With each passing season, chefs wrack their brains in the kitchen to arrive at that perfect innovation, which would result in a burst of flavour for the patrons. Sometimes they experiment with different kinds of grains, or go searching in the backyard for a farm-to-table experience, or mix and match ingredients as varied as cream cheese and Nutella with sticky rice and nori to bring that extra something to the dining experience. So, how does 2019 fare for the foodie?
This year, most chefs are looking at featuring a vegan or raw dish on their menu—and that is hardly surprising, given that veganism has shown an impressive worldwide increase. There’s been a rapid rise in people identifying as vegans in the US in the last three years. In the UK, the number of people identifying as vegans has increased by 350 percent, compared to a decade ago, according to research commissioned by the Vegan Society in partnership with Vegan Life magazine.
It’s about using fresh plant-based ingredients to create delicious meals that aren’t just alternatives to meat, but complete dishes on their own. Tempeh, quinoa, hemp, spirulina are a powerhouse of protein. “New dietary guidelines released by the Chinese government encourage the nation’s 1.3 billion people to reduce their meat consumption by 50 percent. Even Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is asking its suppliers to offer more plant-based products,” say Manav and Madhav Windlass, founders, Kiara Soul Kitchen that specialises in vegan and organic food.
Return of the spice
Restaurants are predicting a return to smoky and Middle Eastern flavours. From creative uses of African spices, the quintessential South African herb rooibos or ‘red bush’ that is finding its way into desserts and teas, to the fiery and aromatic spice mix found in many Ethiopian dishes, 2019 for most chefs will be the year of the spice.
Turkey is another mainstay as far as experimenting in spices is concerned. While some like the New World cuisine have recently tried incorporating it in their food, others such as Central America have always been partial to it. Chef Patricia Suarez Roggerone from La Vid, Bodega Norton in Argentina, says, “Though Argentinean cooking does not really involve a lot of spices, still we have been influenced by Turkey and so some spices such as cumin have found its way into our cooking.”
Today, a diner is not really inclined to go with the ‘special of the day’, or a buffet spread. What interests him more is getting to know the source of the food. Everyone is paying attention to what they’re eating. And this precisely what the chef is aiming at with his local sourcing.
Abhishek Gupta, Executive Sous Chef at The Leela, Gurgaon, says, “I stress local produce and merge both ancient and modern cooking styles.” He whips up exciting culinary dishes such as Pureed Pumpkin with Marigold Flowers, Potato Starch Petals, Sambuca-infused Sous Vide Beans, Cherries and Gooseberry Cooked with Mild Butter Sauce, Farm Leaves Grilled with Smoked Butter, and more.
Rise of ancient grains
Till some years ago, the Indian culinary scene only knew of two kinds of flour—whole wheat and its refined version. Cut to 2019 and a walk down the aisle of any supermarket will have you wondering—various kinds of nut flour, sorghum or finger millet, quinoa or amaranth flour and others will have you amazed. According to Chef Ruchira Hoon of The Piano Man Bakery, this is partly because people are changing lifestyles and going gluten-free. “Rotis, bread, even making cakes and cookies is super easy with any of these alternative flours. All you need is a bit of imagination and the will to experiment.”
Off the beaten path
Be it savoury or sweet, offal-based dishes such as monkfish liver mousse, offal and sausage arancini show that the meat-lovers are getting adventurous. At the same time, seaweed in desserts and drinks is wowing all—dessert and fruit sushi is a hit at most restaurants or using kombu seaweed as a base for broths and stocks is taking the professional kitchen by storm.
Even the good ol’ kelp, till now confined to the sushi, is slowly coming into its own. Meanwhile, even as chefs get experimental, surprisingly the old-school French cooking technique such as Bouquet Garni, Coulis, Déglacer and Demi-Glace is coming back into focus. Finally, in 2019 nothing seems complete without a touch of Central America. The journey that started with Mexican cuisine has now taken Cuban, Venezuelan and even Peruvian food in its ambit, and the patrons definitely are not complaining.