Traditional food over the years has advanced into a social and cultural marker which is tangled too much figurative meaning in our society. The multiplicity of recipes, diversity of ingredients and processes by which cuisines are made is unique in its breadth and diversity. The design and invention of these ethnic recipes tailored for contemporary Indian dining is also emerging in its popularity not just globally but also has its vast reach on the Indian shores.

Having said that, it is needless to note that with the far-reaching era of modernisation that brushed the Indian restaurant domain, the penchant for these ethnic locally sourced ingredients took a backseat. These once-upon-a-time preferred traditional favourites got replaced by contemporary food elements that dominated the restaurant kitchens for quite some time.

The on-going global pandemic that has hardly left anyone untouched by its transmissibility has made consumers all the more conscious towards upholding their wellbeing and taking charge of their health. This demand calls for an urgent need to archive age-old ingredients and recipes that are known to drive our vast culinary heritage.

Ethnic food in the post-pandemic phase has proliferated enormously and is all set to become a serious business that has made deep inroads into the country’s metropolitan food culture. It has become a marker of the width of one’s multi-ethnic experience. Ethnic food composed of locally sourced ingredients like turmeric, ashwagandha, tulsi and ginger has managed to occupy a more important place as compared to the Western-infused menus of the pre-pandemic world.

Ethnic is the new healthy: The health halo surrounded with local spices that are rich in flavours is spurring the restaurant sphere to experiment with healthful earthy and natural flavours, thus moving towards a more plant-based fare. Today the modern-day consumers have been on a look-out for new and enhanced kinds of ethnic gastronomy available in the urban culture.

In light of the pandemic, consumers have gradually started to seek out edibles and beverages that encompass not only physical health benefits but also mental and spiritual advantages. This mindfulness is accountable for the profusion of adaptogenic ingredients like haldi, ashwagandha, cumin, nachni, holy basils, reishi and tulsi to make their way into the new food and drink introductions.

Ayurveda-inspired botanicals flavours such as ginseng and turmeric are marking their presence in many food and beverage categories, ranging from kombucha to yogurt and even chocolates. Raw Hot Chocolate with reishi mushroom, ashwagandha, cacao, coconut milk and cinnamon will be preferred over-sweetened smoothies and shakes. Be ready to hear more about Goji berries which may be a niche flavour today but will get popular in the upcoming years.

The magic ingredient turmeric is now growing on restaurant menus in a host of products and recipes like turmeric golden latte, curcumin-infused yellow pasta to more savoury roasted carrots with turmeric and cumin.

Rising demand for particular spice and flavour blends: The quest for spiciness and authenticity is paving way for more locally-specific seasonings that add layers of flavour to the countries’ traditional flares. The yearning to navigate the old-style taste territories has been stirring inventive seasoning blends that fuse and match lesser-known ingredients.

Consumers today demand superfoods with natural and clean label ingredients having probiotic and gut benefits. Since most consumers are not dining away from homes, they are longing those bold enhancers and spices indicative of restaurant-quality food. A particular advantage of herbs and spices like turmeric and cumin has been their knack of adding flavours with its health-enhancing properties.

The usage of adaptogenic mushrooms brings about a blend of healthful flavours. For instance, the usage of the earthy flavours in a range of savoury applications from meatballs to pizza crusts and even savoury oatmeal enhances the health quotient of these edibles. The use of these healthy mushrooms in ice cream, beverages, and cookies lends these delectable a flavoursome herbal touch.

Indian ingredients have been showing good potential for the seasoning market. These cuisines tend to feature elements like sour, fermented, and spicy flavours and are characteristically perceived as healthy by consumers, who have grown progressively health- conscious. Dishes and beverages like green curry, kimchi, Kashayam, Kada, Kahwa and curcumin tea have replaced the dominance of processed foods and frozen snacks.

Additionally, spices must be paired with complementary flavours to balance the palate or augment the functionality and bioavailability of the ingredient. For example, turmeric is sometimes combined with black pepper to increase its bioavailability. Maca, a cruciferous plant having a marginally nutty flavour is paired well in chocolate applications by blending the herb with other ingredients like coconut milk, cocoa powder, pink salt and vanilla to name a few. This lends the drink a plant-powdered balance.

Upcoming trends and popular culture with regards to changing lifestyle

Growth of functional ingredients: The growing trend of consuming functional ingredients like prebiotics and probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids, dietary fibres, minerals and vitamins are likely to sustain all through the forecast period, thereby supporting the market growth. The functional food market remains in a particularly sturdy position taking into consideration the robust research and development investments already sunk into food and nutrition sciences. Tighter food regulations owing to the fact that the Covid-19 arose from the animal food market; the advance of new bioactive substances and altered food ingredients and the mounting wave of consumer self-care, further augur the market’s development in the upcoming quarters.

Organic food revolution wave: The demand to seek for natural and organically produced bioactive ingredients in foods and beverages is on a rise. Plant-based sources for nutrient extraction will receive an enlarged interest in the near-term. Functional waters encompassing plant-based waters like coconut, birch and maple is an emerging trend.

In current times there exists more curiosity about the various kinds of diets and more consciousness about locally sourced ingredients and organically grown local produce. It’s not unusual to witness more menus telling you exactly what goes into every dish, down to even where materials were sourced from. When the end-consumer gets mindful, it is great for the ambit of restaurants because it motivates everyone to perform better.

(The author is executive chef of SJI Hospitality and Foods Private Limited)

Source: FNB News – Ethnic cuisine, demand for particular spice & flavour blends; upcoming trends | FNB News