In India, financial experts are trying to anticipate the impact of demonetisation in 2017. In the United States, political pundits are trying to predict what the most unpredictable President elect has up his sleeve. In Europe, no one can portend the impact that Italy’s political turmoil might have on the EU or whether the extreme right will rule France in the next few months. Each stomping ground has its own entanglement and burden. And I have my own.
My predicament – what are the food trends going to be like, in the coming year? There have been prophecies and prognosis about what the food world can expect from 2017.
Most have predicted the death of pasta. Ostensibly, in the last five years, pasta sales have dropped 8% in Australia, 13% in Europe and have been slayed by 25% in Italy, its home turf.
As pasta suffers agonal respiration, a new generation of chefs across the world are getting personal, immediate and intimate with their roots. They are exploring the culinary traditions from their ethnic background. Yes, the gastronomic soothsayers decree that ethnic cuisine will make a stronger impression. Nay, they have already started.
Take Peruvian food,for instance. Five years ago, the legendary chef Ferran Adrià foretold that Peru held the key to “the future of gastronomy”, and then chef Alain Ducasse gave his raw, acidic nod to the ‘Ceviche’ – and Peruvian cuisine exploded in London, and in the rest of the modern civilisation.
Similarly, Jewish chefs in New York are bringing food from their mothers’ tables to gourmet plates. These are menus that are steeped in tradition, featuring cured meats, smoked fish, and Matzah meals.
Mediterranean food was always high on the list of connoisseurs, but its first cousin, Middle Eastern food (beyond kebabs, hummus and zatar) is now a rage. Even Caribbean staples, like jerk chicken, Cubanos and vaca frita (crispy beef), lechon (roast pig) and papas rellenas (potato croquettes), are gracing the list of international favourites.
Here’s another divination. Second guessers share a hunch that bowl meals, like the Korean bibimbap and Japanese ramen will overshadow food on a plate.
As food turns casual, where meals are eaten in front of the TV/in your bed/standing at a party, and diners play favourites with Asian food and Moroccan food plates have given way to bowls and coupés. Coupés, of course, are semi-bowl, semi- plate; a shallow bowl, or a deep plate, depending on how you are looking.
From Buddha bowls to smoothie bowls and quinoa bowls to congee bowls - they are all trending. And the art lies in how chefs populate these bowls. A bit of lean protein, alongside healthy vegetables, maybe an element of carbohydrate, all drizzled with dressing or sauce or a curry. It is healthy and well-balanced.
There’s another monomania on the horizon, one that I haven’t fully befriended as yet: plant butchery. Plant butchery is the art of engineering plant protein like soy, peas, chickpeas, etc, to mimic the fibrous, juicy texture and taste of flesh, like chicken, ham, meatballs, minced beef, steak – even seafood. In essence, making plants look and taste exactly like meat, will rage.
But these are all paths, styles, movement, and drifts. What about actual taste? They all say it will be the deadly combination of heat and sweet.
Heat and sweet have always baited each other like sensual, passionate lovers. Coitus of two very opposite flavour profiles, ending into one culinary explosion. We, in India, have mixed heat and sweet forever. At its most basic, this combination comes across when we rub a guava with chilli powder or the sweet and spice of a Gujarati mango chunda. That’s the flavour the world’s waiting to experience in the next year. And honestly, so am I.
Author and TV show host Vijayakar is “always hungry”. He tweets as @kunalvijayakar