Latin cuisine offerings in the US will expand with regional, reimagined dishes

Latin American foods and flavors were on trend this year, and the cuisines of Mexico and Central and South America are showing up in many analysts’ predictions for the top trends of 2018.

Peruvian cuisine continues to be popular

Peruvian cuisine will continue to gain steam in the new year after captivating consumers and chefs alike in 2017. The World Travel Awards named Peru the World’s Leading Culinary Destination for the sixth year in a row. Culinary tourism in the country has skyrocketed as food enthusiasts from around the world flock to its award-winning restaurants such as Central and Maido and the annual Mistura food festival. Peruvian specialties such as lomo saltado, pisco sours and various potato dishes have been showing up on more US menus.

Sixty percent of chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Association for its 2018 What’s Hot Culinary Forecast identified Peruvian cuisine as a hot trend.  Peruvian food was the No. 2 trend in the report’s Global Flavors category, following “authentic ethnic cuisine” in first place.

Desire for authenticity sets the table for regional dishes

It’s likely that this interest in authentic cuisine will manifest on menus in the form of regional Latin American dishes, some of which are variations on foods that US diners already know and some of which will be mostly new to US menus. One example of a regional style expected to gain recognition in the US in the coming year is the fusion of Cantonese and Peruvian food known as Chifa, according to Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants' fourth annual Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast.

The survey of chefs from more than 80 Kimpton restaurants also pointed to growth potential for reimagined Mexican cuisine and creative twists on classic Mexican dishes, such as chorizo-stuffed dates or octopus tacos. A regional variation on Mexican ceviche known as aguachile is showing up on more menus, according to a recent Trending Tables report from Nation’s Restaurant News. The seafood dish is just one example of regional Mexican food expected to gain prominence on US menus in the coming year. Chefs will take a deeper dive into Mexican cuisine and highlight more foods that hail from one of Mexico’s 31 states or their subregions, restaurant and hospitality consultancy Andrew Freeman & Company predicted in its 2018 trend report.

Several restaurants across the US are already exploring Mexico’s regional cooking styles, with menus inspired by the dishes of Oaxaca, Veracruz, Mexico City and more, Tasting Table reported earlier this year.

Discovering new street food favorites

Another result of the growing desire for more authentic, niche Latin American dishes will likely be a shift in the types of Latin street food dishes on US menus. Global street food has been a top culinary trend for several years running and fun, flavorful snack items will continue to be popular in 2018. Pupusas, the stuffed corn tortillas from El Salvador, will make a major showing on menus this year, according to Conde Nast Traveler, which predicted they may overtake the taco in 2018.

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