Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

By Rob Corliss
November 14, 2021

Thai iced tea, starring black tea leaves steeped with warm spices, sweetened condensed milk, sugar and evaporated milk, has caught fire here over the last year, with creative iterations delighting consumers across the country. It feels natural to explore pairing spicy foods with this sweetened beverage, leveraging the intoxicating orange hue and alluring spiced sweetness of Thai tea with the consumer love for spicy-hot flavor profiles. Operators are not confined to a duo of Thai flavors here—think sweet tea and then look to both complementary regional-American and global heat trends for heat-sweet inspiration.

Play into the fun street food dynamic of Thai tea with a like-minded food pairing. Here, we look at taking the sting out of spicier offerings with a sweet antidote. Utilizing craveable refreshment to make guests want to keep taking bite after bite of savory meat-centric appetizers and entrées with full-flavored heat.

THAI ICED TEA + SPICY APPETIZERS

Honey-Buffalo Meatball Poppers: A portable cup of roasted miniature meatballs (flavored with smoked paprika, lemongrass and garlic powder) tossed in a honey-Buffalo sauce

Jalapeno Zingers: Beer-battered fried jalapeño bites stuffed with chorizo cream cheese

Triple Threat Beef Rollers: Crispy taquitos filled with shredded jerk beef, diced roasted green chiles, fresh mango and pepper Jack cheese

Red Fire Pork Sliders: Juicy carnitas tossed in a tamarind-chipotle barbecue sauce; served on mini Hawaiian rolls

THAI ICED TEA + SPICY ENTREES

Sichuan Beef Burrito: Soft flour tortilla filled with seared chunks of steak, red bell peppers, arugula, spicy Sichuan hoisin sauce, jasmine rice; griddle pressed

Maple-Harissa Pork Belly Taco: Seared chunks of pork belly sticky-glazed with maple, harissa, orange juice and minced garlic, topped with queso fresco crumbles and sliced scallions; on a white corn tortilla

Chimi Burger: Beef-chorizo patty topped with charred red onion rings, mozzarella cheese; served on a toasted kaiser bun spread with chimichurri aïoli

Spicy Pork Bowl: Succulent shreds of pork ragu (braised pork shoulder with tomato-red curry paste-soy-jalapeño-lime-ginger sauce), stir-fry vegetables, daikon sprouts and glass noodles

FEATURED RECIPE

Chef Nick Karoly’s Smoked Brisket Biscuit, with black garlic barbecue sauce and jalapeño pimento cheese offer both spice and funk—ideal counterpoints to Thai iced tea’s sweet, aromatic tones.Photo credit: Smithfield Culinary

Chef Nick Karoly’s Smoked Brisket Biscuit, with black garlic barbecue sauce and jalapeño pimento cheese offer both spice and funk—ideal counterpoints to Thai iced tea’s sweet, aromatic tones.

Get the recipe for Smoked Brisket Biscuit

About The Author

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Rob Corliss is a three-time James Beard House guest chef with more than 30 years of experience that includes running world-class hotels, launching new concepts, working in top marketing agencies and, currently, owning a consulting company, ATE (All Things Epicurean), focused on flavor, menu and restaurant innovation. Based in Nixa, Mo., he has an energizing passion for food and is dedicated to connecting people to their food, environment and wellness. [email protected]