At-home and restaurant chefs alike are employing age-old methods of food preparation techniques to create globally influenced marinades and cuisines.

Marinades, brines and spices are important companions for pork, beef and poultry. “Marinades can improve the overall characteristics/texture for pork, beef and poultry, and ultimately create better taste experiences for the consumer,” says Natalie Tremellen, market analyst, Innova Market Insights in Australia. “It is anticipated that flavors will become more complex in nature going forward, due to evolving ethnic flavor trends.”

The fermentation/pickling of produce has been a huge trend this year, for example, and fermented ingredients seem to be branching into other dishes, as well. Fermented ingredients such as Japanese miso (fermented soybean paste) are gaining traction because of the intense flavor such ingredients can provide to dishes, says Tremellen.

Moreover, Chicago-based Mintel’s Foodservice Trends 2017 report pointed out 23 percent of Millennials want to see more pickled ingredients on the menu, compared with 14 percent of all U.S. consumers.

“We are also seeing the fusion of many condiments, to provide interesting takes on finishing sauces, with the result being stronger flavors — everyone is talking about umami taste experiences,” Tremellen says.

The next Sriracha

Globally, many chefs are charring/burning and smoking meat and vegetables to impart more flavor, says Tremellen.

“Smoke cannot only impart flavor and aroma, but also adds an overall aesthetic appeal,” according to Mintel’s Foodservice Trends 2017 report. “Smoked as an ingredient preparation is trending up. These flavors can be incorporated into spreads, desserts, beverages and traditional formats, including meats, marinades and sauces.”

“This primal cooking method [smoking] used in many African countries has resulted in the emergence of African spices such as berbere,” says Tremellen. “Middle Eastern spices such as turmeric, Baharat and sumac are also gaining momentum due to their flavor, as well as vibrant color.”

Harissa, from Africa, is being called the next Sriracha. “The spicy red pepper paste is widely used as a condiment or flavoring in North African tagines made with lamb or chicken,” says Patricia Cobe, senior editor at Menu for Technomic Inc., based in Chicago.

South African peppadew peppers are also growing in popularity, she says.

“They have grown 33.3 percent in menu mentions, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor,” Cobe says. “Their flavor is characterized by a sweet, slightly spicy kick, and operators are infusing them into dressings, condiments and marinades.”

According to Mintel’s Foodservice Trends 2017 report, other important components of African cuisine, piri piri and teff, are becoming popular, as well.

New Asian influences

“Due to the cooking-over-fire trend, in which a lot of Japanese and Korean cuisine is based on, Japanese and Korean inspired flavors are currently popular,” Tremellen says. “Vietnamese flavoring is emerging as an alternative Asian proposition.”

The sweet-sour pulp or juice extracted from tamarind pods is an essential ingredient in Malaysian, Vietnamese and Thai dishes, says Cobe, and it works well in marinades for chicken, beef or pork.

“The cuisine of the Philippines combines Latin and Asian elements — two of the cuisine types that have dominated menus over the last few years,” Cobe says. “Filipino influences are showing up on mainstream menus now.”

Adobo — a Filipino marinade made with soy sauce, vinegar and garlic — is one of the cuisine’s signature components.

“Adobo is also used as braising liquid for the popular Filipino pork or chicken dish [also] called adobo,” Cobe says.

The Cuban-influenced sauce, mojo sauce, has grown 100 percent in menu mentions, as well, according to MenuMonitor, Cobe says.

“The acidic, herbal mixture makes the perfect marinade,” she says. “The authentic Cuban version combines sour orange juice for tartness, oil, garlic, oregano and cumin, but lime juice or vinegar can also be used as a base.”

Honey vs. vinegar

Regional barbecue flavors, such as Texan barbecue, are also trending, says Tremellen.

“Spices such as smoked paprika, piri piri and chipotle chili are popular ingredients for flavor, along with honey and maple syrup for some sweet stickiness,” Tremellen says.

Honey is increasingly being paired with chicken, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate Poultry Consumer Trend Report, says Cobe.

“Honey is up 35 percent on chicken dishes, with concepts such as Shake Shack and PDQ both debuting honey chicken sandwiches recently,” she says.

The Center of the Plate report also pointed out that consumer preference is increasing for lemon, chipotle, black pepper and bourbon flavors in chicken.

