THE NEXT ETHNIC FOOD TRENDS
By: Linda Kissam
Two recipes included
Globally-inspired dishes have been compelling adventurous foodies to try new and exciting tastes for years. According to acclaimed restaurateurs Raj and Bina Sharma (Bombay Mahal) consumers today can’t get enough of all types of ethnic cuisines.
Raj and Bina Sharma are behind one of Maine’s original and best-loved ethnic food restaurants, Bombay Mahal. About their success, the Sharma’s say, “Brunswick & Maine’s citizens have responded extremely positively to Indian cuisine as the market for ethnic fare.” Their cuisine has continued to expand since they first arrived in the states 30 years ago for some solid reasons.
“Back then, there wasn’t much diversity in Maine’s food & dining scene. We were one of the very few restaurateurs running businesses in Maine from abroad” said the Sharma’s. These days, Bombay Mahal is now recognized as a staple in the area, winning coveted awards such as an “Americas Best Business Award”, “Best Indian & International Restaurant in Maine”, and “Four Stars” by the Portland Press Herald.
Bombay Mahal shares their 5 predictions of what the next ethnic food trends will be: West African, Levantine, Arepas, Sichuan mala sauce and Ube.
Here are my thoughts about each.
- West African food – The flavors of West Africa are a natural for foodies because of the bold ingredients like chilies and ginger that create vibrant bases for its dishes. The West African cuisine comprises food from 16 African regions.The diet predominantly consists of ancient grains like fonio, teff, millet, cassava, sorghum, and ingredients like kola nuts, ginger, yam, plantain, ginger, moringa, black-eyed beans, okra, peanuts, as well as scotch bonnet chilies among others. Dishes you should try include Peanut Butter Soup Recipe; Okra Stew with Prawns andLobster Tails; Koose (Spicy Bean Cakes from Ghana).The region’s vibrant and healthy ingredients and tastes rival that of South-East Asia. West African cuisine is spicy, wholesome and ideal for one-pot dishes that perfectly resonates with the current demand in the food industry.Egusi soup from Nigeria, Thieboudienne from Senegal, Waakye from Ghana and Yassa from Senegal are examples of dishes you will love.. Keep a look an eye out for West African food – it’s likely to become a large part of the culinary conversation very soon.
- Levantine cuisine – Levant, which refers collectively to eastern Mediterranean countries like Lebanon, Cyprus, Jordan, Israel, Syria and Egypt, is on the horizon to become the next big thing. Not only is it one of the healthiest and freshest cuisines on the planet, it’s also one of the most delicious.It is particularly suited for contemporary consumers who want more plant-based options but don’t want to sacrifice flavor.Chickpeas, tahini, feta, halloumi, aubergine, peppers, zucchini, olives, pomegranates, mint, lemon and yoghurt – all these are among the Levant’s staple ingredients.You may have already tasted Levantine favorites such as hummus, baba ganoush, and tabbouleh.Dishes such as freshly grilled whitebait and squid paired with yogurt dips flavored with spicy harissa paste or a simple coupling of mint and cucumber, part of the journey into specialized tastes. Baked, battered, roasted or grilled, the likes of seabream and branzino (sea bass) are delicious Levantine fish staples, while octopus, prawns and mussels make taste buds swoon.A range of chicken dishes – whole, cubed, skewered, grilled, roasted – are amplified by spicy marinades, from the paprika and lemon-infused taouk to the more complex seasoning for merguez chicken (paprika, cumin, fennel, coriander, cayenne, cinnamon and pepper).
- Arepas – A staple dish of South American cuisine, Arepas dates back to pre-Columbian times. It is basically a stuffed white corn cake made of ground kernels of maize, or—more frequently nowadays—maize meal or maize flour that can be grilled, baked, fried, boiled or steamed. The characteristics vary by color, flavor, size, and the food with which it may be stuffed, depending on the region but I love the ones stuffed with black beans, beef, plantains, and salty cheese.They’re set to be the next big food trend because of how tasty and dynamic they are, not to mention their affordable (cheap) price point. This is definitely another one to be on the lookout for.
