All The Food Trends We Want To See Shine (And Die) In 2018

and 01.08.18 5 months ago 13 Comments

Din Tai Fung

It’s 2018! Time to ring in the new year with predictions of what you’re going to spend the next 365 days gorging yourself on. The past is dead — get ready for chefs to change the whole dang game on your palate.

Okay, not exactly. In actuality, food changes a little more slowly than music or TV trends. Ideas hit the 5-star scene and slowly trickle down, growing cheaper and more reductive, until Red Robin finally puts fries with truffle oil on the menu.

Point being, many of our 2017 food trends are still in play (for what it’s worth, we nailed our predictions). Nevertheless, this new year calls for new opinions about what you’ll find on your plate in the year to come and we’re never short on opinions around these parts.

Here’s what we want more of and what we could do without in 2018.

— Steve Bramucci, Food Editor, Uproxx

What Steve Wants To See More Of:

Soup Dumplings

Do you know about soup dumplings? If not, it’s high time. These steamed dumplings have a bit of bone broth gelatin in them, which eventually melts and becomes liquid. So they literally burst in your mouth — like that 90s candy, Gushers. If a savory dumpling full of broth isn’t your cup of tea… we can’t help you. Try it once and then @ us.

Din Tai Fung — the most popular soup dumpling joint in the US — has ten locations along the west coast, so it’s not like this dish is an unknown. But my god does it deserve to blow up. The flavors are so rich and deep.

Pork xiaolongbao (soup dumplings) are the standard order but if you have the chance to get truffle and pork, do that instead (Din Tai Fung serves these, as do a few other one-off restaurants). Yes, yes, truffles are total bullshit when turned to oil, but in this case they’re shaved and man, it works well. Here the truffle is a straight up umami-adding machine — delivering earthiness, some nutty notes, and deepening the flavor of the pork. The truffle is a star, complemented by the dumpling skin, the pork, and the liquefied broth.

If I was rich enough to eat these in 20 packs like McNuggets, I absolutely would.

Excited to see @adrianneho enjoying our signature xiaolongbao ๐Ÿ˜‹๐Ÿด

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Cannabis

Winning the powerball may be a long shot, but these pb power balls are #goals

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Weed is coming to your plate. It’s inevitable. We don’t mean “I put an ounce of shake in these brownies.” We’re talking about truly special dishes that benefit from the inclusion of cannabis; Items that are delicately dosed so that you feel good without going catatonic.

In time, “Stony desserts” are going to be just as popular as “Boozy desserts” and weed-infused dishes will be designated on menus with no more fanfare than veggie options. You might not be excited about it, but chefs are.

Of course, there’s a huge part of the weed-food combo that can feel gimmicky. So why are we throwing our weight behind this trend? Simple: When’s the last time that the whole cheffing world got their hands on a brand new ingredient that also had mainstream acceptance? Weed is fun for star chefs to play with and we’re all going to get to savor this wave of experimentation.

Balance is key #smorplease

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SE Asian Fast Casual

Besides the banh mi and pad thai, mainstream Thai and Vietnamese fare is often limited to sit down restaurants — curries and soups that require a napkin and a fork. Why the hell isn’t there a Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, or Cambodian Chipotle?

Mostly, it seems to come down to delivery systems. Many of these foods are saucy, and — as such — don’t facilitate the quick and easy eating method that American audiences (of all ethnicities) adore. That’s where a little fusion comes in to play, like the mega-famous phoritto.

Couldn’t the same be done with chili basil pork? What about a sandwich with clay pot fish inside? The Vietnamese pulled pork fries from Another Kind Cafe offer insight into what a little fusion could do to bring SE Asian flavors — so so popular worldwide — to the fast-casual-loving masses. In 2018, we demand more of this!

What Zach Wants To See More Of:

Game

Elk and jalapeรฑos. I never get bored of this dish.

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This is a big one. Factory farming needs to go. It’s one of the bigger blights on modern society and promotes the idea that we need to eat way more animal protein than we really do. The average steak from a supermarket is about 10 ounces per serving. We really need a serving size that’s one-third or even one-quarter that. Taking that into the equation could cut our meat consumption by up to 75 percent, right off the top.

A world where 66 to 75 less animal protein is consumed is a win. It also means that a wild-hunted approach to sourcing meat starts to become a bigger reality. There’s the added benefit of animal proteins like venison and bison being both leaner, higher in protein, and more robust with vitamins and minerals than beef. Plus a wild animal lived a good life, passed on its genes, and nourished itself on nature. And that’s just straight up better than a beast that’s only seen feedlots, shit, and death.

You’re starting to see a heavy reliance on game inching into modern cuisine — with chefs like Sean Sherman retracing indigenous foodways. These recipes not only use animal protein sparingly, they integrate an ethos of us humans retaking our place in the wider ecosystem again. Pheasant, grouse, duck, venisons (elk and deer), bear, wild goat, wild boar, bison, and wild-caught fresh and saltwater fish are not only our past but our future too.

Emmer Wheat

Wheat isn’t just wheat. There are varying degrees of what you’re consuming when you eat bread, pasta, or any other product made with wheat. Saying you don’t like wheat is a bit like saying you don’t like fish. It’s so broad that it kinda loses all meaning.

Emmer wheat is a throwback grain that’s one step of domestication away from Einkorn wheat. It was the first wheat to be grown in domestication — well over 10,000 years ago — and there’s archeological evidence that we even collected and ate wild Emmer Wheat as hunter-gathers, at least 17,000 years ago.