With pork and beef, consumers are most interested in dry rubs rather than liquid marinades and sauces to enhance the natural flavors of the meats, according to Technomic’s Center of the Plate Beef and Pork Consumer Trend Report, Cobe says.

At the grocery store, meat and poultry products are promoting their smoked, slow-cooked and pulled claims to convey their greater depth of flavor, Tremellen says.

It matters. Seventy-eight percent of consumers say preparation methods do make a difference with product flavor, particularly for chicken (78 percent compared with 62 percent for turkey, 67 percent for beef and 59 percent for pork), according to the Center of the Plate report.

And grilled and roasted remain the top two most popular preparation methods, according to Mintel’s report.

So, the trend toward authentic spicy Asian, Latin and African cuisine should only continue to influence the marinades, brines and spices consumers use in their home kitchens and restaurant dishes.  NP

Tracing spices back

Few spices can be traced all the way back to their farmer. And that level of transparency is becoming more important as consumers want to ensure their spices haven’t been contaminated with nuts or other allergens and gluten today.

“Periodically in recent years, residues of various allergens and/or gluten have been discovered in various spices,” say Stephen L. Taylor, Ph.D., and Joseph L. Baumert, Ph.D., co-directors at the Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Neb. “Except for one incident of peanut in cumin that may have involved the deliberate addition of peanut, the levels of allergen/gluten residues in spices have been comparatively low [less than 25 parts per million] in many instances.”

When low levels of allergen/gluten residues are found in spices, the root cause is generally thought to be agricultural commingling, they said. 

“Given that spices are sourced in remote parts of the world from small farmers who may also grow other crops such as peanuts or wheat, the complete elimination of residues resulting from agricultural commingling seems nearly impossible,” say Taylor and Baumert.

With the low levels of cumin incorporation into consumer food products, no risk exists to peanut-allergic consumers eating food products with cumin that contains such low levels of peanuts, they say.

Also, the risk posed to peanut-allergic consumers by peanuts in garlic is non-existent in many situations where the residual peanut level is low and the percentage of garlic in the dish is also low.

“With peanut, neither the FDA nor USDA FSIS have a recognized threshold for residues in ingredients or foods,” say Taylor and Baumert. “Thus, some regulatory risk may exist from the knowing use of cumin or garlic having detectable peanut residues; however, with the low levels of incorporation of cumin and/or garlic into food products, the level of peanut occurring in consumer-ready foods as a result of the use of such ingredients would not likely be undetectable.”

The only available option manufacturers have today to prevent contamination is analyzing spices for residues of peanut and gluten, say Taylor and Baumert. 

“Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays or ELISAs are well suited for such testing,” they say. “Some spice suppliers may be more consistently able than others to supply spices without detectable peanut or gluten.”

Another approach would be to test finished foods with cumin rather than spice ingredients for peanut residues.

“With garlic, the lack of knowledge of the root cause and the occasional finding of higher levels of peanut in garlic suggest the need for increased analytical vigilance and a focus toward identifying suppliers who can consistently supply garlic with no detectable peanut,” say Taylor and Baumert.

The continued distribution of new burlap bags to cumin farmers may be a key to prevention of peanut contamination on a larger scale. “All suppliers are susceptible to peanut in cumin, but many suppliers are being quite vigilant,” say Taylor and Baumert. 

Cumin itself is imported as a powder or a whole seed, so the risk of peanut contamination may be lower with whole-seed imports because it’s easier to screen out peanuts, say Taylor and Baumert.

Because the root cause is unknown for peanut contamination in garlic, the reasons for the variability are unknown and may be supplier dependent. “But some spice suppliers seem to have been able to control peanut contamination and be able to regularly supply garlic without peanut residues,” say Taylor and Baumert. “The origin of peanut in garlic is definitely China, but the amount of garlic available from other parts of the world is limited.” 

Detectable residues of gluten have been found on a sporadic basis in spices, they say. “The levels have also been rather low suggesting that these spices might still be useful in the formulation of gluten-free products that have less than 20 ppm gluten,” say Taylor and Baumert.

Many manufacturers of gluten-free foods have chosen to test all of their ingredients for gluten residues.  This practice has led to several discoveries of undeclared gluten in various spices, although typically the residual levels of gluten in the spices has been low (less than 25 ppm), say Taylor and Baumert. 

“The root cause for the presence of gluten in spices is unknown,” they say. “The possibility exists that the presence of gluten residues occurs as a result of agricultural commingling.”