce has moved into the everyday, finding a home on sandwiches, burgers and fries at big chains like Wendy’s, Chick-fil-A and Jack in the Box, these trendy flavors are just beginning to hit the mainstream.
Ginger’s herbal, spicy edge makes it No. 1 among Asian flavors moving into the mainstream, with 18% menu penetration according to Technomic’s Asian Flavor Lifecycle Report for Q1 of 2017. Ginger dressing is also the No. 2 ingredient, at 39%. California-based cafeteria chain Lemonade uses the root in a Thai vinaigrette dressing for its Phuket Thai Vegetable salad with heirloom carrots, cucumbers, green papaya and sesame peanuts. Houston-based upscale CDR Chart House recently added Ginger Soy Shrimp and Scallops, served with mushrooms, bok choy and furikake rice.
Curry’s adaptability across a wide variety of proteins and flavor profiles are making it a menu star; Technomic’s Asian Flavor Lifecycle Report for Q1 of 2017 shows a 17.5% menu penetration. At New York fast-casual Hale and Hearty, Chicken Curry Simmer, made with apple and mint, is served over noodles or coconut rice. Fast-casual chain Noodles and Co., which showed 8% sales growth in the past year, serves Thai Green Curry with Shrimp, featuring rice noodles, pineapple, broccoli, snap peas, red onion, lime, black sesame seeds and cilantro.
This isn’t the traditional sweet basil found on Italian dishes. Thai basil, native to Southeast Asia, boasts a slightly spicy flavor with notes of anise. Pei Wei Asian Diner uses the aromatic herb on its Blazing Bangkok Peanut Noodle bowl, which features wok-seared chicken and noodles in a Thai chile peanut sauce with ginger, red bell peppers, onions, Swiss chard, garlic and Thai basil and is garnished with roasted peanuts and fresh lime. At Ling & Louie’s Asian Bar & Grill, the Desert Island Poke features marinated sashimi-grade ahi mixed with tomatoes, diced onions, Thai basil, cilantro and a ginger-soy dressing, served with cucumber salad on a bed of seasoned rice.
This post is sponsored by Ajinomoto