The ingredients on restaurant menus have come a long way in recent times, as has consumer demand for obscure, creative ingredients.
If you own a restaurant, you might be keen to revamp your menu. But with ingredients going in and out of vogue so quickly, you’ll want to ensure you get it right.
That’s where this article can help. Here, we outline 5 of the trendiest ingredients of 2018.
There are some truly wacky ingredients and food combinations out there…we’re looking at you ramen burgers and balsamic ice-cream. But perhaps none are as strange as the idea of eating charcoal.
The key is the ‘activated’ part. Charcoal is activated when burnt with wood or another source of carbon, which strips the oxygen away and leaves behind a highly absorbent material that can trap chemicals and toxins like a sponge.
For this reason, it’s been used to treat alcohol poisoning and in toothpastes, face cleansers and other beauty products. You might also be aware of it in water purifiers or tablets that relieve flatulence or stomach ailments.
Now people are taking it one step further and adding it to their meals, the claim being that it detoxes the body. But be warned, the jury is still out on its efficacy. Some studies actually indicate that it can remove nutrients as well as toxins from food.
The latest ingredient to be dubbed a ‘superfood’ is spirulina, which is really just that green scum found in ponds. But don’t let this turn you off.
Available mostly in powdered form, spirulina is rich in chlorophyll, antioxidants and a whole wealth of nutrients like protein, iron, calcium and essential B vitamins. In fact, it’s often called the ‘most nutrient rich food on the planet’.
For those of you keen to add it to your menu, you should know that it doesn’t taste great. For this reason, spirulina is best when added to a delicious smoothie or smoothie bowl. However, if you want to be a bit more creative, consider a spirulina pesto, frittata or fritter. Just remember that it’s a very expensive ingredient so use it wisely and/or sparingly.
Much like spirulina, seaweed is algae packed with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like folate, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, iodine, selenium and even omega-3, which is great for vegetarians. What doesn’t it have?
There are many forms of seaweed used for culinary purposes. Brown seaweed like kombu or wakame is best used in soups (a la miso soup), while red seaweed is commonly used in sushi and green seaweed is good for salads.
You can experiment with seaweed by adding a wakame salad to an Asian-infused burger or seaweed to your omelette. You can also try adding seaweed chips as an appetiser or a nori mayonnaise as an accompaniment to hot chips. And if you don’t get it right first time, remember that there’s plenty more seaweed in the sea.
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Not all vogue ingredients have to be a superfood. Some can just be darn tasty and a versatile addition to many dishes. Enter sumac, a lovely berry that is grown in the Middle East and left in the sun to dry before being ground down into a powder and used as a spice.
Sumac is a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean staple due to its lovely lemony taste; the Ancient Romans used it as a souring agent. It’s great when added to a salad dressing or on chicken, lamb, chickpeas, lentils or to a yogurt dressing.
Chefs and menu creators can add sumac to so many dishes to give them a fresh, light, citrusy boost.
Anyone who has come into contact with jackfruit will attest to its horrible smell. But what it lacks in aroma, it makes up for in taste.
The largest tree-borne fruit – native to South and Southeast Asia – has a lot of potassium, protein, calcium and iron and is incredibly abundant, making it cheap to produce and buy. Jackfruit has even been dubbed a miracle crop that could save millions from starvation.
For chefs, jackfruit offers so many possibilities, especially for a creative vegetarian dish (jackfruit is a favourite for vegetarians and vegans).
It can be cooked a dozen different ways to create a myriad of jackfruit curries, juices, stir fries or tacos. Perhaps the most common is to cook it for an hour until it resembles pulled pork.