Asian trend: why do we like sweets and spicy so much?
The trend in Asian cuisine has been holding for more than one year, but in 2018 it reached its peak. The share of the restaurant market with a Pan-Asian concept, according to experts, is now up to 10-15%, which is comparable with another leader in gastronomy – Italian cuisine. How did the trend for Asia arise, why do we like the combination of spicy, sour, spicy and sweet, and how long these tastes last for a long time in Moscow restaurants, read below.
“Panasia” – what is it all about?
The prefix “Pan-Asian” is now used by many restaurants that open their doors in St. Petersburg and beyond. But what is it? Perhaps a stupid question, but still, the name of each gastronomic direction absorbs various nuances: from the spices used in the kitchen to the cooking technique.
The term “pan-Asianism” itself appeared in the first half of the 20th century and meant propaganda of the unity of Asian peoples in the territories occupied by Japanese troops. But in the gastronomic sphere there are no high-profile and even a few chauvinist slogans, but there is a unity of the East, which takes in itself the culinary traditions of various countries. So Pan-Asian cuisine includes dishes from Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Cambodia, Laos, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia. As noted by Elena Chernyshova, a PR specialist in the restaurant sector, Indian cuisine is also Pan-Asian, but they prefer to separate it from the rest of Asia, since it is more specific due to the characteristic sharpness and abundant use of spices. But in general, Asian countries combine three key ingredients in gastronomic terms: rice, noodles and seafood.
In addition to geographical features, Asian cuisine has, of course, also taste. As noted by Irina Kuznetsova, brand director of the Asian brand Rosinter Restaurants, Europeans use only four tastes, and Asians always five: bitter, salty, sweet, sour and spicy, which makes Asian cuisine unique. The most typical taste of Asia is created thanks to the minds, which in Japanese means “pleasant taste”, which occurs when eating high-protein foods with sodium glutomate and amino acids. “Umami characterizes dishes using soy sauce, miso pasta, seaweed, fermented foods and even matcha green tea,” says Ivan Dubkov, the concept chef at Ukrop Cafe. “The main effect of the minds is to emphasize and balance the taste of dishes.” The natural taste of umami can be felt even without food additives, for example, in miso soup with tofu, buckwheat soba noodles with shiitake mushrooms or in a salad with wakame seaweed.
In addition to the mysterious minds, among the ingredients that create an unusual Asian taste of dishes, Nikolay Belousov, the owner of the Joly Woo network, notes: anise, black cardamom zoago, fennel, Sichuan pepper, fish sauce, shrimp paste, various sauces based on soy and its derivatives. These products are included in dishes already familiar to Petersburgers: Thai soup Tom Yam, Vietnamese – Fo Bo, Indian pilaf Caesarea, Cambodian Lok varnish and Indonesian chicken sate.
Despite the similarity of ingredients throughout Asia, the cooking technique differs not only in different countries, but also at the domestic level – from region to region, which, of course, is most noticeable in China.
Asia-mania in Moscow, St. Petersburg and not only
The trend for Asian dishes is not a new phenomenon for the restaurant life of Moscow, St. Petersburg and Russia as a whole. According to gastroexperts, the first signs of a Pan-Asian mania began to appear on the market back in the 90s with the advent of authentic Chinese cuisine with brought chefs and Japanese – in the zero. As noted by Elena Chernyshova, over time, the hype around sushi bars subsided, as the audience was fed up with such food.
The decline in popularity of Japanese cuisine is caused not only by the gastronomic preferences of restaurant guests, but also, as Nikolai Belousov clarifies, a significant increase in the cost of dishes, which traditionally include expensive ingredients, such as fresh salmon and tuna.
Japanese cuisine has been replaced by Italian, the peak of popularity of which is already left behind. But, due to a kind of “break” of several years, Asia was able to once again attract the attention of the audience four years ago. And now, according to experts, Pan-Asian cuisine is at the top, which will last another year and a half. The demand for Asian cuisine, no matter how strange it may sound, is due to the similarity of the gastronomic traditions of Russia and the East. According to Alexei Burov, co-owner of the Restaurant Group Burov and Kokkov, compatriots Pan-Asian cuisine is understandable and like for its bright, expressive taste, satiety and relative usefulness. The phrase “clear kitchen” is now often found, and often its synonym is simplicity. “Asian cuisine is not something mousse,” explains Georgy Karpenko, co-owner of HURMA Group.