Archive for the ‘Trends’ Category

Quick Bites for the Week Ending 2012-06-29

Friday, June 29th, 2012

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Food Trend: Back to Back in Black

Wednesday, January 4th, 2012

An online piece from Australian Food News quoted an article from Food Technology published in December 2011.  It caught my interest in Forbidden Rice or Black Rice, since I’ve never tasted this.   It also made me recall other natural food products I’ve encountered in 2011 that are naturally black.

Black/Forbidden Rice

A few clicks on the net directed my search to a West based company in the US called Lotus Foods, whose expertise is in the distribution of exotic rice.     On the FAQ section of their website, it explains that Forbidden Rice, an heirloom variety is aptly named since it was once reserved only for the emperor and his family in China.

The black colour is natural and is attributed to the outer bran layer.   It might also be due to where it  is grown, in the black hummus soil of the Black Dragon River of the Northeastern provinces of China.  Black rice is also grown in Japan where it is called Kurogome (or black rice),  and in Thailand as a glutinous black rice cooked in pudding with coconut milk.

The dark colour of the forbidden rice relates to the high content of antioxidants, particularly anthocyanin that is also responsible for imparting the dark, purplish, bluish hues in fruits and vegetables.   In August 2010, CNN health writer Carina Storrs article “Is Black Rice the New Brown”, black rice is compared to fresh blueberries where she cites that “One spoonful of black-rice bran — or 10 spoonfuls of cooked black rice — contains the same amount of anthocyanin as a spoonful of fresh blueberries, according to a new study presented today at the American Chemical Society, in Boston”. She further added that Black rice would be better to consumer since fresh blueberries contain sugar.

In an online post on titled “Is Purple Rice (referred to as “forbidden rice”) Better for you than Brown Rice?” the nutrient values were directly compared and concluded that based on their nutritive content, they were not significantly different, and in fact almost at the same level.      The author concluded that if price was a deciding factor between the two rice varieties, the Brown rice would be better due to its cost advantage over Black rice.

Taste-wise, I have yet to taste Black rice.    It seems from various posts that both have a nutty flavour.   Black rice however is a short grain rice whereas Brown rice is a long grain rice that absorbs more water and takes longer to cook.

Black Garlic

Black Garlic

Black garlic has its roots in Korea and China. explains that fresh garlic bulbs are carefully monitored for about 4 weeks in a controlled environment of temperature and humidity where they undergo a fermentation process.  Since garlic contains sugar and amino acids, these elements when fermented produces melanoidin that causes the black colour.      The result is a sticky, black clove that is soft and mushy with a sweet flavour and complex undertones.

Edible Bamboo Charcoal Powder

I had to do a double take when I saw this.   Japan seems to lead all other countries when it comes to unique food ingredients.  The idea is that charcoal has natural absorption properties, so when ingested it helps prevent the body from absorbing harmful chemicals or poisions.    This Japanese site illustrates some product applications for edible charcoal powder :      I’m not too keen on trying this out for the new year.

Black / Beluga Lentil

Black / Beluga Lentils

Black lentils are popularly used in Indian cooking and are the smallest of the lentils.   They are also referred to as Beluga Lentils due to their shiny resemblance to Beluga caviar.
Black Beluga® Lentil is a trademark of Timeless Seeds, Inc., their website mentions that among other lentil varieties, the black lentil has the highest amount of protein.

In the UK, it can also be found in the retail markets in a ready to eat pouch, simmered in stock.

Back to the Food Fight

Monday, August 8th, 2011

In my younger, single years while working as a product developer for a flavour company, one of the projects I developed was a “juice” drink composed of: 75% sugar, 5% juice powder (of which 50% was maltodextrin), tri-calcium phosphate (to prevent clumping), gums as thickeners, citric acid,  and colour etc. etc.   It addressed all the needs from a beverage perspective: it tasted good, quenched the thirst, it was affordable and very profitable for our client.  Not too proud of it’s nutritional aspect, but this “drink” eventually became a best-seller across a third world country.

More than a decade following that job, with young family in the picture – I try to make all our meals from scratch and I started a business venture that aim to provide more natural and value-added food ingredients.     Even in my own household, it has not been an easy voyage. As soon as my kids learned their colours, they have put up quite the resistance to their consumption of vegetables.     The food fight continues! I resorted to stealth health cooking i.e. adding cauliflour puree to the baked macaroni, spinach in the pesto, chia seeds in their pancakes, quinoa flour in the banana bread etc. etc.  to add enough fibre and nutrients into their meals.    The good news is that they are quite fond of fruits and though they would hate to admit it, they have picked up a few favourite veggies that they are happy to munch on.

