There are two locations that seem to draw the greatest interest from modern diners: around the corner and across the globe. Right alongside the ardent “eat local” movement is a growing consumer desire to get a taste of faraway places on their plates. “There’s increased interest in more exotic taste profiles, because our palates are changing and embracing more flavors, such as spicy or bitter, that we haven’t been as accepting of in the past,” says Laurie Demeritt, CEO of food culture consultancy Hartman Group. “Consumers see global flavors and ingredients as a form of discovery and inspiration.”
The secret spice of world cuisines
One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to incorporate global flavors in your menu is through spices. To help you get started, here’s a quick guide to some of emerging regional spices:
Gochujang is traditionally used on Korean bibimbap, the dish whose name literally means “mixed rice.”. This tangy, sweet, and spicy blend is created from fermented soybean powder, salt, red pepper and rice. Another trending Asian spice mix is shichi-mi tōgarashi, a seven-spice blend. Often including coarsely ground red chili pepper, roasted orange peel, sesame seeds, ginger and nori or aonori (seaweed), it’s part of the “amped up Asian” trend, Demeritt says.
Harissa is often described as the national condiment of Tunisia, and it’s been described as North Africa’s answer to Asia’s popular Sriracha sauce. A fiery spice paste, it’s made in many different ways, but usually includes roasted red, Baklouti and serrano peppers, along with caraway, cumin and coriander. Stir it into a hotel pan of roasted vegetables, or try a spoonful to add kick to your standard hummus recipe.
Za’atar is a mix of wild thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac sesame seeds and salt. It offers a warm and bitter touch to dishes, and works well as marinade or spice blend for proteins like lamb or chicken. Try mixing it with roasted nuts for a bar snack or appetizer.
This handy infographic offers tips on flavoring with spices, popular spice blends, and spices by cuisine
Tips on cooking with gochujang, shichi-mi tōgarashi, harissa and za’atar
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