The Next Chipotle

800px-KimchiCloseUpConsumer research is telling us the American palate is becoming less sweet, and more tangy, briny, and pickled. At least that is what the Wall Street Journal‘s Ellen Byron is reporting (content restricted). And though this might unnerve some of us, what we are embracing are fermented foods. Of course we’ve always had a taste for sauerkraut and pickles, but there are places that now serve hot dogs with kimchi. And Lay’s has a new Sriracha-flavored brand of chips. For those of you not familiar, Sriracha, Byron explains, is “a popular Thai sauce made from fermented peppers” and “is one of the most complex flavors Lays has introduced,” according to Frito-Lay’s senior marketing director. If you didn’t know it by name, you’ve probably seen the bottle with (I presume) Thai writing, a green cap, and containing a fiery red sauce. The Journal also provided a chart, chronicling our love of fermented foods from the sauerkraut and pickles of the 19th century to the San Francisco sour dough of the ’70s to the balsamic vinegar of the ’90s and on to chipotle.

Byron also talks with the analysts at International Flavors and Fragrances, Inc., where exotic flavors are perfected before being added to our everyday products.

At IFF’s test kitchen in South Brunswick, N.J., staff chefs recently prepared pickled zucchini with an IFF-concocted natural kimchi flavor, which gave it a tangy zing. The goal is to incorporate “Korean-type flavors like kimchi into a very middle-American, consumer-friendly concept,” says David Horrocks, a research chef at IFF. Using a kimchi flavoring, rather than the authentic (and hot) version, helps food companies translate the popular Korean dish to mainstream American palates, he says. “It’s something that can be familiar and approachable but really new, too,” Mr. Horrocks says.

And suddenly we’re going down the street to grab lunch at Kimchi, a place that used to be called Chipotle.

Photo of kimchi courtesy of Nagyman.

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