Sandwich patty with noodles

Get Creative With Global Flavors

February 1, 2022

Keeping your menu edgy and interesting means offering the unexpected. Try mixing global cuisine flavor inspirations with American creativity. Get innovative!

The United States is a gathering ground of world populations and its menus are wonderfully complex microcosms of the diversity that defines the nation. In the best melting pot tradition, ingredients and techniques don’t always stay authentic or 100% true to origins, cultures, and customs but instead are adapted and contemporized by different influences, ingredients, and culinary prompts.

Just as American cuisine is a work in progress, so too are mixed-and-matched-up menus that keep offerings fresh, exciting, and in touch with a full array of diners. And while it’s that kind of creativity that stirs menu innovation, a practical approach plus an eye toward ingredients already counted among on-hand inventory help make global do-able. Many familiar items—from stews, tacos, and rice, to salads, sandwiches, and beverages—can easily go from now to wow. Different spicing, the swap out of a handful of ingredients for a few others, and changing techniques often are enough to bring foreign intrigue and a sense of fun to the familiar.

Here are some easy East meets West culinary mashups that, authentic or not, make delicious sense:

Lamb curry burrito with rice, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, and mint chutney

Soul roll eggroll of fried puff pastry filled with chicken, black-eyed peas, collards, and rice

Maine lobster and mango topped with melted lardo and hoja santo leaves

Quinoa porridge with goat cheese, egg whites, pistachios, and vegetable succotash

Alabama corn pudding with tomatoes, cucumber, onions, sumac, pickled corn, and North African herbed jam

Porchetta sandwich with green curry, asparagus, and Asian tong ho greens

Cuban-style pork bowl with coconut milk-braised callaloo, chipotle sweet potatoes, and curry-miso sauce

Slow-cooked octopus with Italian eggplant baba ghanouj and curried tetsukabuto squash

French onion soup with poblano peppers, Gruyère cheese, and crostini

Sea bass with corn grits, pole beans, and smoked tomato mole sauce

Pierogi-style dumplings filled with coconut, urad dal, and chilies de arbol

Steak tartare with pickled jalapeño chilies, cilantro, capers, guacamole, chipotle aioli, poached egg, and baguette

Beef pho with costillas de res (pork ribs), corn, potatoes, yucca, plantains, rice noodles, herbs, bean sprouts, and jalapeño chilies

Meat-filled empanadas with potatoes, lemongrass, and Peruvian chili aji

Frittata with squash, Argentinian locro stew, wakame seaweed, and miso

Making Mix-and-Match Right

  • Spice trades are an easy way to transform a classic dish into something more exotic. Curry blends, za’atar, berbere, garam masala, and jerk seasoning are just for starters
  • Acidic ingredients also can shift flavor perspectives. Yuzu, calamansi, satsuma, and blood orange are among juices to consider. Likewise, coconut vinegar, palm vinegar, and Chinese black vinegar also add subtly different tang
  • Curry leaves, kaffir lime, parilla, methi leaves, rau ram, and hoja santa are among options that add fresh herbal distinction
  • Hot sauces vary not just in heat levels but also flavor profiles. Gochujang, sriracha, Thai sweet chili sauce, sambal, habanero sauce, shatta, and nuoc cham all heat things up a little differently

World Flair

Some operations set their sights on one cuisine and stay laser-focused, introducing diners to new ingredients, flavors, techniques, and excitement. These up-and-coming world cuisines, along with a representative dish culled from restaurant menus, can spark ideas for nearly any menu: 

  • Afghan Aushak: Leek-filled dumplings topped with ground meat sauce and garlicky yogurt
  • Egyptian Koshari: A bed of lentils and rice with pasta, chickpeas, tomato sauce, and fried onions
  • Ethiopian Ater Kik: Yellow split peas in curried sauce with garlic, ginger, and onions 
  • Indonesian Char Kway Teow: A street-food classic with wok-fried rice noodles, shrimp, ground fish balls, chicken sausage, chili, sprouts, and egg
  • Senegalese Bissap juice of hibiscus flower with anise, vanilla, and mint
  • Syrian Muhammara dip of red pepper purée with walnuts, cumin, and pomegranate molasses

The information provided is based on a general industry overview, and is not specific to your business operation. Each business is unique and decisions related to your business should be made after consultation with appropriate experts.

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