Some futurists predict that cultured (or cell-based, or cultivated) meat — grown in laboratories or production facilities from small groupings of animal stem cells — could become commonly available in supermarkets by the end of next year. Berkeley-based Upside Foods (formerly Memphis Meats) produced cultured meatballs in 2017 and is now developing lab-grown chicken breasts and steak in its 53,000-square-foot plant. Other companies hope to be able to produce sushi-grade seafood from stem cells.
The USDA recently launched the National Institute for Cellular Agriculture to sponsor research into cell-based meat, and just over a year ago, Singapore became the first nation to approve the sale of such products. The FDA is rumored to be considering approval in the U.S. as well.
Sea vegetables (or sea greens) — including numerous varieties of seaweed — have been an integral part of traditional diets around the world, from Japan to Ireland to northern Mexico, for centuries. In addition, the commercial food industry has been using carrageenan (aka Irish moss) and other sea vegetables as emulsifiers and gelling agents for decades, and they’re also essential tools in avant-garde restaurant cooking.
Now these umami-rich substances — which need no pesticides or herbicides to grow and require no farmland or irrigation — are showing up more and more, in minimally processed forms, as snack foods (like nori chips), pasta, and even imitation seafood — like Nestlé‘s Vrimp, a shrimp substitute made with nori, peas, and konjac root.
Chile crunch and salsa matcha
Chile (or chili) crunch is the condiment of the year, according to Baum + Whiteman, which predicts that “You’ll see restaurants dabbing it on pizza, spooning it over all manner of dumplings, drizzling it over ice cream, spiking spaghetti bolognese or mac-and-cheese,” and more. It’s made with numbing Sichuan peppers, crushed hot chiles, garlic, and other ingredients. Think of the dense, oily hot sauce you get at Sichuan restaurants.
A distant relative, also gaining popularity, is salsa macha (not to be confused with matcha tea) — a specialty of Veracruz, typically made from dried chiles, peanuts, sesame seeds, and garlic in olive oil. It can be used pretty much like chile crunch.
Everything Korean — food, pop music, movies, “Squid Game” — is hot today. In food, the most Instagrammable trend coming our way from that Asian country is most probably these Korean improvisations on the good old county fair corn dog.
They’re hot dogs on a stick, dipped in a dense, sticky batter (typically a mix of rice and wheat flours instead of cornmeal), then fried and quickly dredged in — well, all kinds of things, from breakfast cereal or mini-croutons to minced pork belly or french fries. Sauce (mustard, kimchi, sriracha aïoli, etc.) comes on the side.
Weird(er) ice cream flavors
Avant-garde chefs have been redefining everybody’s favorite frozen treat for years (cf. Joël Robuchon’s mustard ice cream, or Ferran Adrià’s version made with foie gras). Baum + Whiteman points out that freezing unusual ingredients is nothing new — Escoffier made asparagus ice cream in the 1800s — but now such unlikely creations are getting closer to the mainstream.
The food consulting company calls out Sugar Hill Creamery in Harlem, which released ramen ice cream with miso and pickled ginger and Heritage Restaurant and Caviar Bar in Chicago, whose innovation was cheddar-sour-cream potato chip ice cream with option Siberian caviar. Then there’s Denver’s Sweet Action Ice Cream, with its goat cheese and beets variation, and the, yes, lobster ice cream at Ben & Bill’s Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor, Maine (where else?) Who knows what else the freezer case of the near future might hold?