Food trends are fleeting, as anyone with a fondue set gathering dust in their kitchen cabinet can attest to. Yet forecasters continue to bring out their crystal balls and assemble their predictions for what’s going to be big in food each year.
Nevertheless, over the past year, we've seen a wide range of food and drink trends reflecting changing attitudes towards health, community and the environment. It seems 2018 is set to be the year of even more adventurous veggie and vegan cuisine, the rise of hyper-local cooking and exciting advances in food technology.
Continuing their runs from 2017 will be coconut everything, salads made from seaweed, Mexican cuisine, charcuterie, pickles and preserving, craft beers, comfort foods, more uses of ancient grains and street food-inspired dishes.Topping the list of food trends for 2018 is edible flowers, which can add flavour to salads, soups, and beverages with minimal added calories. They can serve as an essential ingredient in a recipe, provide seasoning to a dish, or simply be used as a garnish to brighten up a plate. Eating flowers may sound like a strange new food trend, but the idea has been around for centuries and can be traced back to Roman times, as well as the Chinese, Middle Eastern, and Indian cultures. Ancient Romans ate violets, roses and pot marigolds as part of their diet and edible flowers were especially popular in the Victorian era during Queen Victoria's reign.Many cultures use flowers in their traditional cooking - think of squash blossoms in Italian food and rose petals in Indian food.
The general rule is that the flowers of most vegetables and herbs are safe to eat, but always check first – there are always exceptions, and you don’t want to be the one to find it.Gut-friendly fermented foods are back on the menu with gut-health set to be a big trend this year. It might be time to try probiotics like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and miso which have been around for ages in Asian grocers and continental delicatessens, and prebiotics such as onions, garlic and other alliums. Expect to see them increasingly being used in restaurant kitchens and on the shelves of speciality stores.Non-alcoholic beverages are considered a growth area in the food and drink industry, supported by the fact that health-conscious millennial's are drinking less alcohol. Expect to witness premium soda waters with interesting flavours, non-alcoholic “spirits” and botanical mixes fill a significant gap in the market.Good news for those who love a good cuppa, specialised tea's are set to be even more popular than before. Sales of herbal and green tea, continue to rise for consumption at home, so expect to see a number of tea ‘bars’ pop up here and there as people start to think of tea with the same reverence as coffee for its many varieties.Super powders can be good — or bad.
Some powders, like matcha green tea, are a great antioxidant and can boost metabolism while adding virtually no calories. However, not all super powders are a good choice; it's important to look at the nutrition label for the number of calories, added sugars and chemical fillers. Powders can be filled with GMOs, preservatives, allergens like dairy, soy, and other synthetic toxins like aspartame, saccharin, and artificial flavours.As with other countries, in Australia, there has been a growing trend for locally sourced food – food that is grown or produced within close proximity to where it is bought or consumed. Here in the Hunter Valley, this has been put into practice by most local restaurants and in particular RidgeView Restaurant and Circa 1876 who have applied a sense of “localism” to their ingredients.Manufactured meat or lab-grown meat doesn’t sound very appetising, but there are a growing number of businesses dealing in cultured meat - growing actual meat cells without an animal, and it isexpected to big in 2018 thanks to businesses such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods.And if all this sounds a little too weird – get used to the idea as the world moves closer toward more environmentally sustainable meat alternatives.
Beyond Meat vegan burgers are very meat-like and tech food start-up Impossible Foods are already using it to bring a meaty quality to their plant-based burger made from pea protein which even bleeds a little “plant blood” when you cook them.If you haven’t yet heard of poké (pronounced POH-kay), that’s bound to change soon. Expect to see restaurants serving this Hawaiian raw-food speciality, which many consider to be the next phenomenon in fast casual food. Poké is a mix of raw cubes of seafood (usually ahi tuna or salmon)in a soy sauce-based marinade. It’s often garnished with seaweed, cucumber, avocado, or tobiko, and served over rice or greens. In many ways, poké is a deconstructed, flavourful version of sushi and is considered healthy too. ■