It seems not a lot of people know what healthy food really means.     Is pizza a healthy lunch?   Can french fries count as a vegetable?   A typical lunch program often includes pizza lunches every week of the entire school year.        Adding “fruit juice” gummies as their idea of a nutritious desert, does not cut it.     The banning of nuts from schools and other children’s programs in Canada has also created an unhealthy reception for most kids – the idea that eating nuts are bad for you, whether you have allergies or not.    Ontario schools have started to change their ways, somewhat.   The government of Ontario has issued their guidelines for the coming schoolyear.   More details can be found here:            However, It does not come close to what the French public schools have, but it is a start.

The schools in France have been remarkable in their provision of a school lunch.    The children in the French public school system are provided a 5 course meal everyday.  Not only are the kids taught the value of enjoying their lunch,   they are also accorded ample time to savour it (,9171,1969729,00.html ).         Our Canadian schools allot about 20 minutes for our kids to lap up their meals before they are hurried out the door.     An article that came out last year in the Harvard Mental Health Letter suggests that eating slowly may help you achieve a feeling of fullness (    It also helps explain why most resources for losing weight would recommend you to slowly chew your food. The theory is that, if you eat your food too fast, you do not give enough time for your brain to realize that you are full. Do you still wonder why there is a growing incidence of obesity in children?

While kids may eat a not-so-healthy meal at school, it is up to us parents and guardians to make sure that our children are introduced to healthier choices at home.      To have a decent breakfast before they go off to school and a balanced dinner before they retire to bed.   While I may not pack a 5 course school meal for my kids, it is certainly close to gourmet.

Other related posts:
A Chef’s Guide to Healthier, Kid-Friendly Foods

French Week: On School Lunches

It’s Good Business To Have Healthy Customers

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Classic school lunch. Yum.Jillian Michaels, “TV’s toughest trainer” appearing on the hit show The Biggest Loser, recently interviewed Jamie Oliver for It’s hard not to know about Jamie Oliver, the chef who waged war on American obesity in ABC’s Food Revolution. Jamie tyied to teach America why we needed to learn to cook, and to care about what we are feeding our children.  Working in the food industry, one item that caught our eye was Jamie’s assertion that it’s good business to promote healthy foods:

Big stores in America are trying to do the right thing, and bring more fresh food, to more people for a fair price. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to make change. Big business has to decide that it’s good business to have healthy customers. And we can help them do that by making different choices. If you stop buying processed foods, they will stop selling them.

We recommend you read the entire interview for more insights and why we need to change the way we cook and feed our kids: Jamie Oliver on the Fight for Healthier Food.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Ben+Sam

A rose by any other name – would it smell as sweet?

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Ispahan - A smooth rose flavoured biscuit with rose petal cream, fresh raspberries and lychees from Laduree

Isfahan or Isphahan refers to a historical city in Iran which use to be the capital and one of the largest cities in the world.   Iran’s culture has had a long and diverse tradition on the use of flowers in its food, health, trade and design.

Among the many varieties of roses, the Rosa damascena stands out as one of the most prized species in the commercial manufacture of rose oil and rose water due to its intense aroma.   It is widely cultivated and processed in Iran, Bulgaria and in Turkey.  However, studies seem to indicate that this species originated in Iran.

The processing starts with sack full of roses that have been harvested in the cool morning.   The petals are sorted on a concrete floor and allowed to slightly “ferment” then the oils are extracted through hydrodistillation.

Middle Eastern, North African and Indian cuisines have used floral waters extensively in beverage and food preparations.    Gulab Jamon, Zoulbia and bamia are just not the same without rose water added to their syrups.  Malaysia and Singapore has a drink called bandung or rose water mixed with milk, sugar and pink food colour.

In modern times, French chefs and patisseries have used rose water for flavouring macarons, chocolate and delicate cakes.   Successful pairings include tart berries such as raspberries to other floral notes namely lychee.  Dairy and vanilla are effective bases to accentuate the aromatic properties of the rose.

On the savoury side, rose water is added to stews such as safaid murgh gulabi (Chicken and Rose Curry) or Rose Quail Recipe taken from the book “Like Water for Chocolate”.   Sweet or savoury, it is best not to use too much in a recipe.  Used sparingly, the flavour of the rose can be quite intoxicating and definitely worth trying out!

Rose water is available through Ingredient Hotline, Inc.

Real Food. Real Taste.

Monday, April 11th, 2011

How many “Thai” restaurants have you been to, only to find that the dish is more Chinese in taste and style than what it’s suppose to be?

Real Food, Real Taste – this is my catch phrase for 2011.

Real food means natural ingredients.

Real Taste means authentic flavours.

Real Food, Real Taste are what consumers are looking for when they purchase food products or eat at a restaurant. The description of the food product or meal has to be more specific. Is it from the Yucatan or Oaxacan? Is the dish prepared and served as you would find it in Mexico or is it “Tex-Mex”

Real taste or authenticity is what you can delight your customers with if you use the real ingredients.   Kecap Manis is not Hoisin sauce.   Galangal is not ginger – they just do not provide the same depth of flavour.   Brown sugar is not coconut/palm sugar so an equal substitution would produce a sweeter than expected taste.    If you have never tried smoked paprika from the de la Vera region of Spain, then you have not tasted real smoked paprika.   Paella and chorizo just don’t taste the same without this key ingredient.   Paprika that is found in the supermarket is bland, so consumers associate paprika for just adding colour on devilled eggs.

