Quinoa has become restaurants’ go-to grain to answer the growing demand for gluten-free menu items. So much so that it’s putting a strain on production, supply and price, says Tom Kaplan, CEO of Hugo’s Restaurant, a three-unit casual concept in Los Angeles. Although Hugo’s uses rice in some gluten-free items, the crop needs a lot of water to grow, says Kaplan. His search for a sustainable, more accessible and cost-effective alternative led to sorghum—a grain his chef de cuisine, Nabor Diaz Prado, grew up eating in Mexico. Diaz Prado’s familiarity with sorghum (he used it in flour form to make tortillas) inspired the gluten-free flatbread for Hugo’s vegan shawarma wrap. “Sorghum is non-GMO, high in antioxidants, very versatile and really affordable,” says Kaplan. Hugo’s buys organic sorghum in 2,500-pound pallets and warehouses it, paying 65 cents per pound. In comparison, quinoa costs the operation $2.57 per pound and rice $1.10 per pound, he says.
For the flatbread dough, the kitchen grinds sorghum grain into flour in a food processor, then combines it with cornstarch, tapioca flour and brown rice flour. Disks of dough are cooked on a griddle, but instead of cutting a pocket into the bread like a typical pita, Hugo’s saves a step by wrapping the bread around the shawarma. For the housemade vegan shawarma filling, the chef combines crushed sorghum with lentils to add texture and mimic the specks of fat characteristic of meat; beets add color.
|Instead of...||Try this...|
|Beef or lamb shawarma||Lentil and sorghum shawarma|
|Wheat flour||Sorghum flour|
|Yogurt-based garlic sauce||Vegan mayo-based garlic sauce|