Consumer palates are becoming more sophisticated. In response “food manufacturers are looking to their ingredient suppliers to offer a broader range of solutions, including culinary blends based on regional ethnic cuisines,” a statement made by Gary Augustine, executive director of market development for Kalsec. Specifically, this flavor trend is leaning toward Asia and India, two popular cuisines for not only their perceived health value and global attraction, but for their innovative dishes revolving around mild to extreme levels of heat. Curries from India and Thailand, stir fry from China, ramen noodles from Japan, and other regionally authentic dishes that lend themselves to spice have effectively created a vacuum toward spicy ethnic food.
Ethnic cuisine brings a lot to the table, but when boiled down to its basic components, it offers two distinct avenues that broaden our culinary horizons; new ingredients meshed with new preparations. Ethnic trends generally start with Americanized uses of ethnic ingredients and highly familiar and approachable presentations, such as innocuous stir fry’s using ingredients like broccoli and peppers that focus on sweet and tame flavors. These dishes allow consumers to experiment without departing from their comfort zone entirely. Yet as a cuisine takes hold and becomes a part of our culture as much as steak and potatoes, familiarity goes out the door as the masses of consumers seek out the most “true to the region” representations of cuisine. Recently, spicy food is on the top of the trend chart, and this trend meshes perfectly with the growing Asian and Indian trends because of the affinity these cuisines have to high levels of heat. For the exploratory and experimental consumer, Asia and India offer an enormous amount of traditional dishes that allow for consistently new experiences and ever increasing levels of flavor and hotness. As the infatuation with Mexican chilies wanes, Asian and Indian varieties are becoming increasingly sought after and applied on restaurant menu’s to capture consumer attention. As an added benefit, consumers seeking out the hottest of hot peppers will be excited to find that many of the world’s most scorchingly hot and deliciously flavored peppers from the East and not our neighbor Mexico.
The “Hot” List to Watch in 2015
Ghost Pepper/ bhut jolokia – Bangladesh/India
Peri peri Pepper – India/Africa
Aleppo Pepper – Middle East/Africa
Tien Tsin Pepper - China
Shichimi Togarashi – Chinese Pepper Blend
Shishito Pepper – East Asia
Thai Chilies – Thailand
Birds Eye Chilies – Thailand
Shichimi Togarashi Spice Blend– Japanese
Harissa Blend – Middle Eastern/African
Kashmiri Pepper - Indian