Known as farro in Italy, this grain breaks down differently than further domesticated wheat like durum (used in Italy for pasta and pizza) and hybrid and hull-less wheat used in mass-produced pasta and bread today, especially in America. You can make an awesome porridge-like dish (farro in Italy) or mill the wheat to make pasta, pizza, and sourdough leavened bread. It’s a bit heavier since the hulls are still intact which means you need less of it to fill up. And it’s just straight up more satisfying without the bloated feeling you get from modern hybrid wheat products.

Also, it’s not dipped in freaking weed killer.

Cooked Oysters

There’s been a trend lately to be all snarky and insist that you can only eat oysters raw. That’s just insanity. It’s like saying you only eat popcorn unpoped. You’re literally missing out on a waterfall of possibilities with one of the greatest food products the sea has to offer. I get it, I will eat raw oysters all day. I literally had a dozen for breakfast on Christmas morning as an appetizer. But less than 18 hours later, I shared three dozen fire baked oysters with one other person. Yeah, I love oysters a lot.

It’s just plain foolish to skip the massive variety of ways oysters shine when cooked. Baking oysters in the shell is probably one of the easiest and tastiest ways to start. Get a campfire going and stack some oysters near the flame. When they pop open, sneak in some chili or garlic butter. Once that’s melted, you have an amazingly lush and briny oyster in your hands. Or bread them in some cornmeal and fry them up in peanut oil. Or rockafeller them. Or put them in a bisque. Or bake them in an oven with sambal olek and ginger. Or fry them up crispy in an omelet. Or, or, or…

Seriously, just eating oysters raw is like going to the movies and sitting in the lobby while listening to the faint echoes from all the theaters. You’re there, but you’re missing out on so much.

What Steve Wants To See Die A Fiery Death:

Gold Flake

I don’t need 250 words to explain this. It is expensive and adds no flavor. And yet chefs use it like crazy. Sure, even I have fallen victim to the charms of gold flaked foodmultiple times, in fact — but 2017 revealed the great danger of putting faith in something/someone that looks rich but has no actual value.

For 2018, let’s focus on things that make real impact.

Flank Steak

Here’s the thing about 2017’s big trend being a bunch of chefs who insisted that “cheaper cuts of meat are cool!” Of course chefs like them: They cost less. Restaurants are expensive as all hell and any cost cutting is going to be a hit with people trying to make a restaurant work. But good cuts are better. Why do you think every chef in America slathers flank steak in chimichurri but puts the sauce for a bone-in ribeye on the side? It’s because a good cut of meat should never be directly sauced. It has enough flavor.

This is a tricky needle to thread. We need to eat all parts of the animal — so rarer cuts must have a place on menus. But put them in soups, chilis, and burritos and other highly seasoned dishes, don’t buy them at a G-D steak house.

The counterpoint to this is: “Eating less desirable cuts makes beef eating more sustainable!” To which we say: Wrong. You know what would be better? Eating. Less. Beef.

Our advice: Go to the steakhouse waaaaay less in 2018. When you do, splurge on the good stuff.

What Zach Wants To See Die A Fiery Death:

Cashew Cheese

First of all, it’s not cheese. I hate this idea that we have to replace foods and call it the same thing. Vegan ice cream is sorbet. There was already a word for that. Nut-based or plant-based pastes that melt are not cheese. It’s called Gary, damn it! Okay, I’ll stop yelling at clouds now.

Look, my beef here with cashew “cheese” is that there’s little to no benefit nutritionally. It’s a processed product that happens to melt. It tastes nothing like good cheese. It acts similarly, sure. But that’s about it. Let’s look at the numbers. For this experiment let’s compare one ounce of cashew nuts to one ounce of fresh mozzarella. Calories: cashew 157g, mozz 78g. Mozz wins. Fat: cashew 12g, mozz 4.8g. Are you starting to see a pattern? Protein: cashew 5g, mozz 8g. I know there’s nutritional values in the tapioca starch and agar too, but it’s negligible since the doses are so low in the recipe — so don’t @ me.

I love me some cashews. They’re probably my favorite snack. But the only place they beat real cheese is the in the potassium department. Which, just eat some mozzarella and a banana if you’re worried about potassium. That’s before we even get to the fact that it takes 1,704 gallons of water to produce one pound of cashews. That’s almost the same amount of water it takes to produce a pound of beef.

A pound of cheese takes 382 gallons of water to produce.

Unicorn Anything

It feels like I’m yelling at the clouds again. But, I have two issues here. One, this looks so unnatural and food colored that it’s just disgusting. Who wants to eat unnaturally colored foods past the age of eight? Also, this reeks of 80s and 90s Saturday morning commercials leaving us with lasting food indoctrination. Plus, these “treats” are often purely refined sugars on top of more refined sugars. So beyond the unnatural hues, these sort of foods are just piling on the ol’ diabetes epidemic.

I know you’re all adults and can make your own grown-up decisions (at least I keep telling myself that for my sanity), but come on. Refined sugar is crippling and killing us at alarming rates. And this is the trendy and hip dealer standing in the dimly lit alley behind your favorite bar, slipping you that sweet, sweet good stuff. But once that high wears off, you realize that hipness was just well-ordered, mass-produced H&M accessories and the “good stuff” was full or black tar death.

Or in this case, black molasses death.