Orach could be the new kale: Food predictions for the year

COUNTRY OF THE YEAR: JAPAN.
COUNTRY OF THE YEAR: JAPAN.PHOTO: NYTIMES, ST FILE
CAUSE OF THE YEAR: THE PLANET.
CAUSE OF THE YEAR: THE PLANET.PHOTO: NYTIMES, ST FILE
COLOUR OF THE YEAR: BLUE.
COLOUR OF THE YEAR: BLUE.PHOTO: NYTIMES, ST FILE
GET TOASTED.
GET TOASTED.PHOTO: NYTIMES, ST FILE

NEW YORK • If you are the sort of person who uses the annual avalanche of food and drink predictions as an anthropological window into the state of the American psyche, prepare for a stripped-down, no-nonsense year.

Sobriety will be popular. Porridges such as jook and arroz caldo will be comfort foods.

Saving the planet will have a new urgency, so take your own mug to the coffee shop and learn to embrace the term "plant-based".

Here is a sampling of what could be in store this year.

NYTIMES


TECH RESCUES 

Artificial intelligence will flood restaurants, especially fast-food and quick-service operations, adjusting pricing in real time to accommodate fluctuations in supply and demand.

Delivery apps and in-store menu boards will suggest foods in the same way Netflix recommends movies.

Menu boards will use voice bots and face recognition software to customise and speed ordering.

 


COUNTRY OF THE YEAR: JAPAN 

The recent Instagram uptick in souffle pancakes and fish-shaped ice cream cones called taiyaki is not a coincidence.

With this year's Summer Olympics set for Tokyo and a rise in travel to Japan, the country's influence will extend into the culinary landscape, said Ms Amanda Topper, associate director of food service for global market research company Mintel.

Trend spotters also predict more interest in food from India, with a special emphasis on spicy Keralan dishes built from rice, coconut and fish, as well as foods from west Africa, Vietnam and Laos.


CAUSE OF THE YEAR: THE PLANET 

As farmers grapple with climate change and consumers grow increasingly concerned about the environmental effect of what they eat, restaurants and food producers are doubling down on Earth-friendly ingredients and practices.

Vegan dishes and meat alternatives will show up on more menus, both fine-dining and fast-food.

Regenerative farmers who focus on soil health are the new organic farmers.

Chefs are exploring how to cook cover crops such as peas and buckwheat, which regenerative farmers plant between harvests as a way to improve soil and control weeds.

Look for more edible and biodegradable packaging as well as reusable everything, from cups to cutlery.


COLOUR OF THE YEAR: BLUE 

The hue started catching the eye of taste makers a few years ago, but this year, blue and its moody sibling, indigo, are expected to colour more food.

Ube, a purple yam, is the new "It" root vegetable. Orach, also called mountain spinach, could be the new kale.

Pop culture seems to be driving this one. The Pantone company has declared classic blue its colour of the year and blue food plays an outsize role in novels about Percy Jackson, one of which is the basis for Broadway musical The Lightning Thief.


GET TOASTED 

The latest star imported from Asian tea shops is brick toast, built from thick slices of pain de mie that are scored, buttered, toasted and covered in sweet custard, syrup or ice cream.

Variations of the dish, sometimes called honey toast, abound in different parts of Asia.

In Japan, where it is also called Shibuya toast after the Tokyo district where the style began, a substantial portion of a loaf is hollowed out and filled with squares of toasted bread, ice cream, syrup and fruit. The Taiwanese style is more subdued, topped with condensed milk, custard or cheese.

A second cousin is kaya toast, popular in Singapore, made with a thick slab of salted butter and a jam of coconut and pandan leaves that is usually served with soft-boiled eggs.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 04, 2020, with the headline 'Orach could be the new kale: Food predictions for the year'. Print Edition | Subscribe