Add ethnic flavours to your menu with condiments

June 02 2015

As increasing numbers of consumers become adventurous with the foods they eat, more and more restaurants are looking to incorporate ethnic flavours on their menus. Of course, this doesn't just mean adding a few Mexican or Chinese dishes to your menu - customers these days are looking for flavour profiles that are even more unusual.

Last year, research from Technomic found that one way to incorporate unique flavours on your menu is to offer them in appetizer form. That's because diners tend to be more willing to try something new with small plate items.

However, another way to add flavour is with condiments - and the beauty of this option is that you can give complete control over them to your customers. They can decide which condiments to add and how much. There are a few ways this can be done. For example:

  • Have a selection of sauces at each table for diners to choose from.
  • Provide a variety of sauces in small bowls with each dish.
  • Offer a choice of condiments on the menu, enabling customers to customise their order.

No matter which way you choose to offer these condiments, the key is to have some delicious options available. As Globe and Mail food writer Bonny Reichert explains, we've moved beyond the 'mustard-ketchup-relish era'. She says there has been an "explosion of sauces, spreads and other condiments to enhance everything and anything you might choose to [serve]."

Here are a few condiments to consider:

  • Sriracha - Spicy food is certainly on trend and if you want to give those taste buds more than a mild tingle, Sriracha is the sauce of the moment. Originating from Thailand, it has a distinctive sweet flavour and goes particularly well with Asian dishes - although fans of the sauce will tell you it pairs with just about anything.
  • Gochujang - Another spicy sauce, this one is from Korea and is gaining pace with Sriracha. "This is the next big hot sauce from Korea and Koreans love to grill," says host of Food Trends TV Dana McCauley. She believes the sauce is going to start popping up on restaurant burgers.
  • Dried pepper marinades - Chef Grant van Gameren from Bar Raval in Toronto says he is experimenting with these marinades from South America. He explains that there are many different varieties, each with unique flavours and heat levels - but they're always made in the same way. "Basically, fry peppers in oil to release the aroma, then pour hot water over them to soften. Puree with garlic, oil, spices and herbs of your choice, then slather on any of your favourite meats or vegetables before grilling," he says, adding that the pasilla pepper is one of his favourites due to it being full of flavour without too much heat.
  • ‚ÄčChimichurri - This is a green sauce from Argentina made from parsley, garlic, olive oil, oregano and white vinegar. It's a great choice for steaks, as is Romesco, a nut and red pepper-based sauce from north-eastern Spain.
  • Pickles and fermented foods - "We've gone way beyond dills," Ms McCauley says. "We're seeing fermented pickles, pickled slaws, fermented condiments like kimchi, Thai-style pickles. You're going to see very little green relish," she explains. Mark Filatow, chef and co-owner of Waterfront Wines in Kelowna agrees. He recommends fermented fennel. "Done just like sauerkraut, it's fantastic with seafood and poultry," he says, adding that cumin-pickled carrots go well with anything that has a strong rub, like Moroccan or Indian-spiced meats.