Flavor Trends from Flavor & the Menu are two of my favorite reads. The selection of chef writers is incrediable and the trends they recommend seem to be on target. Here is one of the latest.
The funky flavor notes of fermented foods are seeing a renewed culinary appreciation
(At Chicago’s BellyQ, crispy mung bean pancakes get a powerful punch from a kimchi and bacon dressing on top, served rolled and sliced, with a black vinegar dipping sauce. – Photo: BELLYQ)
WE’VE SEEN EVIDENCE of a maturing palate in today’s consumer. As tastes have progressed from teriyaki to chipotle, a confluence of factors has made foodservice flavor exploration braver than ever before. Those factors — diner sophistication, street-food influence, global ingredient accessibility and craftsmanship — are like steps rising up to meet the lofty, somewhat clouded world of fermented flavors. Are we calling out funky fermented notes as the next “it” flavor? Not quite. But we are saying that bold, fermented flavors, led by star performer kimchi, are moving from the fringe into the outer circle of mainstream.
“The interest in all things fermented shows no signs of abating. They are deeply ingrained in many food cultures,” says Melissa Abbott of The Hartman Group. “Today, we love cultured foods for their briny imparting flavors that bring food to life.”
Of course, fermented flavors aren’t new. Diners have been digging olives, cured meats, breads, soy sauce, yogurt and blue and Parmesan cheeses for a good long while now. But let’s call those the amuse-bouches of fermented flavors. Funky kimchi, pungent fish sauce, fragrant miso? They’re the main course.
“It is the funkiness of fermented foods that makes these flavors so compelling,” says Sandor Katz, fermented foods expert and author of “The Art of Fermentation” (www.wildfermentation.com). “Some flavors of ferments are not universally beloved — they’re an acquired taste. After all, ferments exist in the creative space between fresh and rotten.”
Perhaps not the best menu language to use, but Katz’s point is well made. Fermented flavors reside in the sweet spot of flavor building. “They’re all about flavor — super intense flavor,” says Food IQ’s Director of Culinary Cari Price. “This has come about as Americans have become more comfortable and accepting of pungency. There is something craveable about these flavors.”
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