The culinary world is constantly evolving and the year 2023 has brought some exciting new trends to the table. Plant-based diets are becoming increasingly popular, and chefs are embracing this trend by incorporating more plant-based options on their menus. Sustainability and ethical sourcing of ingredients will also be a major focus, with restaurants using locally sourced and organic produce. In terms of flavours, global cuisine will continue to influence menus with a fusion of different cultures and bold, spicy flavours. The use of technology in the kitchen is also expected to rise, with the introduction of new gadgets and techniques to enhance the cooking process. In addition, there has been a growing interest in fermented foods and beverages, such as kombucha and kimchi, which are known for their health benefits. As the demand for healthy and mindful eating continues to rise, restaurants are also incorporating more options for special dietary needs such as gluten-free and vegan dishes. Overall, 2023 is an exciting year for food lovers as the culinary world embraces new trends that cater to diverse palates and lifestyles.
“With a multitude of backgrounds and experiences, each member brings something valuable to the table. This activity fosters a sense of teamwork and allows everyone to contribute to the menu”, explained Chef Akash Deshpande, Chef de Cuisine, Nava.
Nava, translating to ‘newly, recently-created, invented, innovative’ is a restaurant founded by Anushka Pathak in Mumbai which pays homage to a variety of ingredients sourced from various regions within India.
However, the key differentiator remains the diverse range of ingredients. Historically speaking, India has been the land of diversity. However, with the ever-changing demands of consumers, these diverse ingredients are being tried and tested decades later, in 2023.
But before diving into some ingredient-centric trends of 2023, here are recent instances of ingredients becoming the hero:
Cauliflower is the key ingredient in vegan ice cream
Two New Zealand-based entrepreneurs named Jenni Matheson and Mrinali Kumar, currently run a startup called EatKinda, wherein they have invented a technique to use unsuitable (or otherwise, thrown-away) pieces of Cauliflower as the alternative to milk to make ice cream. This reduces wastage and removes the weird aftertaste that customers complain about, with ice cream NOT made from cow’s milk.
On observing EatKinda’s ice cream contents, cauliflower is listed as the second ingredient, at 12-13% concentration. The remaining components are just flavours or stabilisers. The products are marketed as vegan with the explanation, “...our perfectly delicious ice cream is made from cosmetically imperfect cauliflower which would otherwise go to waste certified by Perfectly Imperfect.”
Thus, the highlight is ‘cauliflower’ - not the flavour. Indeed, a smart and direct way of making the ingredient the ‘hero’.
Breaking down a sausage
A staple ingredient within several European cuisines, there is nothing groundbreaking about using sausages. But what if it's made into a hero through different techniques?
Now that seems to be a winner, according to a report, which quoted LUPA Chef Manu Chandra explaining, “Think of a sausage. We want people to taste it for what it is, and then subsequently use the sausage with other applications – the same sausage could be grilled, served on a cold plate, or folded into a risotto, which would enhance the risotto’s flavour. The fact of the matter remains that the hero will continue to be the sausage, and people will take notice of it.”
Now that ingredients are gradually taking centre stage, here are two crucial culinary trends of 2023, proving that what “goes into a dish” is more important than mere presentation:
Trend 1: Vocal for the season local!
One of the “Wild & Pure” trends mentioned in Unilever’s recent report titled “Future Menus 2023 – Top 8 Global Menu Trends” explained how 2023 would witness seasonal dishes using natural ingredients.
“Edible flowers, wild berries, and seaweed connect diners to their local yet diverse environment. It’s about moving away from mainstream fare and leaning into what nature provides to create simple, sustainable dishes with ingredients closest to home”, explained the report.
Interestingly, this coincides with the ethos of Nava. “We source ingredients from chefs across different local regions in India because our kitchen team is incredibly diverse, with members from various parts of the country…Bengal, Uttarakhand, Assam, and Kerala, each with unique culinary backgrounds”, described Chef Deshpande.
Trend 2: Cuisine agnosticism - the phenomenon of the past or present?
As per Unilever’s report, cuisine agnosticism is an up-and-coming trend likely to dominate in 2023. The report described it as “flavour contrast”: "Unexpected combinations of flavours, colours, and textures that highlight the most talented chefs’ creativity.”
Given the rich ingredient diversity in the subcontinent, have Indians already ventured into this trend? Moreover, is this a trend or a collaborative effort within the kitchen space?
“India is home not only to an ingredient but cultural diversity too. Each person brings something to the table. Rather, it is a collaborative effort within our diverse kitchen team. With a multitude of backgrounds and experiences, each member brings something valuable to the table. This activity fosters a sense of teamwork and allows everyone to contribute to the menu. As the Head Chef, I cannot personally gather ingredients from every region, making it a fun and engaging exercise for the entire team, including the recreation and front-of-house departments”, explained Chef Deshpande.
Trend or a mere teamwork exercise, ingredient-centric cooking has all the potential to turn into a phenomenon. Not only to celebrate the diversity present in India but also to provide a gastronomic adventure to enthusiastic eaters, without digressing from the roots.
After all, as Anushka Pathak, the founder of Nava stated, “Although we wanted to be innovative, we did not want our menu to be intimidating. Therefore, nothing on our menu is hauntingly unfamiliar.”
On similar lines speaks Chef Ajay Rawat, chef de cuisine at Le Meridien, Amritsar, while discussing the sumptuous appeal of the famed spinach Dolma. A regional lost recipe from India that garners special praise from foodies, Rawat adds that this innovative approach is, in fact, a tribute to his mentor who used to make lamb with the same gravy.
Trend 3: Plant-based alternatives instead of mock meats
Instead of relying solely on soy-based options, the market now embraces diverse plant-based proteins like peas, corn, and various grains. At The Leela Palace, the Executive Chef, Chef Simran Singh Thapar, seamlessly incorporated these plant-based alternatives into their menus, emphasising their purely plant-derived sources and complete protein profiles.
Avoiding the term "mock meats," these products come in dried and frozen forms, offering incredible versatility for culinary creations spanning Indian kebabs and curries, Asian stir-fries, Thai curries, and Western-style dishes. “It's a win-win situation – our guests are happy, and we're contributing to a growing and noteworthy trend in the culinary world,” adds Thapar. This culinary evolution reflects the increasing demand for vegan-friendly options, aligning with the 2023 trend of ingredients taking centre stage.
Trend 4: One ingredient rules all
In line with the culinary trend of 2023, Tokyo Matcha Bar champions the idea of ingredients taking centre stage in dishes and beverages. In contrast to the days of elaborate presentations and complex ingredient combinations, today's F&B consumers prioritise quality, clean foods, and sustainable sourcing over flashy labels.
Tokyo Matcha Bar, founded by Chef Rahul and Meher, introduces organic, ceremonial-grade Japanese Tea from Tokyo to Mumbai, aiming to educate consumers about matcha and its proper preparation. Meher further states, “At Tokyo Matcha Bar, we limit ingredients to those listed in a product’s name, a Maple Matcha Latte only consists of maple-matcha and milk; or the flavour notes in a Wild Berry Matcha Tea will be blueberry, matcha tea and water.” This approach allows only the premium ingredients to shine without the interference of any additives.
(With IANS Inputs)