The further easing of lockdown restrictions for UK restaurants and pubs on May 17th was, among many other things, a major step towards the return of traditional food safaris – one of the most creatively stimulating parts of being in the professional food and drink game.
For restaurant chefs and retail developers alike, there’s little better than being able to go out into the big wide world and experience all things new and exciting; to feel inspired by a dish or the use of an ingredient; to see and taste an emerging food trend first-hand; to be able to return to HQ bristling with ideas for the future, both far and near.
At PURE NPD, we’ve been highlighting the extraordinary development work being done by Instagram’s most creative during the seemingly eternal lockdown period, with our Trailblazer Safari series designed to give starving food and drink teams a small window into continuing F&B innovation behind closed doors, all around the world.
And even though UK hospitality is once again alive and kicking, we’ll still be showcasing trailblazers as they ramp up the innovation to hit the ground running, with consumers flooding back, eager for something new.
1. Dr Johnny Drain – Black Kanzuri
A Trailblazer Safari series regular, Dr Johnny Drain is the self-proclaimed ‘Walter White’ of flavour, ferments and food design. And he certainly deserves such a title, with his background in chemistry and physical sciences (plus years of cooking experience) making him a highly sought-after F&B consultant, developer and researcher.
Seemingly always abroad and happily experimenting in the wild and wonderful world of fermentation, Johnny posted his first attempt at a Black Kanzuri last month from Paraguay, having been inspired by a recent Noma rendition.
Kanzuri is, I’ve discovered, a paste/condiment similar in taste to yuzu kosho, consisting of regional Japanese red chillis, rice malt (koji), yuzu and salt. Traditionally produced in Niigata in Japan – a region famous for its snow and ski resorts – the peppers are first harvested, salted and then left to ‘bleach’ in snow for three to four days to remove the salt, bitterness and some heat.
They are then mixed with the koji and yuzu and aged for three years to produce the finished paste.
Being in Paraguay in May, Johnny couldn’t get his hands on any snow and so went totally the other way – putting his paste in a blackening chamber for 2 months!
Nothing short of fascinating.
2. Kobo Fermentary – Bengali unripe-mango mustard
Another great account to follow for all things ferments, Kobo Fermentary have been fermenting around 20 years and recently posted a recipe for Aam Kasundi (Bengali unripe-mango mustard).
They’ve attempted their own, fuelled by “a massive bag of unripe Totapuri mangoes”, also adding a tablespoon of miso which, by their own admission, is “not Bengali by any means, but koji makes everything better.”
Kasundi is a well-loved condiment in Bengali cuisine and provides a sharp spice like that of wasabi. Along with mango (the ‘aam’), Kasundi can be made with other ingredients such as tomatoes, Indian plums and olives.
Kobo’s kasundi keeps in the fridge in the year and can be used as an all-purpose mustard, not just for Indian food.
3. John Nguyen – Bánh xèo with aged cheddar & ikura
Next up is a Vietnamese crispy, stuffed rice pancake (Bánh xèo) from John Nguyen, head chef of Xuan in Hong Kong.
Filled with aged cheddar and salmon caviar (ikura), John has a lot of love for the snack, claiming it “is my favorite combination so far”, with the chef seemingly playing around with different decadent fillings for the Vietnamese crêpes.
In April, he posted a bánh xèo filled with Mangalica pork belly, prawns, green papaya, carrots and red onion. There’s a lobster-filled one on his feed too.
What a great idea for a food truck…
4. Luke Sherwood-French – Scottish scallop shoyu
Luke Sherwood-French, chef director of JÖRO in Sheffield, has also been dabbling with the ingredient of the moment, koji, posting a shot of Scottish scallop shoryu on his Instagram at the end of May.
Made with the skirts of Orkney scallops and a little koji, his shoryu may well still be brewing, as there’s no hint of it on the menu as yet.
Eyes be peeled, though!
5. Anders Husa – Smoked garfish
Last up is another entry from the irrepressible Anders Husa – a Tastehunter for 50 Best with an Instagram account that regularly leaves me consumed with jealousy.
Earlier this month, he posted a dish of smoked garfish from Restaurant Barr in Copenhagen, which came with a dill and parsley potato salad, nestled on rye bread.
I, for one, have never heard of a garfish which, Anders says, tastes a little like eel. Often seen as by-catch, the bones of the garfish are green, which might explain why we don’t see much of it on UK plates.
The green colour is harmless though and they can be found in the Atlantic west of Ireland and Great Britain, if anyone fancies a crack at garfish on toast!