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AI-based Ideation: Indonesian cuisine

When the subject of Indonesian cuisine comes up, my mind quickly jumps to tempeh – the traditional protein source made from fermented soybeans.

We’ve written plenty over the last few months about tempeh and its growing potential in the UK, spurred on by health and wellness trends and the ever-increasing popularity of vegan diets.

When it comes to the latter, there seems to always be room for another alternative to meat, with tempeh’s high protein levels, format versatility and links to improved gut health (thanks to it being a fermented product) putting it in great stead for UK mainstream entry.

This got me to thinking about the wider potential of Indonesian ingredients and dishes in terms of UK consumer diet motivations. What dishes stand out when talking about tempeh (and beyond)? What flavour profiles should you bank on? And what textures?

To get to grips with this, I jumped back into Tastewise, the world’s leading food intelligence platform, with its ability to instantly digest and translate billions of data points across recipes, social media, delivery and restaurants allowing me to comprehensively investigate and visualize real-time consumer motivations with Indonesian.

Inside Indonesian in the UK

Most popular diets associated with Indonesian cuisine on Instagram

First off, it was immediately clear from all UK Instagram posts that feature Indonesian food and drink (15,453 posts, to be precise) that vegan is the dominant diet motivation for consumers, with 12.6% of the share.

To put this in perspective, the ‘benchmark’ for vegan mentions in ALL food and drink Instagram posts is 5.94%, meaning that vegan is mentioned more than twice as much when it comes to Indonesian cuisine.

Meanwhile, spicy is the top Indonesian taste motivation on Instagram in the UK, being mentioned in an impressive 28.9% of conversations.

Interestingly, sriracha pairings with tempeh specifically are also on the rise, with the condiment seen to be enjoying a +30% average increase (MoM) in data we sourced with Tastewise in March.

“This isn’t to say that sriracha is a groundbreaking ingredient pairing; rather, that it is gaining popular traction and seeing significant movement over time,” Tastewise told us.

In terms of Indonesian texture preferences in the UK, crispy comes out on top with 4.5% of the share on Instagram.

The rise of nasi kuning

Armed with consumer motivation data and direction (vegan, spicy and crispy), I then turned to popular Indonesian ingredients/dishes on social media in the UK.

And Tastewise revealed that nasi kuning (an Indonesian fragrant rice side dish cooked with coconut milk and turmeric) has risen remarkably over the past year in terms of social media mentions with Indonesian.

As seen in the above graph, nasi kuning has shot up +475.7% YoY, bringing it up to 9% total social penetration.

Nasi kuning is usually served with a variety of dishes, including sambal goreng tempeh – fried tempeh and potato caramelised in spicy sauce – which stood out to me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the presence of tempeh, which is leading the charge for Indonesian’s entry into the UK. In our previous analysis with Tastewise, we found that the UK social growth for tempeh is +55% (YoY), the average UK social growth is +7% (MoM) and the UK menu growth is +32% (YoY).

Secondly, the tempeh is fried, which aligns with the interest in ‘crispy’ Indonesian food options from the above data.

And third, it champions sambal (or sambal oelek, as it’s traditionally known), which ticks the ‘spicy’ box for on-trend Indonesian.

From sambal to laksa

Laksa – spicy coconut curry soup (photo: Glebe Kitchen)

Back in January, Waitrose named sambal as one of their emerging food ingredient trends for 2021, with the chilli sauce/paste a traditional staple across Indonesia. It’s typically made from a mixture of chilli peppers and ingredients such as shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, scallions, palm sugar and lime juice.

Interestingly, in terms of sambal use in the UK, a Glebe Kitchen recipe for laksa – a spicy coconut curry noodle soup seen across Southeast Asia – is the most popular on Pinterest with 67,629 pins.

The recipe includes a ‘Quick and dirty chilli sauce’, which is used to spice up the laksa to taste. This is made up of sambal oelek, sriracha and an authentic laksa paste.

Their laksa curry soup (seen above) includes chicken thighs but, considering the Tastewise data seen today, perhaps tempeh could be an on-trend substitute for a potential vegan option? Fried first and then plunged into the rich, spicy noodle soup.

And, while we’re on the subject of potential innovation, why not remove the noodles from the laksa curry soup and serve it with nasi kuning, considering its rise on UK social media this past year?

Just throwing it out there.

Indonesian Ideation: Three more considerations

  • Ayam betutu, a spicy Indonesian-Balinese chicken dish, also saw a significant rise in social mentions, with Tastewise data showing a jump of nearly 200% YoY.
  • Soto Ayam (Indonesian chicken noodle soup) is a trending recipe in the UK (+2% MoM) – a tempeh version has no current penetration.
  • Sambal Kicap (fried tempeh with sweet/spicy dipping sauce) could be an interesting snacking option to explore.
Tom Gatehouse
Tom is the editor of Pure NPD Insights. He previously spent three years at William Reed’s food insight platform Food Spark, was the co-founder and editor of The Cream, is a former Restaurant magazine columnist and has had chef training in fifty of the best restaurants in the UK and Europe.

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