Guests continue to clamor for “authentic” flavors in food. But “authentic” is largely up for interpretation, as it means something a little different to each person.
One thing that remains consistent in the quest for authenticity in cuisine is the use of spices. While “spicy” never seems to fall far on industry flavor trends and forecasts, “spices” are continuing to trend upwards. It is the deep understanding and deliberate use of each one that offers guests a truly authentic experience.
Curry Flavors Rise Up
Middle Eastern curry flavors are vast, complex, and range widely depending on the dish. These spices are fantastic ground and used together.
The many components making up the complex flavor of any curry dish can be equally exciting used on their own. Consider turmeric, and the rise in popularity of this root in many forms. Fawned over for health benefits, this spice can deliver dazzling flavor and visuals, yet many establishments only deploy the superfood powers when making a traditional dish. So there is room to bring turmeric into the mainstream. Understanding the spice and the earthy flavors associated with is crucial. Also, practicing restraint is important too since turmeric flavors can be quite strong. This root packs in aromas that border on citrus and complex flavors that rival ginger and the peppery bite associated with it, especially in raw form.
Powdered turmeric loses a bit of that peppery punch, so be sure to find the proper source for each dish or beverage. Dry, ground turmeric added to cocktails can leave drinks cloudy and not as easy on the eyes as one that has been infused or shaken with a chunk of peeled, fresh turmeric root.
At the bar, gin is a great partner with turmeric and a cane-forward rum would be compatible as well. In the kitchen, turmeric can be mixed into a savory hash, making the flavors more complex and the color of the hash completely changed. The runny yolk in a perfectly poached egg will complement the color of the hash with another shade of yellow– making an antioxidant-rich breakfast as bright as the sunrise.
Break Up the Chai
Green cardamom is another spice rising in popularity in the United States. But it has a deep history in the cuisine of many countries around the globe.
A key ingredient in authentic chai, cardamom is one of those ingredients that can be savory and sweet, and does a fine job at either. Offering a perfume-like aroma to food or beverage, cardamom borders on spicy (similar to black peppercorn,) but offers herbal and citrusy aromas and flavors as well. From baked goods and pastry to mains and cocktails, green cardamom can do it all. Adding a few pods to a cocktail shaker can immediately liven and brighten up many mixed drinks. Cardamom Old-Fashioned, anyone? While, infusing spirits or using cardamom bitters will give a deeper, more complex flavor. In the kitchen, cardamom can be extremely versatile in unexpected ways. Infusing dairy with cardamom for sauces, creamy soups, or even traditional, comfort foods like creamed corn will leave guests wanting more.
Black cardamom is similar, but flavors are not quite as forgiving on the sweet side of things. The pastry team can use black cardamom with chocolate or coffee to please guests’ growing appreciation of bitter flavors.
A key ingredient in garam masala, black cardamom offers a smokier flavor profile that can be added to soups or stews, pan sauces, or reductions– as the flavor can almost hint of the taste of smoky bacon. Steamed rice, perfumed with black cardamom can add elegance to a dish while mixing it in dry form to a seasoning for meats will give guests a depth that is barely discernable, yet downright delicious. Behind the bar, black cardamom can take a cocktail to depths guests may have to pause and think about. Rye is a black cardamom-friendly spirit, and the hints of spice and smokiness can please even the most discriminating palate.
Dissect the Blends
The best versions of blends are a result of quality ingredients and their associated flavors being pulled out of traditional menu items and then being used in untraditional ways. This makes your menu stronger.
The addition of perceived “exotic” spices can get guests talking. Not to mention, it will be a refreshing change from the menus that simply started offering a curry because it is a popular trend. Understanding the parts that make up the trending whole, takes the menu to the next level without seeming contrived or out-of-place. Guests can sniff that out as well as they can smell out your remarkable cardamom-vanilla bean stone-fruit tart.