It’s time we looked past the apparent fact that 2020 was an unmitigated failure with only a few days left for the year to end. Shall we, instead, look for the proverbial silver lining? Or maybe I should say a spoon of silver.
To think of it, imagination in all facets of life has not been so strong in any other year in recent memory, as we have navigated our way around the new standard. Almost all of us turned out overnight to be bakers. And we rediscovered the old warmth of food, which soothed our pandemic-ravaged nerves miraculously. The food and beverage room was, of course, buzzing with trends, willingly exacerbated by social media.
So here’s my rundown of 2020’s most famous food and drink trends that have taken the edge off those pandemic blues.
Cloud in the kitchen
Baking bread was definitely the big-ticket trend of the year 2020, dominated by sourdough bread in the first half of the year. In nearly every home-kitchen baker’s and social media pages, banana and focaccia ‘art’ breads continue to hold sway. In the latter part of 2020, with the introduction of two very fascinating baked goods, cloud bread and frog bread, things got a little outré.
No points for guessing how cloud bread got its name, resembling a soft, egg-white meringue. This low-carb ‘bread’ is a flourless confection made with stiffly beaten egg whites and cream cheese to keep the keto crowd satisfied. It is possible to color and flavor the white bread-like, light-n-airy flat bun sweet or left savoury. On the other side, frog bread is just that: a sturdy roll of bread fashioned in the likeness of a rain-loving amphibian.
The dining room was perked up with the invasion of unique butters made of watermelon seed, macadamia, soy nut and hemp seed, just as almond and cashew nut butter was becoming as passé as peanut butter. But none of these patterns are as noteworthy as, to be exact, the remarkable growth of cookie butter-Lotus Biscoff. The new Nutella is now easily lending itself to sandesh, cheesecake, milkshakes, brownies and more, this Belgian creation, also known as speculoos spread.
The visually appealing sushi cake made a mark, with over 100,000 shares on Instagram and Pinterest combined. Basically, these funky cakes are upturned versions of a rare-to-find-outside-Japan sushi type called chirashi zushi. Chirashi zushi is eaten in a bowl loosely translated as scattered sushi, in which a base of vinegared sushi rice is layered with raw seafood or vegetables along with the sweeter, creamier Japanese mayonnaise of Kewpie; topped with wasabi blobs, pickled gari (pink ginger); and dusted with furikake seasoning along with nori seaweed strips. With their own colourful versions (even Jain) of the sushi cake, many restaurants have cottoned on to this trend.
Cloud kitchens, ghost kitchens or virtual restaurants, name them whatever you can, the lockdown showed us that their brick-and-mortar equivalents can be quickly replaced. A whole host of delivery-and pick-up-only restaurants sprung up nationwide, offering diners everything from boxed, gourmet meals to DIY food and cocktail kits to be enjoyed in the comfort of one’s home. The democratization of ‘fancy’ food was one positive fallout of this.
Although snooty, fine-dining restaurants held American tailgate-style weekend affairs in their parking lots, five-star hotels were able to send their chefs over to prepare a feast in your kitchen.
Fermentation and probiotics, which gave us the ‘triple treat’ of kombucha, kefir and kimchi, are the ‘food as medicine’ trend of 2020 aimed at encouraging wellness. Riding on the coattails of the biggest food and beverage trend of 2019. In the fight against COVID-19, turmeric-imbued beverages such as golden latte (a fancy word for good old haldi dudh) and herbal teas laced with ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) and mulethi (liquorice root) increased their reputation as suspected boosters of immunity.
For a while now, in hipster circles, the taking down of milk as we know it has been going on with the rise of plant-based alternatives such as soy, oat, almond, rice and coconut milk. Not one but three Indian companies introduced their own coconut milk yoghurt brands during the year, which is a blessing for lactose intolerants and vegans. Nutrient-rich milk produced from split yellow peas is the new salvo. Milk from peas, anybody?
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