The trend toward global flavors is well-established at this point, and it’s likely to keep getting stronger — just consider the introduction of the Sriracha burger at Denny's and Jack in the Box.
But it's not enough to mimic some of the spice blends, crunchy textures and other ingredients from around the world. Diners are looking for authenticity in their dishes, according to Katrina Fajardo, foodservice analyst at Mintel. In fact, according to a recent Mintel report, 76 percent of respondents say ethnic foods with authentic spices and sauces are appealing to them, and 68 percent wish there were more restaurants that offered dishes with true global ingredients, from spices and herbs to sauces and even breading.
Fajardo also notes that consumers are turning their attention to high-quality ingredients and locally sourced options, and gravitate to restaurants that deliver dishes considered "authentically ethnic." She says, "Operators can use this to their advantage by focusing on creating exciting new flavors on both tried-and-true ethnic foods, and lesser-known fare."
Fortunately, adding more authentic, globally focused menu items doesn't require an around-the-world farmer’s market tour for a kitchen staff. Here are two ingredients to consider that will bring authenticity into globally inspired items:
According to Mintel, the top growing categories for ethnic dishes are Asian, Mediterranean, and Latin. To capitalize on these, operators can consider using various sauces that include authentic ingredients without adding much cost.
For example, mole sauce, which is becoming more familiar to diners, is made by blending chiles, tomatillos, dried fruits and spices. The result is a thick, dark sauce that adds a rich flavor to Latin-inspired menu items.
Other sauces might incorporate curry elements, which pair well with chicken or beef dishes. Sauces can be blended into many types of entrees, even meatloaf or stew, to bring an authentic, global flavor to a dish.
One of the easiest ways to bring authenticity into an Asian-inspired dish is by using panko, the Japanese-style breadcrumbs that are most often seen in tempura. Not only does panko give operators more credibility when offering Asian dishes, but its lightness and ease of use can also be extended across a menu.
For example, at the Asian concept Blue Ginger near Boston, helmed by Chef Ming Tsai, one of the most popular lunch dishes is a crispy chicken-breast sandwich with standard condiments of mustard and mayo. Tsai also uses panko for a number of other dishes, including fried calamari and fish tacos.
Tsai notes that he fell in love with panko because the breadcrumbs make delicate crusts that fry to a gorgeous golden brown. "I've long used panko for all my breading and found it superior even to homemade crumbs made with good bread," he says.
The breading also holds spices well — Tsai uses ground hot peppers and Thai basil, for example — giving operators the option of incorporating even more authentic flavors into their lineup.
No matter which ingredients you choose, operators should be sure to promote the authenticity of menu items. Diners are looking for real global flavors, and by offering them, restaurateurs can boost guest loyalty—and the bottom line.
This post is sponsored by Kerry Foodservice