Marrying Traditions and Trends Through Texture
Studies of organoleptics demonstrate that the way food feels and even sounds when eaten—is just as important as how it tastes.
In creating holistic food concepts that highlight new and upcoming flavor trends, research chefs and product developers increasingly recognize the need to highlight both the textures and flavors consumers are drawn to, prefer and that evoke an emotional response. Triggering an emotional response to food has long been known to create the “craveworthy” foods people gravitate toward.
Incorporated into craveworthiness is the concept of global appeal. This highlights texture, as well as regional market and flavor trends from around the world. To marry global flavors with appealing flavors and textures, it is important for culinary experts and developers to research and share traditional texture trends first and examine how these aspects have shaped the eating culture in a specific region. It helps to map where certain favored textures originated and how they play in to the future of the global food culture.
Once these insights have been gathered, the team can incorporate collected information on eating habits and trends–including the hottest new flavors and combinations. From there, create a concept menu for the regions that highlighted the focused texture and combines all of the trend information gathered, remaining mindful of regional authenticity.
It is important to source traditional ingredients to maintain an accurate representation of cuisines represented. The goal is for the eating experience to be as true as possible to the region it represents.
An example of this approach is found in a recent tasting event that was represented as a “global tour.” For this event, Ingredion created four stations that represented four global regions: North America, South America, Asia-Pacific (including Australia/New Zealand) and Europe. Food concepts were sampled by guests in each station along with a guide who led a tasting coupled with a brief overview of the trends and information used to create the recipes from that region and included open discussion.
The Global Tasting Stations
North American major market trends highlighted in the tasting session included: Millennial Fusion Cuisine; Texture & Flavor Mash-Ups; and Gluten-Free. These overarching themes were used to create the two menu concepts for the region. One concept shown was a gluten-free Korean-style char siu BBQ beef filled chickpea pita topped with cilantro chips and a hominy crumble complemented with a whole fruit margarita granita shooter.
One concept was able to incorporate textural intrigue by combining multiple textures soft, toothsome, hot/cold, icy and crunchy. Many different global flavors were successfully mixed and matched, combining Asian, Mediterranean and Latin American cuisines. The overarching trend was in making the entire combination gluten-free.
Functional native corn starch made it possible to impart and maintain the classic texture of the char siu BBQ sauce through intense UHT processing. The sauce had excellent cling and sheen, plus it maintained the succulence of the braised meat filling.
A measured combination of chickpea flour and functional rice and tapioca starches were employed to create a soft, traditional pocketed, yet resilient textured gluten-free pita bread. This exhibited good bite quality and gave robustness to added toppings and fillings.
No wheat flour or other wheat products were needed. Also shown in the North America station were a Tomato Basil Sorbet, made with basil powder, pignoli cookie crumble and fresh micro-basil.
The South American major market trends highlighted were: Comfort Food; Tradition; Peruvian; and Indigenous Amazonian Ingredients. Causas Limena (Peruvian aji pepper yellow potato cakes) with avocado salsa and crema were shown to highlight traditional Peruvian cuisine. Also sampled was a traditional Brazilian candy called a brigadeiro, a unique creamy, chewy caramel with a nice “melty” texture.
New flavor twists on this traditional candy have become quite popular in gourmet shops in Brazil. Examples include paçoca (ground peanut); caipirinha (lime and cachaça, the distilled sugar cane alcohol beverage); banana caramel.
An authentic representation of escondidinho (a Brazilian version of Shepherd’s pie) with açai sauce also was presented. It hit the mark in combining multiple satisfying flavors and textures in one dish. Cassava and potato was combined with functional native potato starch to create a creamy, smooth texture of the topping that perfectly balanced the moist, chewy, braised texture of the pulled brisket and dried beef filling. This, in turn, was bridged with two sauces.
The first sauce was made from the meat braising liquid which was thickened with a functional native corn starch, then added back to the meat mixture to maintain moisture and succulence. The second was a complement sauce made from frozen açai berries (ethically sourced from the Brazilian Amazon) and pomegranate juice. Açai adds a distinctive earthy fruit note to a meat sauce, and in this instance was brightened by the tarter flavor of the pomegranate.
European major market trends highlighted were: Millennial Fusion; Comfort Food; Tradition; and Artisanal. Two concepts were shown at this station: Leche Frita a traditional sweet “fried milk” dessert from Spain represented one of the more texturally interesting concept at this presentation.
A combination of two specialty modified food starches was used to create a firmly gelled milk pudding that was cut into bite-size squares, coated with panko and par-fried. When re-thermed in the oven, the gelled pudding softens and melts due to the unique thermo-reversible functionality of the starches used.
Both products showcased provided an enhancement to the fluid, creamy, indulgent and deceptively light texture of the warm dessert. The panko breading added a crispy/crunchy texture to create a dual-texture dessert.
The Asia Pacific (including Australia and New Zealand) presentation demonstrated a challenge of representing many diverse cultures and cuisines in three sample concepts. Thailand, China and Australia ended up with the main focus. Asia, as a whole, presented the macro-trends of: Curries; Tradition; Food Safety & Ethical Sourcing; and Globalization of Food Flavors. Australia adds to this list: Indigenous ingredients and Provenance.
Australia, like Brazil, is undergoing a major trend of looking in its backyard to rediscover ingredients that have been overlooked for decades. One interesting ingredient from the Australian Outback is wattle seed. Wattle seeds are the edible seeds of the Australian acacia and traditionally were used as food by the original Australian inhabitants. They were eaten either as the green seed or dried and milled into flour.
The flavor of the wattle seed is unusual, comprising an earthy combination of hazelnut, coffee and chocolate. When used to add flavor and texture to a traditional vanilla ice cream custard base, it elevates the whole, each texture and flavor playing off the other.
To capture the essence of a Thai curry, a vegetarian coconut curry with tofu and avocado and jasmine rice was created. The base was a mild Massaman curry base and thickened with coconut milk plus a functional native corn starch and whole yellow lentil flour. The combination resulted in a smooth, silky, authentic texture and appearance.
For the Traditional component a traditional Chinese Dessert called Tang Yuan was showcased. This consists of glutinous rice balls with black sesame in ginger with Chinese date syrup. A blend of specialty modified potato starches was used to create the sweet black sesame filling. The potato starches in combination imparted a gelled texture to the cooled filling, which was piped into the glutinous rice balls and sealed. The same starch combination also allowed the black sesame filling to become slightly fluid when warmed in the date syrup. This imparted excellent melt-away, with the classic graininess of the sesame in the mouth.
In a modern update to address sugar reduction, a naturally derived rebaudioside A stevia allowed for a 25% replacement of the sucrose in both the filling and the syrup. After removing sucrose from the syrup, a starch co-texturizer was added along with the stevia to build back the syrupy, clingy texture that is a trademark of the intensely sweet dessert.
The overlap and globalization of the foods consumers seek is becoming more evident each year as new flavor forecasts and food products are launched. Global textures are showing the same convergence and how and what people eat is becoming more and more global and “fused” each day. As more ingredients become available to a region, and that culture adopts that food and ingredient as its own, research chefs and product developers are charged with anticipating and even sometimes creating the next step in our global food culture.