Exploring high-end recipe development and the wide variety of food and drink available from around the world has become a top trend among western consumers today. This largely stems from the cultural and economic influence that is broadcasted on TV channels, from MasterChef to Great British Menu, through globally acclaimed chef recipes, and of course, their own experiences and desires from travelling abroad.
From street food, to formal sit down meals, the global influence on UK restaurant menu planning is undeniable. Take Italian for example; 10 years ago Pizza and Spaghetti Bolognaise formed the large basis of Italian food available in the UK. The hospitality sector is now flooded with Italian restaurants from casual dining chains to small family-owned professional kitchens, serving fresh dishes from Insalata d’Italia to Osso Buco alla Milanese.
It certainly seems that people are taking the approach of ‘variety being the spice of life’ and UK born Chefs are now looking further afield for more creative inspiration in their menu development. Traditional Chinese cooking methods are not only being adopted in Asian-inspired dishes, but to offer unique tastes that pack more of a punch, while embracing new creations to support a healthy diet, a variety of dietary requirements and those seeking to embrace sustainable eating.
The East meets West approach to the new cuisine known as ‘Fusion’, is a trend which is gaining popularity with several highly acclaimed Michelin Star restaurants. Vicky Cheng is just one of a number of chefs combining his Asian heritage with French gastronomic techniques of precision and finesse. Vicky Cheng is the Executive Chef at VEA Restaurant in Hong Kong. Vicky says that “We try to incorporate a lot of Hong Kong ingredients and different ideas, textures and flavours. You normally won’t find spicy flavours in French cuisine but at Vea we are open to all flavours. We accept sour, spicy, bitter tastes because that is in our culture. The goal is to highlight that.” This approach is certainly popular as the demand for Fusion food is attracting more seats at the table, as well as more chefs into the market. Hong Kong has over 50 Michelin Star restaurants and that number is still increasing as skills and creativity develop.
We went behind the scenes with Vicky Cheng and Ching-He Huang; take a look at what we got up to here.
Foodies looking to foster a healthy diet can also take advantage of Fusion cuisine with many more natural options on the menu. This is perhaps one of the more astounding points of Asian influence, with many Brits assuming ‘a cheeky Chinese’ is a dish destined for the sin bin. That is certainly no longer the case; with oily, high fat and MSG produce seldom on the menu. A balanced diet is much more typical, with plates often consisting of half fruit/veg, one quarter carbohydrates and one quarter protein. This balance is deeply rooted in Asian culture, but also displays uncanny similarities to weight conscious diets in Britain. Further to this, staple ingredients such as black beans are known to be amongst the top ten healthiest foods in the world. They are packed full of healthy antioxidants and digest slowly, keeping you feeling fuller for longer.
The growing trend of Veganism is also complimented by Fusion creations, which is contributing to increased popularity in both areas. While the Asian meat market is considerable, Veganism is on the up with expected increases of 17% in the five years up to 2020. Following demand, Hong Kong is home to a multitude of Michelin star restaurants, serving an array of Vegetarian and Vegan dishes suited to those looking for a meal at the top end of town; embracing sustainable, plant based produce. Similarly in the UK, the number of people identifying as vegans has increased by around 350%, compared to a decade ago. Whether it’s Fusion recipes or other factors at work, the dishes available are undeniably delicious and sprucing up the appetites of even non-vegans.
Overall, the British consumer today seems prepared to pay the price for top quality food that is best in flavour, healthy, environmentally conscious and sustainably sourced. These morals seem to be becoming even more prevalent with the rise of vegetarian and veganism, which go hand in hand with the availability of flavoursome dishes now being explored. With growing demand, supply will naturally follow but it is down to each individual establishment to produce the best tasting dishes which satisfy the most experienced of pallets, while meeting the criteria expected from corporate, social, responsibility measures. High-end restaurants should expect to be required to do all of this in a transparent way if they are to keep up with competition and secure their place in today’s market.