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Food Trends 2017: What's on the Way

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Food Trends 2017: What's on the Way

As an obsessive foodie and avid traveler, I have the opportunity to eat at a wide variety of restaurants around the world. That puts me in a good position to spot emerging food trends. 

One current food trend I hope will go away soon is pine. Every restaurant of a certain creativity level has a dish flavored with pine right now. Yep, that's Christmas tree flavor. We can thank Noma and the Nordic food revolution for this addition to the global food lexicon. A lot of amazing things have come out of the Nordic movement, but pine is not one them. When I ate at Noma, Geranium, Radio and Relæ in Copenhagen in 2014, I had a LOT of pine. (If Rene Redzepi were here now, I'd have a very creative way to thank him for the pine in my food!)

Below are some food trends that I expect to gain popularity in the next few years. Feel free to share your own predictions in the comments section below.


Koji

SingleThread  in Healdsburg, CA - Mt. Lassen trout ibushi-gin with shio koji vinaigrette, trout roe, and myoga

SingleThread in Healdsburg, CA - Mt. Lassen trout ibushi-gin with shio koji vinaigrette, trout roe, and myoga

Koji is the fungus used to make soy sauce, miso and sake, and shio koji is a salted liquid that is used as a marinade and sauce which contains enzymes that help break down proteins which releases free glutamate, the main source of umami. Koji preparations are clearly well known in Japan, but koji has been on the menu at SingleThread in Sonoma, Baroo in Los Angeles, Barley Swine in Austin, The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa, and Restaurant Andre in Singapore.

Barroo  in Los Angeles, CA - Farro and kamut cooked with koji beet creme and dashi with nuts and rose apple pickle.

Barroo in Los Angeles, CA - Farro and kamut cooked with koji beet creme and dashi with nuts and rose apple pickle.


Raw Fish

Gaggan  in Bangkok, Thailand - Raw fish taco

Gaggan in Bangkok, Thailand - Raw fish taco

Raw fish preparations are a part of many cultures, but we are not simply seeing them in expected places like Japan (sushi), Mexico and Peru (ceviche). We are seeing raw fish in Hawaiian poke-like preparations in fast casual restaurants, and a raw lobster preparation at Bianchi in Zurich. There were recently two raw fish dishes on the menu at Gaggan, a high end modernist Indian food restaurant in Bangkok, and just about every chef driven restaurant in the US will have a crudo or ceviche like dish on the menu.


Edible Clay and Dirt

Central  in Lima, Peru - Cushuro (a round colony of bacteria from the Andes that are solid but chewy), cacao, chaco clay.  

Central in Lima, Peru - Cushuro (a round colony of bacteria from the Andes that are solid but chewy), cacao, chaco clay.  

Noma in Copenhagen has served dirt to their guests (on purpose), and for years Michel Bras has garnished his famous gargouillou salad with a bit of dirt. Andean natives in Peru eat the clay that sticks to the potatoes they cook in the earth, and Central and other restaurants in Peru have started serving edible clay. Central actually serves a dessert with edible clay and white chocolate.  As Peru is driving many culinary trends right now, the edible clay trend will continue to grow.

 

 


Non-alcoholic Drinks and Pairings

SingleThread in Healdsburg, CA - Turmeric and grenadine with smoked salt

SingleThread in Healdsburg, CA - Turmeric and grenadine with smoked salt

Many high end restaurants are putting more effort than ever into beverage pairings that do not contain alcohol. SingleThread in Sonoma County offers a revelatory non-alcoholic pairing. Coi in San Francisco offers a tea pairing, and Restaurant Andre in Singapore is fermenting their own juices. The trend is also starting to trickle into more casual chef driven restaurants and will continue to do so.

 

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Gaggan: #1 Restaurant in Asia

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Gaggan: #1 Restaurant in Asia

I had spent the previous 24 hours in bed, and I was not sure I was going to make it to dinner. About 4pm the previous day I got very cold, in Thailand. By American standards, it’s really hot in Bangkok all of the time. ALL OF THE TIME.  But that night I wore a long sleeved shirt and a jacket to dinner and I didn’t take it off all night. I had been really excited about my three nights in Bangkok because I had reservations at Issaya Siamese ClubNahm, and Gaggan, the #21, #5 and #1 ranked restaurants in Asia, respectively, according to Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. 

I had been to Nahm before and had been blown away by the citrus, chilis and funky flavors that meld into beautiful harmonies. Most people don’t think of Thai food as fine dining, but David Thompson can easily change that opinion. Unfortunately, that night the food didn’t sparkle like it did the first time. I could barely eat more than a few bites of each dish, not because the food wasn’t wonderful, but because I felt so full. When I returned to my hotel after dinner, I realized I was sick, and likely had been since the afternoon. I got in bed and stayed there. And throughout that night and day, I worried. Not about being sick and alone in a foreign land, not about all the things I’d eaten on my culinary walking tour that day, and not about anything except whether or not I was going to make it to Gaggan. The time ticked by and I alternated between sleeping and worrying. By 3pm I could sit up and watch TV. By 4pm I was starting to get bored by sleeping, lying down and watching movies. That is always a good sign for me and usually means I’m getting better, so I decided to risk it. I showered and headed downstairs, and was extremely relieved to feel really hot as soon as I exited the hotel lobby. Maybe I was going to make it to Gaggan after all.

The restaurant is down a short alley off the main street. As per usual in Southeast Asia, never judge a destination by the griminess of the path to get there. You never know what you will find, and in this case it’s a bright, welcoming fusion of a colonial building with an ultra modern glass entryway. This is the perfect setting for the melding of traditional and modern food inside. Gaggan is a modern Indian restaurant started by Chef Gaggan Anand in 2010. Chef Gaggan had been frustrated with the status of Indian food in the world, and he set out to change that by cooking fine dining, modernist Indian food. He has succeeded dramatically, winning the top spot on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list for the last two years in a row. 

When I sat down, I found the menu on the table and it was written in emojis, 21 of them. The titles of the dishes are not given until the end of the meal. Until the last savory dish of crab curry, the dishes are one or two bites of beauty and intensity. Surprisingly, this is a great way to eat after 24 hours in bed suffering from what was likely food poisoning. One bite at a time over the course of many hours is the perfect way to recover! And if you are lucky enough to be in Bangkok and have a reservation at the best restaurant in Asia, it’s also the most delicious way to recover. 

I loved the creativity of the entire menu. My two favorite dishes were the yogurt explosion and the chutoro sushi. Spherification has almost become a cliche in creativity driven modernist kitchens, but not at Gaggan. The key is that it tastes amazing. It is tart and sweet, with subtle flavors of cumin. If yogurt was always this good, we would all live to 100. The chutoro sushi was another great example of over-the-top flavor combined with originality and creativity. Good fatty tuna sushi is a gift from the food gods, but every sushi restaurant in the world carries it. No one else has Gaggan's version though. The rice in the sushi is a crisp, dry foam that dissolved on my tongue. My guess is that it is a dehydrated tight foam made from pureed rice. Chef Gaggan has more than proved that Indian food can be luxurious, creative and modern. If you are in Bangkok, I hope you get the chance to experience it.

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