Predictions are just that, a bit of crystal ball-gazing into the future. But we have some insight here on tips to get you through 2019.
Trends are still moving more towards plant-based menus – with vegetable as hero and/or smaller portions of meat, but of better quality. (Alibaba at Ovolo, Woolloomooloo, Sydney will soon open a plant-based Vietnamese eatery Mettā Sol on Goodwood Rd Adelaide).
Other alternative sources of protein will also continue to be on the rise, such as tofu in both silken and firm forms. While they will not replace beef, mushrooms are also on the rise because of their individual umami flavour, as well as the fact that they are being used to bulk out newly popular dishes such as blended beef burgers.
As the drought bites harder and beef, pork and lamb prices rise, expect chicken and farmed fish to become more of a focus also. Alternatively, Chefs will continue to look to the slow-cooking of secondary cuts again to get the best out of expensive meats - think pork and lamb ribs, beef brisket or pork scotch fillet.
While it has been on trend for a while, there is an increasingly creative use of fermented foods, pickled vegetables and puffed seeds to add both texture and flavour to dishes. Think of salmon and dill served with soy and linseed crisps or a poké bowl with tuna, puffed brown rice and fermented garlic.
A new fermented ingredient to look out for is fermented fish paste. Common in Thai, Burmese and other regional Asian cuisines, you will see local Chefs start to experiment with its funkiness. The fermented drink kombucha, is also making its presence felt in restaurants, as part of a wider trend towards foods that are good for gut health, promoted by the likes of The Fermentary in Fitzroy.
While it is more commonly associated with breakfast, house-made yoghurt is also starting to be seen in mains such as the king crab omelet and charcoal chicken with sesame yogurt at Cho Cho San, Sydney.
Kingdom of Rice, Merivale’s new pop-up at the Tennyson Hotel, in Sydney’s Mascot, is serving up Cambodian-style street food in the driveway eatery for a six-month stint. It’s part of a move towards showcasing lesser known cuisines and specific regional specialities to test the waters.
Chefs Mitch Orr, Cam Fairbairn and Lillia McCabe have drawn inspiration from good friend and front-of-house manager Sophia Thach to create a menu, influenced by Thach’s Khmer heritage. “We have always been fascinated by Southeast Asia and Sophia has cooked so many incredible dishes over the years that really introduced us to Khmer cuisine,” says Orr. “The ingredients used ignite all the senses, not just taste.”
The menu is made up of five categories of shared-style dining; snacks, skewers, grill, wok, noodles and rice. Guests can start off with prahok k’tis (crudities with prahok k’tis, a dip made with fermented fish paste, pork belly and kreung, a lemongrass paste), svay kchey (green mango, chilli and salt) and trey neet alek (dried fish and watermelon), followed by a selection of skewers served with chlouh (pickled green papaya salad) on a baguette.
The Turkish “kebop” is nothing like the 2am kebab we know and love. Some Chefs have been looking at developing concepts for fast casual kebop restaurants, which are effectively skewers and/or sliced meats with a range of house-made condiments and pickled vegetables on a platter, served on flatbread.
When it comes to dips, while we have seen some of this trend already, bar patrons will be plunging skewers into a variety of spicy multicultural condiments such as sriracha, sambal and gochujang – all fermented pastes – or the fresher, punchier, South American chimichurri with its dominant flavours of garlic and parsley or zhug – a Yemeni hot sauce with coriander and parsley.
District 8 is 2000 sqm of South East Asian food options and “Chef’s stations” at Cabra-Vale Diggers in South Western Sydney. Diners experience a culinary journey down the Mekong River which flows through Vietnam, Thailand, China, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar.
In Melbourne, an influx of refugees and migrants means there is no shortage of regional African offerings, with an array of restaurants featuring Somalian, Ethiopian and South African specialities, often focusing on vegetables.
If you think Asian desserts are all red bean paste and doughy buns, think again as South East Asian, Filipino and Asia-Pacific regional dishes start to be seen, using ingredients such as the calamansi, a cross between a cumquat and a mandarin. Indonesian chef Freddie Salim has a mango and calamansi sorbet with fresh mango, shiso leaf and macadamia praline at Canterbury Hurlstone Park RSL.