It would also help if the chef or developer has had the chance to taste the actual target at the place of origin and has seen how it is served.    In most situations, the customer has lived in or travelled to distant countries, has savoured the dish and they just want to relive that experience.   It could get very disappointing when an advertised item does not deliver.

Real Food means using raw materials that are either fresh or minimally processed.    When you cook with vanilla beans, it provides such a big difference compared to using ethyl vanillin or an artificial vanilla flavour.    The cost of natural ingredients are often higher, but the satisfaction derived is also greater.

If you are looking to cook with Real Food with Real Taste ingredients, check out our website:   Our unique and natural ingredients are grown, processed and supported from the source.

Squeeze On Quinoa Supply?

Monday, February 28th, 2011

Quinoa in Bolivia

We’ve already touched on the surge in demand for quinoa as people, particularly in the west, become educated on the fantastic properties of this tiny seed (yes, technically quinoa is a seed, but it is often referred to as a grain!). It would be fair to say that quinoa is fast becoming a hit in North America as it lands on the shelves of mainstream grocers.

However, times aren’t so great for the world’s main exporter of quinoa. In Bolivia, drought and late freezes have halved output this year. We’ll be following up on this to see if and when it may affect wholesale prices. We source quinoa for food manufacturers from both Bolivia and Peru to help ensure a decent supply of this amazing seed that can be used in a multitude of food applications.

Watch more on the problems in Bolivia from Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Creative Commons License photo credit: einalem

School Lunches: Whole Grains, Fresh Fruits & Vegetables

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

The USDA has announced new guidelines for school lunches (in the USA). What could be more important than the food our children eat? In an era of soaring childhood obesity rates, we all have an interest in providing healthy meals for our children. According to ABC News, the new school lunch guidelines are based on an Institute of Medicine study:

…reduce saturated fat, sugar and sodium. Increase whole grains. Serve both fruits and vegetables daily. And, for the first time, set maximum calorie counts in addition to minimum ones.

More on the story:

A Mother’s Milk & A Seed From Peru

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Quinoa consumption and production have exploded in recent years. The trend is reflected in search volume for Qunioa:

Quinoa Trend

According to Yahoo! News, Bolivia and Peru account for almost 97% of production. In Bolivia exports have risen from slightly over 1400 metric tons in 2000 to 14500 metric tons in 2009 with wholesale prices increasing 700% over the period. What is driving this huge demand? Quinoa is actually a seed, but not just any seed:

  • It provides 10 essential amino acids and is loaded with minerals.
  • It has a protein content between 14 and 18%.
  • It has been suggested that quinoa is the most perfect food for the human diet with the FAO (U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization) suggesting it can be substituted for mother’s milk – it is that nutritious.
  • Even though it’s a seed, it’s eaten like a grain. However, it is gluten-free and therefore more easily digestible.
  • It can be substituted for rice in almost any application.

The popularity of Quinoa is starting to impact the lives of those that produce it in South America. It is hoped that this new found demand will lift farmers out of poverty, with quinoa now considered a strategic crop in Bolivia, the world’s largest producer.

Read More:

    Canadian Apple That Resists Browning

    Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

    NYC - Grand Central Terminal
    For anyone who has sliced up an apple knows, leave it on the plate for a few minutes, and it starts to brown. It looks a lot less appetizing. Maybe that’s about to change: Okanagan Specialty Fruits, a Canadian biotechnology firm based in Summerland, British Columbia has developed a genetically modified apple that resists browning after it is sliced or bruised. The benefits are obvious:

    • Producers can cut wastage from superficial bruising.
    • Fresh cut apple processors can eliminate treatments that prevent browning, reducing costs.

    According to company president Neal Carter:

    We think that there is value in this product all the way along the value chain — growers, packers and especially the food service industry, where people are putting fruit in bags and on buffet tables and in salads.

    Okanagan Specialty Fruits has asked the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency about bringing its apple to market. Carter says:

    The apples look exactly like what you’d expect – a Golden or Granny or Fuji – and it tastes like a normal apple. Their composition is, if anything, better or more nutritious, because as you’d expect, browning is a bad thing in an apple.

    Of course “genetically modified” is a dirty term with some people, so it will be interesting to gauge market acceptance if the apples are approved. In the mean time, if you don’t want your apple slices to brown at home, simply try adding a few drops of lemon juice. The acid in the lemon juice prevents the oxidation that causes the apple slices to brown.

    Read More:

    Vancouver Sun: B.C. firm develops apples that won’t turn brown when sliced

    Food Navigator-USA: B.C. firm develops apples that won’t turn brown when sliced

    Creative Commons License photo credit: r0sss