While it’s true that plant roots like horseradish and ginger are no strangers to menus, there are more creative applications of these ingredients to discover, especially as diners increasingly call for new spicy notes on their palates. Plant roots may not have the same heat sensation produced by the capsaicin chemical of chili peppers, but like many spices, they provide a different kind of pungency or peppery heat. Because plant roots can be used in a plethora of dayparts and mealparts, operators have a lot of room to go hog wild in kitchens.
Here's a few examples of how spicy plant roots are being used.
With a peppery and slightly sweet flavor and a pungent, spicy aroma, ginger has been increasingly gracing menus over the past few years with no sign of slowing down. Now we’re seeing ginger move beyond traditional preparations like Asian recipes, sweets such as gingerbread and gingersnaps, and beverages like ginger ale. New standout uses of ginger include innovative cocktails, chicken wing sauces and smoothies.
A menu example: the Las Vegas Hard Rock Cafe's Sweet & Fiery cocktail, with Absolut Peppar vodka, Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur, blue curacao, lemonade and ginger beer, garnished with a red pepper and served in a Mason jar.
Native to Eastern Europe and recognized for its pungently spicy flavor, horseradish is perhaps best known as an ingredient in bloody marys and cocktail sauce. But horseradish’s in-your-face flavor has vast potential outside those products. Some head-turning applications as of late include the root featured with chipotle and beet in a vodka cocktail (the Hinky Dink at GreenRiver in Chicago), combined into goat cheese and dolloped atop lobster bisque (Truluck’s), and offered as an optional mix-in for a margarita (Daily Grill).
GreenRiver's Hinky Dink features rye vodka, beet, pistachio, horseradish, chipotle and lemon.
The Japanese version of horseradish, wasabi is a familiar green-colored condiment for sushi and sashimi. But the sharp, pungent, fiery flavor of wasabi goes well with a variety of proteins other than seafood, such as lamb. Other opportunities for wasabi include grated in salad dressings and added to mashed potatoes.
Most wasabi sold in the U.S. is actually horseradish, which is cheaper and more abundant. Operators have an opportunity to differentiate real wasabi on menus as a way to meet consumer demands for transparency and authenticity.
An example of how it can be used in different preparations: housemade sorbets in red shiso, wasabi green apple and pisco sour at SushiSamba.
Radishes are the root of a plant in the mustard family, and the flavor can be mild to peppery, depending on variety and age. Although radishes continue to play a large part in salads, operators can increasingly featuring the root in new ways on menus. Prospects include slow-cooked red-skinned radish in stews and spiralized black radish as a pasta replacement. Because the taste and texture of radishes are markedly similar to potatoes when cooked, and because they’re available year-round, expect radishes to act as a healthy “faux potato” alternative this fall and winter, a la radish hash browns and oven-baked radishes.
An example of how radishes can be used: House of Blues' Diver Scallop and Crab Aguachile with avocado, radish, cilantro and cucumber.