Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Robert Danhi
February 15, 2023

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Bright colorants that are plant-based offer brilliant shades of purple, orange, yellow, green and more, and are now readily available in market forms that are easily used by menu developers to create Insta-ready dishes and drinks.

Here are four color-drenched ingredients to explore, each popping up across foodservice in trend-forward menu items, lending strong visual appeal and signature differentiation:

  1. Dried Blue Pea Flowers (Clitoria ternatea): Their primary pigment anthocyanin transforms from a timid blue to bright purple with acid introduced, such as citrus or vinegar, or they turn deep blue with the addition of alkaline, such as salt or baking soda.
  2. Pandan, the tropical plant from Southeast Asian, features a dramatic green color that is the hallmark of sweet treats from that reason. Interestingly, it’s naturally occurring primary aromatic chemical compound, 2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline, which is also present in jasmine rice and popped corn, gives pandan a lovely and intoxicating aroma.
  3. Charcoal: Traditionally made from coconut-husk charcoal, charcoal “water” has been used for hundreds of years in some versions of Thai Khanom, the sweet, often rice flour-based snack, turning it a dramatic black while keeping with the Thai tradition of deriving color from natural ingredients.
  4. Annatto: Probably the most unsung hero of the global color pantry as it is not only used in the achiote pastes of Mexico and Central America, it has already been commercialized into a readily available ingredient used to add varying shades of gold/yellow to American products such as cheddar and butter. The Vietnamese have been blooming annatto seeds in oil (then discarding the seeds) for centuries to add a deep red hue to simmered meat dishes and grilled meat marinades. They even use it to brush the exterior of spring rolls, creating an inviting golden color.



About The Author

Robert Danhi

Robert Danhi is a James Beard award-winning publisher, author and photographer for Southeast Asian Flavors-Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Singapore. As a curator of cultures, his passion for sharing knowledge extended to his role as the host of the captivating 26-episode docuseries “Taste of Vietnam,” highlighting the vibrant lives of farmers, artisans, cooks, chefs and street food vendors. Robert is an R&D chef, an industry thought leader, a conference speaker and a full-time consultant. www.chefdanhi.com