Going Global - Ethnic Sparks Menu Creativity
Mainstream cuisines such as Chinese and Mexican are making way for more intriguing global fare. Newcomers from across the globe will bring with them exotic recipes and ingredients, spurring fresh inspiration for chefs. Looking at the year to come, specialites like Filipino pancit (noodles) and snigang (soup), Pakistani roadside bun kebabs and Iranian gheimeh (stew will flourish in Canada’s diversifying ethnic food landscape.
Technomic 2017 Canadian Trends Forecast
The chefs in the kitchens at PEGASUS HOSPITALITY GROUP’S seven Toronto food operations in three different kitchens are a United Nations of ethnic culinary influences. They are, as corporate executive chef Steffan Howard puts it, “telling a real Canadian story with their cuisine.” He challenges them to be proudly creative with recipe development, cooking for “authentic flavours – not necessarily recipes – to reflect the spirit of authentic ethnicity in our cuisine.”
Many of the dishes and flavours have influences from multiple chefs who have built on the initial recipes by adding their background knowledge to create something even better. They utilize ingredients that are “freshest, nicest and closest” to build flavour profiles authentic to the ethnicity of the dish with a uniquely Canadian twist. “My chef at the Grand Luxe will send me all over Ontario looking for the exact right spice,” Howard says. “He won’t sway: he wants it to be the way his mother did it. This just makes us all better at what we do.”
Across Canada, chefs are melding global influences into regional cuisine, celebrating ethnic influences brought by waves of immigrants across the breadth of our 150-year history as a nation. Forget poutine; this invigorating mélange of flavours from around the world could be the more accurate definition of the essence of today’s Canadian cuisine. “By celebrating ethnic influences, and using the freshest and most local product available, we are creating food that has a level of comfort, is innovative, forward-thinking and worldly,” Howard says. “And it’s a lot of fun.”
EMBRACING ETHNIC CREATIVITY
Philman George, chef/culinary manager for HIGH LINER FOODS, says it’s important to get out and explore the international aisle of your local grocery store, or better yet, visit different ethnic communities and experience their cuisine first hand. “There is a world of imported curry pastes of East India and Thailand and a wide variety of spices, condiments and sauces from almost every region.”
Chef Phil loves finding and working with the wide variety of curry paste from East India. “I have the flexibility of controlling the amount of paste I add to the recipe. To create a tandoori tilapia I simply combine the tandoori paste with yogurt and allow the tilapia to marinate in this mixture. I can further customize it by adding in more ginger, garlic and spice blends like garam masala.”
Mayo and yogurt can be your best friends when it comes to creating simple and approachable ethnic-inspired dipping sauces and drizzles. By simply mixing various sauces, pastes and spices with mayo/yogurt you can create some “cool” (on-trend and literally cool) stuff for customers to dip their French fries in.
Chef’s tip: Perfect a flavourful mayo recipe and use it in sandwiches, burgers and wraps.
SLIM AND TRIM
Working efficiently is key to making profits, Chef Phil says. “I’m a big fan of menus that are trimmed down and scaled back in order to focus on quality and freshness. Say, for example, you’re using our beer battered haddock fillet for your fish and chips. That same haddock can be creatively flipped for an appetizer and sandwich section of the menu.” (See Crispy Mini Haddie Sammie recipe.)
The end result? “Your cooks get really efficient working with haddock and you’re turning over the inventory faster, thereby reducing waste and maximizing profits,” he says.
On Your Radar
New ethnic trends are sparking menu creativity, according to Technomic’s 2017 Canadian Trends Forecast:
Mainstream cuisines such as Chinese and Mexican are making way for more intriguing global fare. Newcomers from across the globe will bring with them exotic recipes and ingredients, spurring fresh inspiration for chefs. Looking at the year to come, specialties like Filipino pancit (noodles) and sinigang (soup), Pakistani roadside bun kebabs and Iranian gheimeh (stew) will flourish in Canada’s diversifying ethnic food landscape.
THE PURSUIT OF AUTHENTIC FLAVOURS
East meets west on the menu at THANDI, a family-owned restaurant in Saint John, New Brunswick. With choices from Indian curries to oriental stir fry, filet mignon to cedar salmon, co-owners Holly and her chef partner Kenny (Bakhtawar) Singh make sure there’s something for every palate.
“When we opened in 2006, it was a gamble, and we weren’t sure how the Indian dishes would go over,” Holly says. “We’ve tripled our sales in the 10 years, and our clientele has become more adventurous, especially the university students. We make every dish to order and so our guests know they can have exactly what they want.”
Kenny is originally from the Punjab village of Thandian, and he and his team of Indian-born chefs are dedicated to the pursuit of authentic flavours. “We love to put a twist on some traditional dishes – like our version of Pad Thai, which uses tamarind sauce. It’s the second biggest seller on our menu.”
Chef’s tip: There’s no replacement for authenticity. Hire experienced chefs who know the cuisine and spices.
Thandi offers two specials every week – one “Canadian” and one “fusion” – to tempt regular patrons with new and exciting choices while keeping the creative juices flowing in the kitchen. “It’s also a great way to reduce food waste,” Holly says. “Kenny is very creative, and he doesn’t waste anything. We buy lamb and use it for vindaloo and then we grind up the rest and make kebabs. Our food costs are really good because we are efficient.”
CRISPY MINI HADDIE SAMMIES
Beer Battered Haddock | Jalapeño Tartar Sauce | Smoked Cheddar Cheese | East Coast Apple Slaw | Mini Brioche Butter Toasted Buns
EAST COAST APPLE SLAW
- 3 cups east coast apples matchstick cut
- 1 cup carrots matchstick cut
- 2 cups black kale julienne
- 1 cup red cabbage shredded
- ½ cup poppy seed dressing
- 1½ tbsp chipotle hot sauce
Combine all of the above ingredients and refrigerate. Slaw should be made daily
JALAPENO TARTAR SAUCE
- 1 cup mayo
- 1 jalapeño seeded and finely diced
- 2 tbsp san marcus verte sauce (Mexican sauce)
- 1 tbsp sweet relish puréed jalapeños (desired heat level)
Combine above ingredients and refrigerate