Asian food as we know it (“we” being residents of the United States) has a long way to come before it echoes authenticity. But in 2019, we do expect several food trends from China and Japan — two countries that always seem to be looking for the next big thing — to float their way across the sea.
On the list of “things I thought I’d never search,” is “cheese tea near me.” Sure, I read about the craze as it swept through Japan in 2017. But I thought, like so many trends that hit Tokyo, that this one would fizzle before it made the trans-Pacific Journey. I was wrong. Slowly but surely, cheese tea is making its way on the menu of tea shops. What is it? Take a cup of regular tea (most often iced) and top it with a frothy concoction of cream cheese, whipped cream, and sugar. Still skeptical? Coloradans can head to Wonder Tea in Aurora to taste it for themselves.
We’re not going to tell you that Laoganma is the “next Sriracha,” because that’s been said too many times before (and Sriracha has never been replaced in our hearts). But, this crunchy chili sauce from China made a hot debut during New York Fashion week. The condiment, which was invented by the owner of a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant in a mountain village in Guizhou, brought in US$655M in revenue in 2016. We like drizzling the sauce on brothy soups, scrambled eggs, or rice to add roasted chili flavor and lots of crunchy, nutty texture. Obligatory word of caution: this sauce contains peanuts. Look for it at your local Asian market (available at Pacific Ocean Market).
In November of 2018, Business Insider published an article stating that romaine lettuce sales were down more than US$71M, the result of several E. Coli outbreaks which lead to recalls and many grocery stores removing the product from their shelves for weeks at a time. This is why virtually every “Food Trends of 2019” report out there asks, “What will replace romaine?” Many of these articles collectively agree that celtuce will take over. Celtuce is a stemmed lettuce known as Chinese Lettuce. However there is one big factor preventing it from taking over your feed tomorrow — supply. We searched high and low, and while some metro areas with better access to global flavors may already have celtuce on the shelves, it wasn’t available anywhere we looked in the Denver area. (Then again, elusiveness is sometimes just the right special sauce that makes a bizarre food desirable).
Millennials and Gen Z are both known for wanting a taste of something different — their wanderlust applies to more than just travel, and they want to experience distant places with all of their senses without spending big bucks on a plane ticket. Brands like Trader Joe’s have established a process for seeking out flavors around the world before they hit the United States. While they admit on their podcast that sometimes they are too far ahead of trends, their success is hard to argue with. Trends can trickle down (starting with renowned chefs before making their way to home kitchens), trickle up (starting with hole-in-the-wall joints, home cooks, or the likes before being featured in fancy restaurants), or simply move laterally — from one locale to another. So look around …from east to west… for what’s next.
P.S., Trader Joe’s is one of the featured brands in 4 Food Brands that Are Continuously Innovating -- And What We Can Learn From Them.
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Feb 14, 2020