Insights : Crossing Borders with Flavours

The world has become an increasingly interconnected place, and nowhere more so than in the food and beverage industry.

There are ingredients and dishes which in years gone by were specific to a particular country and are now globally recognised or even claimed by another country. Chicken tikka masala is famously considered a British national dish, despite chicken tikka originating in India (the yoghurt and tomato also incorporates masala spices from India, although traditionally chicken tikka is served on a skewer, without sauce).

The link between India and Great Britain is clear, however we now have ingredients from all over the world popping up in unexpected places and with original interpretations.

From Cough Syrup to Coffee
Turmeric is another Indian product that has been used in the West. Amongst other applications, turmeric is commonly mixed with milk in India in order to produce a cough and cold remedy. However, in the west, some cafes saw the potential to convert this into an upmarket exotic latte, simply by adding a shot or two of coffee.

A Scandinavian Specialty
Sometimes, certain spices are not just foreign novelties, but become an integral part of a country’s cuisine. Most people would think of cardamom as an intrinsically Asian spice, and they would be right – it primarily grows in Southern India, Sri Lanka and Indo China, although it is also present in Guatemala and Tanzania. However, it is also one of the most popular spices in Sweden, being used predominantly for baking. In fact, Scandanavia is the second biggest consumer of cardamom in the world!

Sweet vs Savoury
One common twist is the use of flavours traditionally used in sweet dishes to flavour savoury ones, or vice versa.
For example, cinnamon is commonly used in desserts throughout Europe and the US, particularly within baked goods. However, in Asia, where it originates, cinnamon can be found in dishes like pork noodle soup and Indonesian curries. Moreover, it is also commonly used in North Africa to flavour dishes such as lamb tagine.

Conceptual Changes
It is not just flavours that can have alternative interpretations. Sometimes, entire concepts are taken from one nation and applied to ingredients native to another country. For example, Taiwan took the idea of cold coffee from Japan, applied it to tea and then added the Southeast Asian tapioca pearls into it to make bubble tea, a worldwide phenomenon.

Hungry for More
One of the consequences of this flavour migration is that individuals are far more open to new flavours than previous generations. In fact, many modern consumers are on the lookout for new dishes, especially those which incorporate flavours that they may not already be familiar with.

This doesn’t mean that we need to lose traditional recipes, but can open up a world of interesting fusion cuisine with endless possibilities for manufacturers, chefs and consumers alike.