Being a company founded in Japan, we have an affinity and love for all things Japanese—especially the food. We spend a lot of time in the Nikken kitchen experimenting with our ingredients in Japanese inspired recipes but as trends carry us in different directions, we sometimes get pulled away from our first love. And that Japanese love is heading to the U.S. faster than you can say “ramen.” Meet the unique ingredients, trends, and mashups that are making their way stateside.
Whole Foods recently declared classic Japanese restaurant staples like ponzu, plum vinegar and yuzu to be a 2017 trend worth tracking. Shichimi togarashi, typically known as Japanese 7 Spice, is another one to watch. Here are some creative ways these standards are being showcased:
- When ume, a popular Japanese fruit, is pickled it becomes umeboshi. Entube, a Los Angeles condiment company, blends Japanese plums and vinegar with cayenne and shiso leaves (think mint) to create a concentrated Salted Plum Umeboshi Chili Paste. Magic in cocktails, Entube promises a “salty, sour all-natural flavor bomb that will bring harmony and balance to your body, mind and spirit.”
- Sweetfin Poke, the SoCal fast casual backed by former Shake Shack CEO David Swinghamer, is bringing poke to the mainland. Their poke menu features the Japanese citrus fruit, yuzu, along with ponzu, which is a kombu, citrus and mirin based sauce. We can’t wait to try the Spicy Yuzu Salmon with the kosho sauce (a chile peper sauce). Look for Sweetfin Poke to make its sweet way east and win over a consumer or two million.
- Oregon born, Genki-SuTM , is converting consumers into drinking vinegar devotees. Calling on an Okinawa family recipe for drinking vinegar, the brand starts with coconut vinegar and adds flavors like yuzu and shiso. We’re ready to dip a straw into the Yuzu-Citron with Honey.
- Shichimi togarashi is a varying blend of spices depending on the family, region, or cook but typically calls on a variety of ground chiles, sansho (Sichuan pepper), dried citrus peel, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, ginger, garlic, shiso, and nori. Cooks and chefs are experimenting with it on ramen, sushi and even popcorn like the honey, togarashi, butter goodness at Portland’s Clyde Common.
MASHUPS and MORE
Get ready to get hungry. Chefs, bloggers, cooks in the U.S. and Japan are blending American and Japanese classics to create unexpected menu items. Their creativity is off the chart and the flavors right there with it.
- Meet okonomiyaki. A street food staple, okonomiyaki is a savory pancake typically made of okonomiyaki flour, green onions and cabbage and sometimes incorporating ingredients like shrimp or bacon. The U.S. is seeing an influx of Japanese brew pubs – izakayas- mashing okonomiyaki and other traditional menu items with delicious results. Brooklyn’s Okiway calls on pulled smoked pork, BBQ sauce and spicy pickles to create an okonomiyaki honoring the south and their Mexican Osaka version brings in chorizo, avocado and cilantro mayo. Or Shalom Japan’s Kosher take on the okonomiyaki is a pastrami with sauerkraut in disguise with bonito instead of rye. The Sake Kasu Challah bread has us booking a flight to NYC. Mashups are the new comfort food.
- Sushi donuts, sushi burgers and sushi burritos? Yes, yes and si!
- Expect to see latest sushi mashup, the sushi donut, all over your social media. Project Poke, an Orange County fast casual, invented the sushi donut by placing rice into a donut mold filling it with avocado and wasabi and wrapping a variety of sushi toppings around the top to create the most colorful, healthiest donuts around. Who says you can’t eat donuts for lunch?
- The sushi burger born in Japan in the late 80’s at MOS Burger and went viral in 2016 on the Instagram page of blogger So Beautifully Real has been copied and pinned and tweeted time and time again. This version used jackfruit instead of chicken to create a teriyaki sushi burger. Sushi burritos became so hot that there are now four Chicago-based locations of a restaurant called…Sushi Burrito. That’s a wrap.
- Salad Cakes – there’s something we never thought we’d see. Japanese food stylist Mitsuki Moriyasu brought these to Bistro La Porte Marseille in Nagoya to make eating veggies more desirable. She created such a frenzy that the restaurant is opening a new spot just to showcase these beauties and other healthy treats. These cakes are works of art with frosting constructed out of whipped tofu, cream cheese and vegetables and the fillings are layered fresh vegetables with soybean flour. Let them eat cake veggies!
Whether a classic or a mashup, Nikken would love to help consult on your next big idea. We’re pretty good at taking our classic Asian real food ingredients and putting them to work in new ways.