Fermentation Nation

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A growing desire for umami-packed, healthy menu options is feeding the fermentation trend

From kimchi to kombucha, fermentation is taking the foodservice industry by storm. The mega-trend is driven by growing consumer demand for natural and healthy food-preservation methods and is inspiring chefs to revamp their menus.

An anaerobic process involving the use of natural bacteria to preserve food and extend its shelf life, fermentation has the added bonus of producing a salty-savory flavour that complements many types of cuisine.

Today, fermentation is playing a large role in the cuisine of innovative restaurants, where chefs are experimenting with it to transform their food. Kikkoman, which has more than 300 flavour and aroma components, offers chefs countless solutions for incorporating fermentation into their menus.

“Kikkoman is most recognized for soy and teriyaki sauces,” says Jane Foreman, senior manager, Marketing & Product Management for Foodservice at Kikkoman Sales USA, Inc., “but we also offer a variety of ready-to-use sauces and ingredients to help chefs develop authentic Asian flavours, while saving on labour.” 

A perfect example of fermentation at its finest, soy sauce has the perfect balance of sweet, salty, umami, bitter and sour — making it the ideal choice for enhancing the flavour of any dish. In fact, research from Dataessentials Menu Tastes Database shows soy sauce menu penetration has risen steadily over the last decade.

Fermenting is popular right now, says Kikkoman corporate executive chef Andrew Hunter, because it allows chefs to differentiate their cuisine in a bold way — think recipes such as grilled kimchi toast and soy-sesame steamed snapper with fermented black beans.

Another consumer trend driving the popularity of fermentation is a desire for local handcrafted foods. The team at Kikkoman has embraced this push for artisan condiments, offering tips to make it quick and easy for chefs to create their own infused soy sauces that add interest and wow factor to everything from sauces and marinades to dressings and any dish needing a hit of flavour and umami.

“Pickling is Fermenting 101,” says Hunter, “especially when you put Kikkoman sauces in the brine. Adding fermented soy sauce, ponzu and mirin blend magically — ponzu because of its citrus notes and mirin because it doesn’t change the colour of the brine.”

In the age of plant-forward menus, Kikkoman is uniquely positioned to offer chefs easy ways to create complex flavours to rival any protein-based dish. For example, Hunter says mushrooms — an important ingredient for creating plant-based dishes — develop even more dynamic flavours when fermented and can added to any dish require a boost of umami.

Fermented foods offer many benefits to restaurants, including lower food cost and an innovative way to upsell classic menu items such as burgers and other pub fare. Add the fact that fermented foods — which are low in calories, with probiotic benefits — are considered a healthy option, it’s worth a chef’s time to incorporate some simple fermented ingredients into their menu.

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