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National Restaurant Association - What’s Hot in global flavors? Internationally inspired breakfast and North African cuisine and condi

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What’s Hot in global flavors? Internationally inspired breakfast and North African cuisine and condiments

At The Corner Restaurant in Milford, Conn., guests can “travel” the globe every morning, with breakfast specialties like “Spiced Indian Duck Tortilla,” “Malaysian Spiced Pulled Pork Special” and “African Hash. The casual restaurant has been serving international breakfast flavors for years, but more restaurants are expected to follow suit this year. Chefs rated “globally inspired breakfast dishes” among the top trends for our What’s Hot in 2019 Culinary Forecast.

Global flavors trended high throughout several categories of the survey: from spicy condiments like North African harissa to sweet treats like Thai-rolled ice cream. Chefs ranked North African cuisine, such as fuul and tajines, as the hottest global food. North African condiments, like harissa, a zesty red pepper sauce with subtle notes of sweet tomato and Mediterranean, and zhug, a citrusy sauce featuring hot green peppers, cilantro, lemon, extra-virgin olive oil and spices, were the second trendiest condiments.

Culina, a fine-dining restaurant in the Los Angeles Four Seasons Hotel, serves Italian fare for lunch and dinner, but trots the globe for breakfast. The breakfast menu is eclectic, with Irish oats, breakfast burritos and matcha waffles, says Executive Chef Byron Thomas. “The inspiration is LA, which is divided into different neighborhoods by culture.”

Menu must-haves

Last year, the restaurant added shakshuka, a savory North African dish with poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce. Its version, flavored with harissa, is an Instagram-friendly crowd-pleaser. “Shakshuka is showing up on some of the hippest menus in LA,” says Thomas. “People have started to expect to see it on a breakfast menu.”  

Fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant Zoe’s Kitchen, which has more than 250 locations in 20 states, expanded its sauce selection last year to include “Moroccan Harissa” and “Israeli Skhug.”

Americans also crave flavors from other parts of Africa. West African cuisine ranked second on the list of hot global flavors. Ethiopian food trended across several survey categories, with Ethiopian cuisine ranking fourth among global flavors. Injera chips, made from the Ethiopian teff-based flatbread, ranked fourth among snacks/sweets. Berbere, an Ethiopian chili and spice blend, rated fifth among condiments.

When the Lebels opened The Corner Restaurant in 1997, Michelle and Amer Lebel were pioneers for serving stuffed French toast. Soon after opening, they introduced global flavors, adding more each year as consumer tastes broadened.

Expanding palates

“People used to be afraid to try new things,” says Michelle Lebel. “Now they know better.” Guest favorites include “African Hash,” a spicy beef and lentil mixture served on an English muffin and topped with poached eggs, crispy potato shoestrings and creamy bearnaise sauce. The breakfast dish was influenced by a dinner entree the Lebels fell in love with on a trip to Kenya.

Seattle’s Joule restaurant features a different country’s cuisine each month on its brunch buffet — taking guests on a journey to Thailand, Vietnam, the Middle East and Malaysia. “Food is an incredible medium,” says Chef Rachel Yang. “It’s an everyday way to escape and explore different places.”

Focusing on flavor

Many chefs combine flavors from different countries, often looking beyond the origin of the food and focusing on the flavor profile. “We’re putting sriracha on pizza, but it’s not about it being a Thai hot sauce. It’s looking at all these foods as flavors,” Yang says. She uses tamarind paste in Bolognese sauce and seasons burgers with zaatar (a Middle Eastern spice mixture).

Gochujang, a Korean savory, sweet and spicy paste, similar to barbecue sauce, ranked fourth on the list of condiments and is popping up on menus everywhere. Fast-casual Noodles & Company, with 450 locations, highlights the flavor in its “Korean BBQ Meatballs.” Ledo Pizza features the sauce on three dishes including “Korean BBQ Steak Pizza” and “Korean BBQ Cheesesteak” at its 30 locations across Washington, D.C., and its suburbs.

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