- Sichuan mala sauce – Mala is a fiery sauce hailing from China’s southwestern region of Sichuan. It gives a tingly feeling in your mouth due to the Szechuan Peppers. Szechuan peppercorns, crushed red pepper flakes, and toasted sesame seeds are the three main ingredients in this aromatic,spicy hot sauce. You can buy this sauce under a variety of brand names or make it yourself. The Szechuan pepper is a bit hard to get so you might need to look for an Asian store or a serious spice shope. I bought mine at Market Spice in Pike’s Place, Seattle. You can store mala sauce in a jar in your pantry for up to three months! Enjoy this special hot sauce with dishes like Cucumber Salad with Sesame Dressing.
- Ube – The ube is a purple yam originally from the Philippines. It’s a bright purple sweet potato, with a significant nutritional
profile. High in vitamins, healthy carbs, and surprisingly delicious, it’s in some supermarkets now and I think we can assume it will soon be hitting many more stores in a big way as the year progresses. You can also order online at Melissa’s Melissa’s/World Variety Produce
Purple yams can be used to create stunning desserts and dinners. Shop for the purple yam in its various forms (like extract and spread) at most Filipino specialty grocers, regular supermarkets and at Melissa’s.
Whether you blend it with sweetener to make purple cookie icing or mix it in with practically any kind of batter, the internet’s brimming with creative and enticing ways to cook with ube like the Oatmeal Coconut Ube Cookie.
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If you’re stuck at home and feeling uninspired (like most of us!), why not focus your energy on something positive and use lockdown to expand your culinary skills? Not like your usual smoothie, this refreshing drink is from Maine’s longest-running Indian restaurant and is well-known for having healing and calming properties.
The award-winning Bombay Mahal (featured in USA Today) is Maine’s longest running and most celebrated Indian restaurant. Here, restauranteurs Raj & Bina Sharma, who relocated from living in Germany & the United Kingdom to Portland, Maine 30 years ago, share their twist on a traditional lassi: Turmeric and Blueberry Lassi
Ingredients for Turmeric and Blueberry Lassi (four servings):
- 4 cups plain organic yogurt
- 1/2 pound of fresh Maine blueberries
- 1/2 cup of sugar to taste
- 1/4 cup of cold water
- Half teaspoon of turmeric
- Ground pistachios to garnish
- Rose Water to garnish
- Mint leaf to garnish
- Blend four cups of yogurt, blueberries, sugar, & turmeric until you come to a smoothie like consistency with a sky blue colour
- Blend in up to 1/4 cup of cold water or as needed to create a smooth lassi style pour
- Pour out mixture into four chilled serving glasses over ice (optional)
- Garnish with a sprinkle of rose water, ground pistachios, fresh mint leaf, and a few whole blueberries.
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THE OWNERS OF MAINE’S LONGEST-RUNNING INDIAN RESTAURANT SHARE THEIR LEGENDARY ‘BEER NAAN’ RECIPE
Naan is arguably the most famous Indian flatbread around the world. The origins of the word trace back to Iran & Afghanistan, but these days naan is a staple in Indian food.
Unlike your typical Indian naan however, the east-meets-west themed ‘Beer Naan’ is a longtime family favorite of acclaimed restauranteurs Raj & Bina Sharma, founders of Maine’s longest-running Indian restaurant Bombay Mahal.
Learn how to make this icon of Maine in your very own kitchen with Bombay Mahal’s special recipe:
Ingredients (3 pieces):
- 16 oz all purpose flour
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- 4 oz vegetable oil
- 8 oz of Taj Mahal Indian beer or your favorite brew
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon of sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of yeast
1) Mix all dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl
2) After all dry ingredients are mixed, add in Taj Mahal beer & oil while kneading everything together with your hands until dough becomes soft and is not sticky
3) Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and leave to rise for one hour in a room temperate place
4) Remove the dough from your bowl and further knead with your hands
5) Create three equal sized balls of dough and leave for another 10 minutes before rolling out with a rolling pin
6) Bring a medium sized pan to medium heat ensuring pan is hot and with a pinch of water spread on one side of your naan
7) Slap the dough onto the pan for 30 seconds before flipping over to the other side
8) Spread a layer of butter across the surface if you desire before serving with your favorite Indian dish