Korean, Japanese and Thai influences are all starting to see an uptick. From Korea, Gochujang and kimchi and now relatively well known and Korean street food fare is commonplace as an appetizer and also in center plate applications—everywhere from food trucks to white tablecloth restaurants. Photo courtesy of: Shutterstock Fashion Iconography / Mizkan
Look to the East for flavorful condiment inspiration.
Asian sauces and condiments are having a moment. As the United States continues to hunker down a year into the pandemic, culinary adventure is something everyone can experience from home. Condiments are a great starting point for consumers to explore a cuisine. Soy, teriyaki and wasabi flavors from Asian cuisine have been a stable in condiments for years, but 2020 took a leap to the next level of flavor.
According to Nielsen, condiments accounted for $4.1 billion in sales in 2020, an increase of 26% over 2019. Interestingly and more specifically, Asian condiments accounted for $770 million of 2020 condiment sales, up 36% over 2019.
Once consumers try stronger ethnic flavors via a condiment, they are willing to move on to more complicated and layered flavors in main dishes. It’s clear that Asian mustards, herb blends, fruit chutneys and highly fermented soy and fish products are starting to make their mark.
Korean, Japanese and Thai influences are all starting to see an uptick. From Korea, Gochujang and kimchi and now relatively well known and Korean street food fare is commonplace as an appetizer and also in center plate applications—everywhere from food trucks to white tablecloth restaurants.
By JULIET GREENE, Contributing Editor
Next level condiments from Korea include Chongkukjang, Doenjang, Ganjang, Gochujang, fermented fish and shellfish condiments. Chongkukjang is fermented soybean paste commonly used in stews to add a nice hit of umami. Doenjang also is a soybean paste that is a by-product of soybean production. It is used interchangeably with gochujang but doesn’t have the spicy profile of gochujang. Ganjang is a derivative of Guk-ganjang – a soy sauce that flavors and darkens soups – but it is processed differently than Guk-ganjang and results in a less salty and somewhat sweet soy sauce.
From Japan, pickled fruits and fruits used with heat are adding interest and variety to main dishes. Some trending condiments from Japan include pickled ginger, Tonkatsu, Japanese Mayo, Furikake, Yuzukoshu and Umeboshi. Tonkatsu sauce is a sweet sauce that is made with a variety of different fruit purees, spices, soy sauce and vinegar. It is tangy and sweet and terrific on tempura pork or chicken cutlets.
Japanese mayo is also known as kewpie mayo and is made with just the egg yolk instead of whole eggs, like American mayo. This Japanese approach leads to a richer flavor and mouth feel. Fuikake is a seaweed and sesame seasoning blend used to top rice dishes and add salty, umami flavors. Yuzukoshu is a fermented citrus chile paste made from yuzu citrus fruit and chiles. It is typically added to dipping sauces or into soups or ramen for an intense sweet heat flavor. Umeboshi is pickled ume fruit (ume is a Japanese plum). It is used similar to a pickle and also is used as a topping on rice.
From Hong Kong, XO sauce is making an appearance in many restaurants right now. XO sauce is a seafood-based sauce of dried chiles, scallops, fish, and shrimp. A little bit of XO goes a long way, and the umami-forward sauce is typically used on top of vegetables, meats, rice and noodles.
Thailand gets in on the action with pickled onion, peanut sauce, red chile paste and green chile paste. And eastern Asian/Indian sauces feature chiles and pickled fruits.
Sandwiches, fries, fried chicken, breakfast egg dishes, Japanese-style pancakes and ice cream can be enhanced with Asian flavors. The flavors are novel to those many Americans grew up eating, so their taste buds are craving the new and exotic. Asia has many different regions with unique culinary twists, and each regions gives consumers a new flavor experience.
Alan Kang, a Chef at the Institute of Culinary Education, also attributes the rise of Asian condiments to their versatility. He states that recipes from even non-Asian restaurants are using the aforementioned flavors in their dishes to pack on the umami.
“Asian condiments pair well with all types of dishes, that’s what makes them so great,” says Kang. “From marinades to sauces, dressings and even to ice creams. I’ve even seen fish sauce caramel.”
The deep umami flavors add the savory, the salty and spicy flavors consumer crave as they try foods from around the world—even if they aren’t traveling the world yet. Consumers are taking familiar comfort dishes like tacos, pizza, burgers and even pasta and giving them a burst of inventiveness with these flavors. The mash-up of a familiar dish with a new flavor is a fun way to experiment.
Virtual travel through bold, healthy and exotic flavors is here to stay. Expect more manufacturers to consider adding Asian elements and flavors to mainstay dishes to give them extra layers of flavor. Where are your taste buds going to take you to next? PF
For more information, visit: https://www.mizkan.com/food-ingredients/
Juliet Greene is a corporate chef for Mizkan America, Inc., a diversified company based in Mt. Prospect, Ill. The company’s food ingredients division processes and supplies vinegars (white distilled and specialty), denatured wines, wine and vinegar reductions, denatured spirits and bitters, and Asian Products.