Flavor Trends, Strategies and Solutions for Menu Development

Wake Up to the World Exploration of global flavors sparks breakfast creativity

The Masala Omelette at Saffron Indian Bistro in San Carlos, Calif., takes a breakfast staple and adds Indian touches, from heavy spice to a crispier structure.
PHOTO CREDIT: Saffron Indian Bistro

Breakfast is still booming, and, as the category sees continued interest, innovation keeps things dynamic. When looking for assertive, on-trend, exciting flavors, more chefs are turning their attention toward global hotspots like Japan, Korea, India and Mexico, to name a few. And although there are examples of authentic replication of dishes like Mexican chilaquiles or Japanese congee, what’s really setting things off is the global mash-up.

At Saffron Indian Bistro in San Carlos, Calif., the brunch menu melds American with Indian seamlessly. Its Indian-style grits are served with steamed vegetables and raita. And its Masala Omelet demonstrates how a familiar format can serve as a perfect platform for flavor adventure.

“The Masala Omelette, with onion, ginger, jalapeño, turmeric and chile, is simple yet bursting with the flavors and spices of India,” says Ajay Walia, owner. “Unlike a traditional American omelette that is soft and stuffed with favorites, this one is heavily spiced and crisped on both sides for extra oomph.”

Thanks to a fortified anchor of familiarity provided by a number of different comfort foods, there is no limit to globally inspired breakfast items.

Emily Dorio

At The Mockingbird in Nashville, Tenn., Mexican-influenced Kiss My Grits includes roasted mushrooms, huitlacoche, epazote and spinach.

Mexican Mash-ups

Mexican fare is a familiar fixture in this daypart, thanks to beloved items like breakfast burritos and tacos, and, more recently, chilaquiles and huevos rancheros. But chefs are also leveraging the familiarity and love of Mexican cuisine, tethering ingredients and flavors to traditionally American fare.

At The Mockingbird in Nashville, Tenn., Brian Riggenbach, executive chef, offers Kiss My Grits, which gives a Mexican spin to a Southern staple through the addition of roasted mushrooms, huitlacoche, epazote and spinach.

Also in Nashville, the Mexican chilaquiles get an Indian profile at Chauhan Ale & Masala House, a modern Southern restaurant owned by chef Maneet Chauhan. Chauhan’s Vindaloo Chilaquiles star kachumber (Indian salad), poached eggs, tortillas, Provel cheese and housemade cilantro lime crema.

“Chilaquiles are an essential Mexican breakfast that have now found their way to mainstream American cuisine,” says Chauhan. “We gave them an Indian twist with vindaloo, which is a spicy sauce that’s actually great for Bloody Marys, too.”

In Houston, Common Bond Cafe & Bakery’s Tamale Benedict shows how at-home Mexican flavors are in familiar American formats, featuring ancho pork tamales, fresh avocado, ranchero sauce, two 63-degree eggs and chipotle hollandaise.

Mexican mashing with French fare can be found at Trois Familia in Los Angeles, with brunch items like the Beet Tartare Tostada with cornichon, lime and avocado crema.

Chauhan Ale & Masala House

Truly a global mash-up, the Vindaloo Chilaquiles at Chauhan Ale & Masala House in Nashville, Tenn., effortlessly blends Indian and Mexican flavors.

Japanese Horizon

Chefs have delved into the craveable flavors of Japan over the last few years, translating dishes from okonomiyaki (savory pancake) and ramen to katsu sando (fried pork sandwiches) and karaage (fried chicken). A number of dishes are making their way onto breakfast and brunch menus, including congee (rice porridge) and ramen.

Another Japanese star is emerging. The tamagoyaki is a Japanese omelette with layers of cooked egg rolled together, often flavored with soy and/or sugar. Its appearance on menus reflects both an embrace of Japanese mash-ups and a steadfast love affair with all things egg.

O’Boy in Providence, R.I., serves its version with house miso sauce, mayonnaise, cabbage, scallion and bonito flakes.

And at Pokirrito in San Diego, the Tamagosando is a sandwich that stars the traditional Japanese omelette, along with a choice of teriyaki-marinated, flame-blistered Spam; tempura shrimp with spicy tartar sauce; pounded cutlets of Angus beef; chicken slathered in tonkatsu sauce; and a selection of organic tempura vegetables. Each is wrapped in a freshly toasted sheet of sushi-grade nori.

A natural for breakfast or brunch adoptions, tamagoyaki is an on-trend platform for global comfort dishes.

Menu Sightings

In the breakfast space, we’re seeing chefs reach for Japanese flavors and ingredients, then meld them into American breakfast fare.

  • Nori Tama Toast: Egg and Japanese mayo spread, green onion, sesame seeds, mozzarella, dried seaweed
    —Sa-Tén Coffee & Eats, Austin, Texas
  • Breakfast Bento with a shiitake scramble, teriyaki salmon, rice, pea greens and miso soup
    —The Lobster Club, New York
  • Salmon Ochazuke: Pan-fried rice, green-tea broth, poached egg, pickled mustard green, lotus, hijiki, green onion, pickled plum
    —B Star, San Francisco
  • Doriyaki + Affogato: Japanese pancake sandwich, adzuki bean, vanilla ice cream, Gracenote espresso
    —Pagu, Cambridge, Mass.


From the Mar/Apr 2019 issue of Flavor & the Menu magazine. Read the full issue online or check if you qualify for a free print subscription.


About The Author