Foodservice directors and noncommercial chefs are always on the lookout for globally inspired menu items. Attendees of FoodService Director's 2018 MenuDirections conference came back with a collection of actionable ideas after participating in workshops, culinary demos and presentations during the three-day event. Here are seven to try now.
1. The banh mi bowl
At a workshop on The Mighty Bowl, chef Andrew Hunter showed the audience how to turn the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich inside out to create an on-trend bowl. To demo how the banh mi's ingredients adapt well to the bowl format, Hunter ditched the sandwich's French bread carrier and started the build with a layer of vermicelli noodles topped with sweet chili lime sauce. Meatballs made from a blend of pork and mushrooms flavored with garlic, ginger, cilantro, soy sauce and fish sauce formed the next layer, sided with the banh mi's traditional pickled vegetables. The bowl is finished with fresh herbs, jalapeno rings and Sriracha.
2. Breakfast with a Korean accent
Former Chicago restaurateur Ina Pinkney, aka the Breakfast Queen, tempted attendees with descriptions of ethnic breakfast items she has sampled recently. She's seeing a surge of Korean donkas, a crispy fried pork cutlet similar to Japanese tonkatsu, in breakfast sandwiches and bowls. One mashup of the dish featured refried lentils, green chili adobo sauce and provolone cheese on an English muffin. "It was so engaging, it didn't matter what country I thought it reminded me of, I couldn't stop eating it," she told the audience during her session on global breakfast.
3. Eggs by way of Turkey
Pinkney also cited an egg dish inspired by a young Turkish cook working in the kitchen of a restaurant she visited. It consists of a soft-poached egg on a bed of thick yogurt flavored with garlic and dill and liberally sprinkled with chili flakes. She advised the crowd of foodservice directors and noncommercial operators to "rely on staff's background for ideas. The chef watched this young cook make the breakfast dish for himself every morning, asked for his input and put it on the menu," she said.
4. Barbecue crosses borders
Break out of the American barbecue tradition by exploring global styles. Tanzanian barbecue is one to watch, said chef Andreas Pias in a culinary workshop on flavor trends. In Tanzania, meat or poultry is marinated in a blend of green papaya, lemon and tomatoes to tenderize it, then it's seasoned with curry, garlic, red pepper and ginger and grilled on skewers. And East Africa is an area to tap for trending Ethiopian flavors, including berbere—a fiery spice blend combining chili peppers, cardamom, allspice, coriander, cinnamon, garlic, ginger and fenugreek.
5. Mashups make the menu
Handheld foods are trending as a platform for flavor fusion, mashing up two authentic ideas into one item, Pias told attendees. For example, fill arepas with gyro meat or put Southern ingredients into a bao bun. Another mashup to try: Take the hot pot beyond Asian cuisine. The hot pot is typically filled with bubbling broth and placed in the middle of the table; diners cook ingredients in the broth and dip them in Asian sauces. Pias has created hot pots with West Indian flavors and a Central Mexican-based Puebla Hot Pot. As a bonus, hot pot cooking fosters interaction around the table.
6. Crispy rice in multiple languages
There's a high value put on crispy rice in various cuisines. Socarrat, the crispy bottom layer of paella, is often fought over by diners, as is tah-dig, the crunchy coating stuck to the pan when cooking Persian rice. Both allow chefs to contrast different textures and colors in traditional rice dishes. For those who want to create the crispy layer itself, fry leftover cooked rice in a flattop or tilt skillet, as one would cook a big batch of hash browns, chef Hunter explained.
7. A twist on ramen
For a different take on the Japanese ramen bowl, substitute a "pinwheel" omelet for the usual noodles. The omelet is made with a mixture of eggs, mirin and clear soy sauce, then cooked in a skillet to create a thin crepe. Once the omelet is cooled, it can be rolled and cut into pinwheels and served in a bowl of broth.