From frog bread to pea milk, the wacky food and beverage trends of 2020 were tailor-made for the new normal
With barely a couple of days left for the year to end, it’s time we moved past the obvious fact that 2020 was an unmitigated disaster. Instead, shall we look for the proverbial silver lining? Or maybe I should say silver spoon. Come to think of it, in no other year in recent memory was creativity in all aspects of life at such a high, as we navigated our way around the new normal. Almost all of us turned bakers overnight. And we rediscovered the old comfort of food, which miraculously soothed our pandemic-ravaged nerves. Naturally, the food and beverage space buzzed with trends, willingly amplified by social media.
So here’s my list of the most popular food and beverage trends of 2020 that took the edge off those pandemic blues.
Cloud in the kitchen
Baking bread was certainly the big-ticket trend of 2020, with the first half of the year dominated by sourdough bread. Banana and focaccia ‘art’ breads continue to hold sway in almost every home-baker’s kitchen and social media accounts. Things got a bit outré in the latter part of 2020, with the emergence of two very interesting baked foods — cloud bread and frog bread.
Resembling a fluffy, egg-white meringue, no points for guessing how cloud bread got its name. Keeping the keto crowd happy, this low-carb ‘bread’ is a flourless confection made with stiffly beaten egg whites and cream cheese. The white bread-like, light-n-airy flat bun can be coloured and flavoured either sweet or left savoury. Frog bread, on the other hand, is exactly that: a solid bread roll fashioned in the likeness of the rain-loving amphibian. As different as they are in texture, we notice that both are inspired by rain…
Just as almond and cashew nut butter was getting as passé as
peanut butter, the dining space was perked up with the invasion of unique butters made of watermelon seed, macadamia, soy nut and hemp seed. But none of these trends is as notable as the phenomenal rise of cookie butter — Lotus Biscoff, to be precise. Easily the new Nutella, this Belgian invention, also known as speculoos spread, is now lending itself to sandesh, cheesecake, milkshakes, brownies and more.
With over 100,000 posts on Instagram and Pinterest combined, the visually attractive sushi cake made a mark. These quirky cakes are basically upturned versions of a
rare-to-find-outside-Japan type of sushi called chirashi zushi. Roughly translated as scattered sushi, chirashi zushi is served in a bowl in which a base of vinegared sushi rice is layered with raw seafood or vegetables along with the sweeter, creamier Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise; topped with blobs of wasabi, pickled gari (pink ginger); and dusted with furikake seasoning along with strips of nori seaweed. Several restaurants have cottoned on to this trend with their own colourful versions (even Jain) of the sushi cake.
Cloud kitchens, ghost kitchens or virtual restaurants — call them what you may, the lockdown showed us that they can easily replace their brick-and-mortar counterparts. A whole slew of delivery- and pick up-only restaurants sprung up across the country, offering diners everything from boxed, gourmet meals to DIY food and cocktail kits to be enjoyed in the comfort of one’s home. One positive fallout of this was the democratisation of ‘fancy’ food.
Five-star hotels were willing to send their chefs over to cook up a feast in your kitchen while snooty, fine-dining restaurants hosted American tailgate-style weekend affairs in their parking lots.
Riding on the coattails of 2019’s biggest food and beverage trend — fermentation and probiotics that gave us the ‘triple treat’ of kombucha, kefir and kimchi — is 2020’s ‘food as medicine’ trend aimed at promoting wellness. Turmeric-imbued drinks like golden latte (a fancy term for good old haldi dudh) and herbal teas laced with ashwagandha (Indian ginseng) and mulethi (liquorice root) upped their status as alleged immunity boosters in the war against COVID-19.
The takedown of milk as we know it has been going on for a while now in hipster circles with the rise of plant-based substitutes like soy, oat, almond, rice and coconut milks. The year saw not one but three Indian companies launch their own brands of coconut milk yoghurt, which is a boon for the lactose intolerant and vegans. The latest salvo is nutrient-rich milk derived from split yellow peas. Pea milk, anyone?
The Mumbai-based writer and restaurant reviewer is passionate about food, travel and luxury, not necessarily in that order.