A seed, a leaf, and a fungus — trendy ingredients of 2022 for your menu

With so many ingredients, food cultures, and styles of preparation in the world, you’d think that no two restaurants would look the same. 

Like any other creative industry, however, popular trends shape menus around the world, and once a trend sets in, it spreads everywhere. 

This edition of Weekly Bites takes a look at three ingredients that are “hot” in the food and beverage scene today — tea, mushrooms, and masa. 

And yes, these ingredients aren’t “new” per se… after all, many cultures have used them for thousands of years and they’ve played a central role in menus in those parts of the world. For example, tea has fueled cross-atlantic trade, shaped rituals, and is part of the daily lives of millions. Masa is a staple in Central and South America. 

What’s interesting is that while non-indigenous Western cuisines have been slow to recognize these amazing ingredients, they are now thankfully gaining popularity in the global food scene, becoming more widely available and used in fine dining. We gathered three stories about how and why these ingredients are trending in the food scene, as well as a few recipes to give you some ideas for how to include them in your menus.  

Move over coffee, it’s tea time 

Oh, coffee. 

The early 2000s showed an explosion of craft coffees, and with that, an industry that sold us the importance of different coffee origins, ways of roasting, and tons of equipment for making and drinking coffee. From espresso to cold brew to chemex, the coffee snobs show no sign of slowing down. Even anthropologists and linguists have talked about coffee culture, and the language we use to talk about coffee. 

It’s now tea’s turn, as more Americans are starting their morning differently. If your opinion has been similar to what Ted Lasso described — You know I always figured that tea was gonna taste like hot, brown water. And you know what? I was right — it’s time to shift your sip! 

Bon Appetit recently published “A Beginner’s Guide to Drinking Tea” as a guide to help the casual tea drinker understand some of the nuances in tea. It turns out — in no surprise to tea drinking cultures like China — that terroir (regional identity) is just as important in tea as it is in wine, or coffee. For such a large publication to showcase tea mirrors its emerging status in the food and beverage scene. 

How can you incorporate tea into your menus? 

Some teas, especially Puerhs (aged teas) have a delightful smoky quality to them that are beautiful in a cocktail. Black tea is also a great pairing with smoky flavors. You can use tea to brine poultry, or smoke meat like in this tea-smoked roast chicken recipe. Pairing tea with another huge trend right now — fermentation — is something that people in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) have been doing for a while now. Green teas especially make for a delightfully tangy pickle that serves both as a yummy snack and a mid-afternoon pick-me-up. 

Funky, funky mushrooms  

Have you been swept up by the mushroom craze yet? 

We’re not talking about your grocery-standard button mushrooms or portobellos, either. These days, the mushrooms popping up in menus across the country have weird names like Lion’s Mane, and Turkey Tail, and look even weirder — like some alien growth on the sides of dead trees. 

Despite the unappetizing look, these mushrooms are not only delicious, but are considered by the wellness industry to be nothing short of a miracle. From dried mushrooms to tinctures, to coffee-alternatives (like Mud Water), mushrooms are popping up everywhere. 

Thankfully, this is one food trend that’s actually GOOD for the environment. According to the Bon Appetit feature, mushrooms are one of the most sustainable foods grown in the US today. The best part is that you don’t even have to rely on the post-rain summer season to get your hands on these fantastic fungi (definitely watch the movie of the same name, “Fantastic Fungi”) — there are mushroom growing labs all over the country that are supplying mushrooms to restaurants and consumers. Growing mushrooms requires relatively little expertise and space. You can even grow mushrooms in your own home, with mushroom growing kits available for almost every type of mushroom. 

Another eco-friendly aspect of mushrooms is that they are often used as a meat or fish substitute, due to their meaty texture and umami flavor. 

Before you can start cooking with wild mushrooms, it’s helpful to know about the different types, and how to prep them. In a recent episode of Iron Chef (the new Netflix reboot), Iron Chef Curtis Stone uses Lion’s Mane mushrooms to create “crab” cakes. While we couldn’t find his exact recipe, here is one that will do the trick. If you haven’t tried Lion’s Mane yet, we highly recommend that you do. Once you taste it, you will understand exactly how it works as a lump crab substitute. Another amazing mushroom, often used in Chinese cooking, is Wood Ear. This Wood Ear and cilantro salad takes advantage of the delightfully chewy texture of this mushroom. Lastly, mushrooms make a flavorful and umami-packed vegetarian broth

Masa everywhere!

Our third trendy ingredient is a classic example of a staple ingredient in one culture becoming trendy in another. Masa is a dough made from maíz (corn) that has been nixtamalized, which means simmered in water and lime. Masa is used to make tortillas, arepas, tamales, and other Central and South American staples. 

Why is masa emerging in restaurants in the US today? For the first time ever, heirloom varieties of corn from Mexico — blue, yellow, or pinky-red in color — are becoming much more widely available in U.S. restaurants, thanks to suppliers dedicated to the masa cause. Maíz is usually ground between two stones in a tool called a molina to make masa. It’s a tool that’s heavy, requires a lot of square footage, and expensive, so most restaurants in the U.S. were unable to use a molino to create masa. A new invention, the Molinito (little Molino), is bringing masa-producing capabilities to more restaurants, thanks to its much smaller footprint and manageable price. 

Quality masa has an earthy taste and a satisfying bite to it. Before you can cook with masa, you need to know where to get it. Once you’ve chosen what kind of masa you want, you can make pupusas — a signature dish of El Salvador. These pockets of masa are filled with meat, beans, or cheese (or all three, why not?). Masa flour can also be used to thicken drinks, like with the Champurrado, a hot Mexican chocolate drink. As a flour, masa can be used in desserts too, like these masa madeleines with whiskey glaze. 


What ideas do you have for incorporating these ingredients in your menus? 


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