Viral Food Trends – Traveling with your tastebuds
The internet has provided an easy way for people to learn about cultures from around the world. We can see this trend in action with the growing culinary profile of my hometown Oaxaca, Mexico. In 2022, readers of Travel & Leisure Magazine selected Oaxaca as the best city in the world. One respondent called out the "amazing local Indigenous food.” The result? A new level of attention and appreciation for local specialties like Oaxaca mole.
At ofi, we’re proud to source chile peppers from Oaxaca, making them ideal for capturing the authentic flavors of regional Mexican dishes like mole, Yucatan marinades and carne asada. As sauces like traditional mole begin to get the international recognition they deserve, I’m starting to see the influence of regional Mexican cuisine extending to neighboring countries like Guatemala, something I’m sure will be replicated on a global scale in the next few years.
Looking beyond just South America, region-specific flavors from Asia and the Caribbean are also having their moment in the sun. Korean BBQ marinades featuring sesame oil, crushed red pepper, ginger, garlic and black pepper have been particularly popular during this year’s grilling season, for example, Caribbean-inspired Jamaican Jerk chicken wings.
How has the “hot and spicy” trend changed and will it go away?
The story of hot and spicy flavors has really been one of steady growth, followed by rapid escalation. By 2020, Mintel was reporting that 75% of consumers said they now enjoyed spicy flavors and earlier in 20211, an Instacart survey found that 74% of US shoppers eat hot sauce with their food.
Fiery foods are still very much on trend – but they have evolved over the past decade with the exploration of different levels of capsicums, chile varieties, flavor profiles and characteristics.
Sauces (dips and dressings) will stay spicy, but more distinguished and delicious
Looking ahead, I see the trend maturing away from finding the hottest and most shocking flavors, towards a more holistic consideration of the unique qualities certain capsicums bring to a dip, sauce or marinade.
For example, salsa roja, a classic spicy Mexican sauce made with jitomates (red tomatoes), onion, garlic and chiles. This sauce can be prepared three ways:
- Cocida (cooked): the ingredients are stewed and then ground into a smooth sauce
- Asada (roasted): swaps stewing for roasting over an open fire
- Cruda (raw): the ingredients are chopped raw and tossed into a salsa
The preparation method should dictate the chosen chile variety. A dried Cascabel chile for instance is perfect for salsa roja cocida, where a long cooking time will help draw out its smoky, nutty flavor. More acidic varieties, like Chile de árbol or Guajillo chiles, make an ideal match for salsa cruda.
Stay tuned for part two where we discuss innovation in sauces, dressing and dips.
Editor’s Note: You can read more about Chef Espinoza’s role as a corporate chef on our blog.