Small plates, big flavor

Published in FSD Update

Small plates are making a big splash in foodservice.

From Kikkoman.

Small plates are making a big splash in foodservice. Whether it’s a traditional appetizer or just a snack, diners today are choosing small plates more than ever before. And the idea of sharing and sampling a number of different dishes has put a whole new “social” spin on meal occasions.

The key to making your small plates popular is to load them with bold flavors. Today’s cuisine-savvy, adventurous customers want tastes that are not just from their backyard, but also from around the world. From the fiery heat of a Thai sriracha to a citrusy Japanese ponzu sauce a whole new world of menu opportunities has opened up. But how do you expand your menu without adding a lot of labor? With Kikkoman sauces and seasonings, that’s how. They’re the easy way to put a global “spin” on your menu…simply open a bottle and pour on the flavor.

The match between global tastes and small plates is a natural fit, and one that’s gaining in popularity. The 2014 Culinary Forecast from the National Restaurant Association places ethnic or street food-inspired appetizers as the #3 trend to watch for in the appetizer category.1 And research by Technomic finds that 51 percent of consumers would be likely to order ethnic foods or flavors in their appetizers.2

Ida Shen knows all about bold flavors. As Director of Culinary and Catering at the University of California – Berkeley, she has to satisfy a diverse student population. Many of these sophisticated young diners are extremely willing to try new dishes because of their exposure to foreign cuisines and unusual ingredients they’ve seen on TV cooking and reality shows. “I get a lot of questions like, ‘We saw this…can we try it?’” she says. “They don’t necessarily know how to cook but they know how to eat.”

Students are “asking for different global flavors. They definitely have an opinion as to how authentic the flavors are, too,” she continues. To satisfy those demands, she serves up a world of different cuisines on campus. For example, “there’s Latin American. We’ll do German foods,” she says. “We do a variety of different Asian dishes, from Cambodian to your basic Japanese and Chinese dishes. Vietnamese is very popular here.”

Shen’s culinary team sets out composed small plates that can be taken right off the line by “grab-and-go” eaters. That not only works for time-pressed students but also helps give them the full impact of the dish by limiting substitutions or changes. “As a chef, you want people to taste the food the way you intended,” she says. What’s more, small plates have the added benefit of helping control portion size, she says.

Whatever type of operation you run, it’s clear your customers are craving those big, bold tastes from their small plates, and Kikkoman sauces deliver. Try a condiment-style topping like zesty Kikkoman Wasabi Sauce – it’s perfect for ethnic-flavored sandwiches. Kikkoman Orange Sauce is ready to use as a stir-fry or glaze. Thai dishes get a bolt of fiery flavor from Kikkoman Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, and piquant Kikkoman Ponzu Citrus Seasoned Dressing and Sauce can add an unexpected layer of flavor to Latin dishes. Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce and the unique Kikkoman NuMami Sauce and will bring depth to your dishes while helping you reduce overall sodium.

For more product information and recipe ideas that are sure to please your patrons, check out To get started, check out the videos from Chef Jet Tila for Sweet & Spicy Wings made with Kikkoman Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce and Tonkatsu Sliders featuring Kikkoman Katsu Sauce. That’s just the beginning—with Kikkoman, you’ll find several more ways to help give your small plates big flavor.

1 “What’s Hot: 2014 Culinary Forecast,” National Restaurant Association, December 2013.
2 “The Ethnic Food and Beverage Consumer Trend Report,” Technomic, 2012.