Industry News | May 23, 2005

Asian Flavors Are Hot

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Pan-Asian concepts have become popular in quick-service and fast-casual, and a look at the new food and beverage products introduced at the NRA show bolsters the notion that Asian flavors are all the rage.

On the beverage front, The Ginger People have opened up a new drink category with their Ginger Smoother. Described as neither tea, soda, water, nor an energy drink, the beverage is made with Chinese yellow ginger, honey, lemon, and natural flavors. Ginger is said to provide any number of benefits to the body --- from easing nausea to being a powerful antioxidant --- and the Ginger Smoother contains 19 grams of the stuff.

Tea Tech has introduced a line of instant Green Teas that mix with either hot or cold water. Flavors include Original, which is unsweetened, and Lemon and Raspberry, both of which are sweetened with either sugar or Splenda. Like ginger, green teas are said to be powerful antioxidants.

On the food front, DNI Group has rolled out a spring roll with a bit of a twist. Filled with calamari, shrimp, and vegetables with hints of garlic and sesame oil, these rolls use a traditional Vietnamese rice paper rather than the typical wheat-based wrapper. They can be served either warm or cold, with your choice of sauce.

Speaking of sauce, Lee Kum Kee has introduced several new flavors: Broccoli Beef, Mandarin Chicken, Kung Pao Chicken, Mu Shu Chicken, Mongolian Beef, Sriracha Chili, and Thai Sweet Chili. Either of the latter two would make for a nice accompaniment to spring rolls.

Phillips Foods is now offering a line of "Asian Rhythms," which consists of Thai Dim Sum that Phillips says are made by hand. There are three fried offerings (shrimp spring rolls, shrimp wontons, and shrimp moneybags) and three steamed (shrimp shomai, seafood shomai, and shrimp hakao).

In sushi news, Sumikin Bussan International has rolled out a line of frozen sushi. Frozen sushi? According to the company, "Even Japanese sushi lovers cannot realize the difference between fresh and fozen sushi after thawing." Six types are available: the ever-popular California roll, spicy salmon roll, salmon cheese roll (American tastes, you know), tuna salad roll, eel avocado roll, and eel box sushi.

Burgers and fries it's not. But American palates are expanding, and the wise quick-service or fast-casual operator will bear this in mind.