Melissa Elsmo

Its time to dust off the good old culinary crystal ball in hopes it reveals the hottest food trends for 2018. Obviously I have no guarantee if I’m on the right track, but have high hope I’ll be proven right over the next 12 months. Cauliflower is sure to remain popular throughout the coming year and interest in “bleeding” meatless burgers is bound to surge, but be sure to make a little room in your crisper bin for an ugly carrot or two to be even more on trend. While you’re at it, help prove me right by sipping on rooibos, eating a waffle on a stick, or enjoying you next batch of French fries as an entree.

The Trends:

Rooibos: Look for this herb to give matcha lovers something else to sip on in 2018. Rooibos (roy-boss), made from the leaves of a South African plant, is steeped like tea and promises health benefits in every cup. Naturally caffeine-free and a good source of iron, calcium and potassium, the red-hued drink boasts the ability to improve bone and heart health. Stop by Todd and Holland in Forest Park to select something from their extensive Rooibos collection.

Ghost Restaurants: As interest in App based food ordering continues to grow and flexible third-party delivery services gain popularity, the arrival of delivery-only establishments will be on the rise in 2018. Ghost or “headless” restaurants ditch the dining room in favor of producing made-to-order fare designed to take a quick trip in the car. They’ve experienced some growing pains in the recent past, but ghost restaurants are sure to work out the kinks in the New Year.

Discounted Ugly Veggies: Around the globe billions of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables are tossed aside every year because of visual imperfections. In an effort to make a dent in food-waste, conscious home-cooks are embracing mangled, cracked, and over-grown produce. Online delivery services rescue millions of pounds of trash-bound produce each year and sell it to open-minded folks. As this trend picks up steam we’ll begin to see wonky fruits and veggies offered for sale in brick and mortar grocery stores at deeply discounted prices.

Indonesian Fare: Waves of excitement surrounded Filipino cuisine in 2017 paving the way for Indonesian fare to make a splash in 2018. Comprised of thousands of islands, Indonesia has a diverse cuisine featuring flavorful spice pastes (sambal), decadent beef curries (rendang), and glorious composed salads (gado-gado). With a vast array of regional flavors to explore look for American palates to embrace these bold and underappreciated dishes.

Waffle Pops: This timeless breakfast favorite has been providing culinary bliss-out moments to the masses since the Middle Ages, but look for this steadfast favorite to displace the super trendy cake pop 2018. These festive waffles served up on a stick can be dunked in frosting, chocolate, honey or even marshmallow fluff before finishing them off with crushed cookies, cereal, nuts and/or sprinkles.

Global Poutine: Poutine is a perennial favorite among Canadian snack connoisseurs and American chefs have been dabbling with this delicious potato concoction for quite a while now. Classic poutine is composed of French fries topped with gooey cheese curds and piping hot gravy. Look for creative international riffs on this comfort-food classic to pop up state-side in the New Year.

Floating Noodles: Social media users adore sharing images of epic food presentations. It’s no surprise foodie photogs became obsessed with “floating noodles” first served at Hana restaurant in Singapore. The dish features soba or somen noodles cascading eerily from a pair of chopsticks suspended in mid-air. A simple architectural trick accomplishes the feat and a version of this fanciful presentation has already popped up on restaurant menus in California. While it is likely to be a short-lived trend, expect to see your Instagram feed filled with images of hovering noodles in 2018.

Lager Love Returns: The IPA has become the king of the craft beer movement, but beer lovers may take another look at bottom-fermented lagers in 2018. Prized for their longer fermentation and crisp finish, lagers have fewer fruity-floral notes than an IPA. Looking to be on trend? Pop over to Kinslager in Forest Park and give their Prohibition Pilsner a try.

Trendy Eats:

Easy Indonesian-Style Floating Noodles (Makes 8-10 servings)

These noodles will be equally delicious if you serve them in a bowl, but I rigged up my chopsticks with a little wire to create to on-trend floating noodle effect.

For the Pork Marinade:

  • 1 Pound pork loin chop, cut into 1/4” thick strips
  • 1 ½ Tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chili-garlic sauce

For the Crispy Shallots:

  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced into rings
  • About ¼ Cup of canola oil

For the Sauce:

  • ¼ Cup reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon chili garlic sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons ketchup
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon canola oil
  • salt and black pepper

For the Noodles:

  • 6 garlic cloves, minced and divided
  • 1 ½ Cups shredded green cabbage
  • 1 ugly carrot, peeled and shredded (about 1 Cup)
  • 1/2 Cup mung bean sprouts
  • 1 pound spaghetti noodles, cooked according to package directions

For the Garnishes:

  • Chopped Scallions
  • ½ Cup mung bean sprouts
  • Reserved Crispy Shallots
  • Medium boiled egg
  • Black Sesame Seeds

Marinate the Pork: Combine the cut pork, soy sauce and chili-garlic sauce in a small bowl and toss to combine. Set aside until ready to cook.

Make the Crispy Shallots: Combine the sliced shallots and the canola oil in small skillet. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until the shallots begin to fry. When the shallots are deep golden brown (take care not to burn them) remove them a small bowl using a slotted spoon. Reserve the cooking oil and shallots separately.

For the Sauce: Mix the soy sauce, chili-garlic sauce, ketchup, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Cook the Noodles: Heat the reserved shallot cooking oil in a large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add the pork with the marinade to the pan and cook, stirring frequently until nearly opaque-about 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of the chopped garlic and a pinch of salt and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Reduce heat to medium-high and add the cabbage, carrots and bean sprouts and mix well. Cook, stirring frequently until wilted; about 3 minutes. Add 1/3 of the garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add the noodles and the sauce mixture and toss well to combine.

To Serve: Transfer the noodle mixture to a large serving bowl and garnish with boiled egg, black sesame, scallions, bean sprouts and crispy shallots.

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