Fascination with the foods and culinary practices of other countries is intensifying as chefs and restaurateurs expand their global horizons to accommodate adventurous patrons seeking new flavor experiences and dining directions.
Culinary professionals cite this growing interest in international foodways as being one of the most influential trends shaping the industry today. The National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot 2018 Culinary Forecast found that 61 percent of the nearly 700 chefs polled for the study characterized Authentic Ethnic Cuisine as a Hot Trend, ranking it No. 9 on the association’s list of more than 100 items. At the same time, the majority of those participating in the survey — 52 percent — said Ethnic Fusion Cuisine is a Hot Trend.
While established international culinary favorites such as Italian, French and Chinese will certainly remain popular with restaurateurs and customers alike, a number of previously untapped cuisines — the “next wave” — are expected to influence menu makers in the coming year. Experts say to keep your eye on the following five:
Middle Eastern fare has long enjoyed a place on American menus — particularly among health-conscious consumers. But 2018 could well be the year Israeli cuisine enjoys its moment in the sun. San Francisco-based consultancy Andrew Freeman & Co. suggests that chefs “look to the cooking of Israel for inspiration,” calling Israeli flavors “deep and vibrant, lending themselves well to both savory and sweet applications.” Known for such Mediterranean grain-based dishes as falafel, hummus and couscous, Israeli cooking also is rich in vegetables and fruits, (Israel is a leading producer of citrus products) dairy, fish, chicken and turkey. AF&Co. says “prepare yourself to see more Israeli-inspired ingredients including sumac, za’atar, tahini, halva, halloumi, harissa and chermoula popping up on restaurant menus.”
Korean food is catching on across the foodservice spectrum, according to Chicago-based research firm Datassential — and finding a warm welcome at restaurants from fast-casual concepts to high-end places. One expansion-minded fast-casual concept takes its inspiration and name from the traditional Korean mixed rice dish, bibibop, blending Asian and American influences and ingredients. For example, the menu features customized bowls containing purple rice, a blend of white and antioxidant-abundant black rice. Purple rice also shows up in a fusion pizza topped with gochujang sauce, corn and sesame seeds. Meanwhile, Korean fare is also being showcased in more upscale fusion-style restaurants around the country, says Baum + Whiteman. The Brooklyn, N.Y.-based consulting firm cites such dishes as oysters with radish kimchi and apple foam; yellowfin tuna bibibop with preserved lemon; sardine toast with horseradish; and pork belly tortilla flambé with wasabi crème fraîche, crudités and lemon-verbena kombucha dressing…