Chef Thai Dang, Iron Chef alum and owner of HaiSous Vietnamese restaurant in Chicago is the latest trendsetting chef in the American Egg Board’s Incredible Egg Trends (IET) series. Global flavors are on the menu in this issue and Chef Thai leads off with his Bông Cải Trắng Nướng or Roasted Cauliflower, Shallot Jam & Soft Egg creation. Vietnam is just the first stop on the IET tour of global flavors. Other hot flavor spots along with Asia, include Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Think sambal, gochujang, guasacaca, sofrito, agrodolce, dukkah, and more. These are just a taste of the flavors from around the world spicing up menus all over the country.
Global flavors resonate with diners, especially younger ones, who enjoy exploring other cultures through food. “Millennials in particular, but Gen Z as well, have grown up in a foodie culture and like eating authentic, ethnic cuisines,” says Phaedra Ruffalo, senior director, market development, American Egg Board. “This is what’s driving the trial and adoption of global flavors on menus today. Pairing global flavors with eggs is natural because eggs are ubiquitous in food cultures around the world—and not just at breakfast.” According to Datassential, 69% of Millennials want authentic ethnic cuisine over more Americanized versions, while 67% of Gen Z agree1.
A tale of two cultures
Chef Thai was born in Vietnam and watched his mother cook over a lẩu đất, a traditional clay pot cooking vessel. When he was still young his family moved to the States, and they continued cooking with the flavors and recipes of their homeland. Now in his restaurant, HaiSous in the US, he strives to bring a true taste of Vietnam to diners, keeping a connection to traditions by using the clay pot method of cooking in his kitchen. He also uses it to prepare his signature Roasted Cauliflower, Shallot Jam & Soft Egg entrée. Like Vietnamese cuisine, Chef Thai’s dish is textural and flavorful—it incorporates soft, crunchy, salty and sweet. The cauliflower and scallions are grilled over an open fire in the clay pot. These smoky-flavored vegetables tossed with a shallot jam provide a nest for the poached egg, which is topped with fluffy, velvety, coconut crème infused with notes of ginger and lemon grass and finished with grated, cured egg yolk.
As Chef Thai explains, many chefs are inspired by Vietnamese cuisine because it is the most refined of Southeast Asian cooking styles. Kefir lime leaf, fish sauce, chili sauce, pandan—these traditional ingredients in Asian cooking combine to lend a familiar saltiness and umami flavor to dishes yet infuse a hint of the exotic.
“Chef Thai embodies the global trend in his cuisine and menus, using authentic ingredients and cooking methods, yet keeping dishes approachable,” says Ruffalo. “He’s a flavor ambassador, offering an introduction to the complex tastes of his native cuisine in a neighborhood restaurant.”
Chefs across the US are incorporating global flavors into their menus to entice diners. IET dives into the global flavor trend, gathering menu items, using video, slide shows, recipes and more to tell the story. Examples of more than half a dozen globally flavored items on menus around the country are highlighted in a slideshow. And globally-inspired, chef-created recipes are also served up as menu inspiration. These recipes range from Khachapuri to Nigerian Egg Stew with a Whole Fish.
A video of Chef Thai in his Chicago restaurant, a collection of global egg entrée recipes, including his Roasted Cauliflower, Shallot Jam & Soft Egg, a global flavor infographic, and much more can be found at www.aeb.org/incredible-egg-trends/incredible-egg-trend-global