4 trends trickling down to mainstream menus
Menu trends often originate in the kitchens of independent restaurants, where chefs typically have more leeway to discover and experiment with unique flavors and ingredients. Technomic’s most recent Independent Insights report examined more than 50 menus from leading indies across the U.S. to discover the trends that are poised to trickle down to the mainstream. Identified here are four ingredient trends with “legs”—one of which may just be the next Sriracha.
Dukka and za’atar—two globally inspired spice blends currently trending on many menus—are making way for vadouvan. Often described as a French interpretation of Indian masala, this curry spice blend is enhanced with aromatics such as shallots and garlic. Vadouvan can be used to impart a rich, savory flavor to roasted vegetables, seafood and dipping sauces.
Octopus, vadouvan, wild spinach, potato and lemon
2. Fish Caramel
Several traditional Vietnamese dishes feature the sweet-salty flavor profile achieved by combining fish sauce with melted sugar. Chefs now are adapting fish caramel to non-Asian menu items, using it as an ingredient or drizzle during or after cooking to intensify umami.
Brussels sprouts, fish caramel, turnips and lime
While sesame seeds have long been called out in menu descriptions, restaurants are starting to highlight them by their West African name: benne. The trend follows the sourcing strategy of many of today’s chefs, who are seeking out heirloom ingredients like benne. Unlike overly processed commodity sesame seeds, benne imparts a more nutty flavor and whole-grain halo to dishes—as well as an ethnic connotation.
Crispy pig ears, pickled rhubarb, strawberries, fermented chili, escarole and benne
4. Mediterranean chili pepper sauces
Looking for the next Sriracha? Pilacca, chraimeh or red chili schug may just be the latest condiments to win over the palates of heat-seeking consumers. These three chili pepper-based sauces are emerging from the Mediterranean regions of Southern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, respectively, and are showing up in varied applications on indie menus.
Seared salmon steak with chraimeh sauce, beluga lentils and house yogurt