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Food trend-spotting in 2021

By SCOTT GARCEAU, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 28, 2021 5:00 am

If 2020 was all about home-baking and home delivery, then 2021 looks to be about expanding our menu of options at home.

According to San Miguel Foods Culinary Center (SMFCC) Culinary Services manager Llena Arcenas, there are at least five new food trends that have been percolating for years, but are now set to take center stage. All of which she explained in a Zoom session titled “Food Forward: A Peek Into 2021 Food Trends” last week.

Chefs Randy Oliva and Viboy Miranda showed how San Miguel Foods products can be used to work up these trends from scratch in your own kitchens. Here are the five trends:

1) Plant-based diet

Health was a big concern in 2020, and it’s not surprising that a year of plantitas and plantitos would bring us added emphasis on plant-based diets. Expect plant protein alternatives to eggs and meat such as soy, mushrooms, chickpeas, and tofu. Sweet and savory fruit and vegetable jerkies will steer us away from craving beef. A good plant-based diet could also include a blue pea and sugar beet bread made with whole wheat flour infused with blue pea flowers and sugar beet puree.

2) Upcycling

With sustainability a louder mantra each year, food companies are incorporating ways to extend the use of, say, chicken innards and necks in other products, or turning spent coffee grounds into coffee flour for energy bars and plant-based pasta for added antioxidant benefits. Water from canned chickpeas (aquafaba) is converted into vegan mayonnaise; spent alcohol grains can be used to make savory spreads and snack puffs, while coffee grounds become fertilizer for mushrooms or infused into scented candles.

Upcycling can also mean creating mocha oat clusters using aquafaba as a binder and minced meat empanada using repurposed saba banana peels, mushrooms, and Magnolia Chicken Station Innards.

3) Ready to eat

Gone are the TV dinners of decades ago. Last year unleashed a flood of new, easier food options — vacuum-packed boil-in bags, for instance — to make the home delivery pivot work better. As “food fatigue” sets in from all the home cooking of 2020, technology is bringing more taste to the table, with less preparation time.

 Example of a sumptuous ready-to-eat meal is this Piri Piri style chicken with sautéed mushrooms spinach pasta packed in a boil-in bag for easy preparation.

4) Global and ethnic flavors

Travel may be out, but exotic spices are in for 2021. Flavors from the Middle East, North Africa, India, and other ethnic touches make a stronger appearance this year (though arguably harder to source in Manila). Indian spice blend Garam Masala and North African spices dukkah, za’atar, sumac and baharat were highlighted, as well as ethnic breakfast dishes and breads. Look for Filipino barbeque, Japanese Izakaya eats, Indian Kashmiri and Modern Mediterranean flavors. 

Bread such as Manakish, a Middle Eastern breakfast flatbread topped with dukkah, za’atar or sumac spices, as well as sugar beet milk bread topped with chia seeds are set to add variety to your mornings this 2021.

5) Functional indulgence

Words like “Instagrammable” and “adaptogenic” come into play to describe foods and beverages that are “leveled up,” while providing more health benefits. Look for more fiber, nutrients, vitamin C, zinc, and antioxidants in our photogenic foods, with adaptogenic beverages to counteract stress and promote relaxation.

  Blue pea flowers and honey-lemon shots add relaxation benefits.
 Expect to hear more about Allulose, an all-natural alternative sweetener.

Other local chefs chipped in with trend notes:

  • Chef Gene Gonzales forecasts the rise in home-food entrepreneurs will continue to catch fire in 2021, with an emphasis on alternative grains and coffee, tea and alcoholic innovations.
  • Chef Reggie Aspiras points to “home-grown specialties” like family and heirloom recipes. “Food this year will be about coming home to one’s roots,” she says.
  • Chef Sylvia Reynoso-Gala mentions San Miguel Foods frozen ready-to-eat viands like paksiw na lechon, dinuguan, slow-cooked kare-kare, humba, and binagoongang baboy, comfort foods such as Chef Selection Angus Burger Patty, Monterey Meatshops' Beef Tapa and Longganiza, and Magnolia’s Ready-to Cook Fried Chicken.
  • Chef Ernest Reynoso-Gala looks to our gardens, as homegrown herbs and spices find a bigger place on the menu and in our kitchens. More juicing, Mediterranean cooking and healthier meat alternatives (plant-based diets, veggie burgers) will emerge.
  • Chef Emelita Galang sees an upgrade in the home-delivery experience, with creative meal kits and packaging. “I also see variations of the charcuterie board coming,” he adds.