Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Latin American Trend

Cinco De Mayo is almost here. What better time to talk about trends in Hispanic cooking....or at least trends in the types of Hispanic foods average America is eating. In the 1990's fast casual Mexican restaurants were extremely popular. No matter what the name of the particular restaurant was over the door, you knew before you even looked at the menu generally what was going to be offered to you - various combinations of similarly seasoned beans, meat, cheese and rice with tortillas or chips. Today those types of Mexican restaurants continue to be ubiquitous through out America, however the true emerging trend is Hispanic-influenced foods. According to Datassential's Food Bytes e-Gazette, 44% of restaurants now offer what they call a "Mexican-Inspired entree" (think of menu items like a tequila lime salsa burgers or a prime rib sandwich with a zesty jalapeno mesquite spread).

Following behind the Mexican-Inspired trend is a new trend towards Latin American foods which would include dishes from Mexico but also foods from the many other Latin American countries located in North, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. New menu items being seen are things like Cuban sandwiches; chimichurri sauces* (popular in Argentina) and ceviche (a popular dish in Peru). In fact a Datassential survey showed that 22% of Americans were very interested in Brazilian foods, which makes it only slightly less popular than Thai.

So as you are thinking about recipes to add to your library it is definitely time to add a few dishes with a Hispanic twist. These could be things like Chipotle Chicken Alfredo or Spicy Lasagna made with habonaras. And if your target consumer is a little more progressive you can start adding in some more exotic Latin American dishes like Brazilian Rice Pudding or a flavorful Puerto Rican Stew. Fruit flavors like coconut, mango and pineapples are also a part of this trend so things like Coconut Infused Rice or a Pineapple Mango Salsa Grilled Chicken are more great menu options. May is a great time to debut your new Latin American-inspired dishes! So grab a margarita if you need the inspiration (or mojitos if you prefer), put on your salsa shoes and say ole! You won't want to miss this deliciously sassy trend!

*Chimichurri sauce is a thick herb sauce or condiment popular in Argentina. It is made from olive oil, vinegar, and finely chopped parsley, oregeno, garlic and onion and then seasoned with salt, cayenne and black pepper.
*Ceviche (also spelled seviche) is fish that has been "cooked" with lime juice. Often ingredients like tomatoes, onion and green peppers are added to the marinade.

No comments: