Everyday Asian with Melissa’s
Looking back at Asian food in America thirty years ago, the first things that often came to mind were orange chicken, egg rolls and egg foo young. Chinese take-out staples like chow mein, chop suey and sweet-and-sour everything were the answers to late night dining. However, the landscape has long since evolved as different Asian communities continue to integrate into American neighborhoods. Bringing with them all the way from China, Japan, Korean, the Philippines and other Asian countries are their own unique cuisines that are changing the way people eat. Fresh, healthy cooking and vibrant, distinctive flavors are currently dominating the food scene and drawing in ambitious eaters who are always in search of the next big trend.
One only has to look inside the kitchens of popular eateries and homes to see that Asian cuisine is thriving. Staples such as fish sauce and gochujang (a fiery Korean red pepper paste) have made their way into grocery stores and are now easily accessible to the average shopper. Vegetables such as bamboo shoots and gai lan which were once thought of as unusual, are now being used as part of everyday cooking.
For instance, you’re probably seeing a lot more of the taro root these days. This starchy tuber is found in worldwide with over a hundred different varieties and can be used in a multitude of dishes such as our Veggie Umami Bowl. Build-your-own grain bowls are more popular than ever and perhaps even more so than the typical restaurant salad. With so many simple yet creative ways to pack on the proteins and vegetables into one power bowl, people are loving how easy it is to put together a quick, healthy and delicious meal. The crisp, fibrous texture and mild, nutty flavor of taro root pairs beautifully with our baby bok choy, organic sno peas and shiitake mushrooms. Simple umami flavors tie everything together to enhance the ingredients but ultimately allow their freshness to sparkle.
Besides taro root, other Asian root vegetables are also a fast growing trend. As the demand for farm-to-table menus continue to rise, root vegetables have reemerged as a much favored ingredient in restaurants. Items once discarded after usage in stocks and soups, root vegetables have found a resurgence of popularity among chefs for their hearty flavors and sustainability. The best part about root vegetables are their simplicity in preparation; it doesn’t take much to make root vegetables shine. After all, if you’ve ever roasted root vegetables like sweet potatoes or parsnips, you’ve seen just how scrumptious they can be once they caramelize. All you need for these delectable Roasted Asian Root Vegetables are Okinawa Sweet Potatoes, Murasaki Sweet Potatoes and Kabocha Squash. Simply roast in the oven with sea salt and peanut oil and top off with a sprinkle of togarashi chili powder for a hint of spice.
Now it isn’t only Asian produce that’s taking up the culinary world by a storm. Asian condiments and sauces that give dishes their distinct flavor and appeal are now more important than ever in recipes. Miso paste is nothing new in a Japanese household but is the secret ingredient that ties our Miso Dipped Tofu and Eggplant together. This fermented soybean paste is packed with savory umami flavors and gives this Chinese take-out classic a Japanese twist that’s also healthy. In this dish, the miso sauce is for dipping, not slathering, which health conscious eaters who prefer to keep the seasonings light will appreciate. Beyond miso soup, miso paste is one versatile ingredient that has found its place in different marinades, sauces and even salad dressings.
In the world of flavors, spicy is always in. However, it’s not just heat people are craving. The mild pepperiness balanced with a hint of sweetness of Shishito Peppers makes them a hot ticket item in restaurants and food service. Don’t be surprised if you see more of these popular Japanese peppers pop up on menus this year. Chefs love them for their distinct smoky flavors and aromas and simplicity in preparing them. Grilled Shishito Peppers with sea salt and chili oil and serve with a squeeze of lime are an easy appetizer.
Korean and Mexican fusion may have been at the top of the food fads for the past few years but the one to keep an eye on this year is Filipino food. 2016 is the year Filipino food is taking its place in the spotlight with no signs of slowing down. After all, even the most adventurous of eaters can appreciate the warm, aromatic and inviting dining experience the culture has to offer. Taking elements from Chinese, Malaysian and Spanish cuisine, Filipino food offers its own set of one-of-a-kind unique flavors from the sweet to savory and even tangy. A timeless favorite, Pancit is a traditional noodle dish that’s always popular for feeding a crowd. While the typical recipe often calls for frying the noodles in rendered chicken fat, our healthier version omits that in place of tossing them with plenty of vegetables, chicken and shrimp.
A food trend for the health conscious, pickling is a much celebrated food craze that both chefs and home cooks are getting in on. We’ve been doing it the same way for centuries but now is the time to take canning to the next level. Full of healthy benefits, pickled vegetables and even fruits are anything but boring in flavor. Whether you’re a pickling hobbyist or new to the fermentation game, the process is incredibly simple and requires only a few ingredients and of course, your time. Cucumbers and carrots aren’t the only thing people are pickling these days. If you’re feeling bold, give our Pickled Tokyo Turnips a try. Although most turnips need to be cooked, Baby Turnips are actually quite delicious eaten raw and have a sweet, mild flavor. Once pickled with a little sea salt, Meyer Lemon zest and Dried Japone Chiles, they make an excellent appetizer, side dish and snack.
Chefs who may have once shied away from flavors and ingredients found only in Asian pantries, are now taking the essentials of Asian cooking and reinventing them into new, creative takes on authentic, iconic dishes. While the culinary scene is ever-changing, the demand for Asian vegetables, fruits and flavorings continue to flourish and pave the way for more delicious food trends to emerge.