The global food trend is moving out beyond Americanized versions of Italian, Mexican, and Chinese food. Menus in almost every segment are starting to take inspiration from the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, Latin America, and beyond. There’s also a growing appreciation of the regional food traditions right here in our own backyard.
According to a National Restaurant Association study Global Palates: Ethnic Cuisines and Flavors in America—the first exploration into global cuisine that the organization has done since the late 1990s:
80% of consumers (four in five) eat at least one ethnic cuisine per month
One-third of consumers tried a new ethnic cuisine in the last year
Two-thirds of consumers eat a wider variety of ethnic cuisines now than five years ago
Italian, Mexican, and Chinese still constitute the Big Three (frequently eaten by 61%, 50%, and 36%, respectively, of consumers in the NRA study). But in recent years the world of global cuisine on menus has grown to include Regional American, Mediterranean, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese, Brazilian/Argentinean, Greek, and other Southeast Asian specialties.
These new global hot spots are where operators can set themselves apart from the competition. Here are the gateway foods into each of these cultures:
Cajun/Creole gumbo, po’boys, and jambalaya
Southern barbecue, fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, and shrimp and grits
New England chowders, lobster rolls, and baked beans
Philadelphia-style soft pretzels and cheesesteak sandwiches
Texas-style chicken fried steak
Midwest fried cheese curds, deep dish pizza, and corn dogs
West Coast poke, Cobb and seafood Louis salads, cioppino, and fish tacos
Tex-Mex chimichangas, enchiladas, fajitas, and burritos
Get Started: Many Tex-Mex specialties call for a spicy finish of cheese; choose from any of these Chef-mate® ¡Que Bueno!® cheese sauces. And for chili items, there’s Chef-mate Original Chili Con Carne with Beans and Original Chili Con Carne without Beans.
Couscous (a grainlike pasta cooked with meats and vegetables, often served with spicy harissa sauce)
Tagine (various meat and vegetable stews flavoured with fragrant spices)
Provencale-style ratatouille (stewed vegetables including eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes)
Tabbouleh (refreshing cold salad made with cracked wheat, parsley, and lemon)
Did You Know? Many Mediterranean cuisines include dips of all sorts, including hummus, which has become virtually mainstream on American menus.
Sushi and sashimi
Ramen noodle soup
Tonkatsu (breaded, deep-fried pork or chicken drizzled with a piquant sweet sauce)
Tip: Teriyaki sauce is one of the signature ingredients in Japanese cuisine—and Minor’s® has a great one.
Pad Thai noodles
Tom yum gung (soup made with shrimp, mushrooms, tomatoes, lemongrass, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves)
Green chicken curry
Red curry (made with various types of meat and coconut milk)
Chicken in coconut soup
Pho noodle soup
Fresh spring rolls
Banh mi sandwich (baguette traditionally stuffed with pork and other meats, with pickled vegetables)
Caramel chicken or fish (braised in fish sauce and sugar, traditionally in a clay pot)
Try This: Maggi Seasoning is used all over Asian to boost the umami quotient of foods. A new 6.75-oz. tabletop version puts flavour in the hands of customers.
Feijoada (hearty black bean and pork stew)
Moqueca (spicy shrimp stew cooked in coconut milk)
Empanadas (stuffed savory pastries)
Asado (grilled meats)
Parrillada (mixed grill)
Did You Know? Many Latin meat dishes call for the protein to be marinated first; trust any of these Minor’s flavor concentrates to do the job.
Moussaka (layered eggplant casserole, with or without meat)
Pastitsio (custardy baked pasta casserole)
Spanikopita (phyllo dough stuffed with spinach and feta)
Souvlaki/Gyros (turnspit roasted lamb, beef, pork, or chicken, often served in a pita with a cucumber yogurt sauce called tzatziki)
Try This: Traditional Greek flavours and ingredients—olives, feta, lemon, fresh oregano—enliven this Lemon Oregano Chicken Salad, which also includes Greek yogurt in the dressing.
Samosa and pakora (savory filled pastries)
Tandoori chicken (marinated in yogurt and spices, then baked)
Mulligatawny (curried chicken soup)
Vindaloo (spicy curry, often made with lamb or chicken)
Chicken Tikka Masala (marinated chicken in a creamy sauce)
Kofta (vegetarian “meatballs”)