18 Oct Reinventing Classic Latin Dishes: The Rise of Modern Mexican Fare
While traditional Mexican fare continues its hold on American consumers’ taste buds – industry research firms Mintel and Technomic place it in the top three ethnic cuisines craved when dining out—Mexican-themed restaurant chefs and operators are exploring menu offerings that go beyond tacos and burritos.
As American consumers’ tastes continue to evolve, traditional Mexican fare such as burritos and tacos are considered almost staples—found not only in Mexican restaurants but also in full service restaurant chains such as California Pizza Kitchen.
According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), Americans are becoming more interested in trying new foods, especially in restaurants, explains Nation Restaurant News.
“Typical restaurant diners are more knowledgeable, sophisticated and experienced than they were two decades ago,” detailed NRA’s “Global Palates: Ethnic Cuisines and Flavors in America” report. “Today’s consumer — especially in the younger age groups — generally is more willing to try new foods and expand their taste buds.”
At the same time, notes QSR magazine, consumers are looking for more authentic fare, rather than Americanized versions of a cuisine.
Modern Mexican fare re-imagines classic dishes, layering in regional ingredients, not just from Mexico, but also from other Latin American countries—Cuba, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, among others.
In Rick Bayless’ popular Chicago Frontera Grill, the menu is peppered with Latin fusion offerings, including Pork Garnachas, featuring sweet potato-corn masa boats with pork carnitas, black beans, sweet plantains and salsa negra; Chicken in Xico Mole, grilled red-chile chicken breast, grilled eggplant, crispy butternut deliciously layered under with Veracruz’s famous mole de Xico (made with mulato & pasilla chiles, dried fruit, plantain, almonds, pecans and pinenuts); and Whole Duck Carnitas, a flavorful dish offering crispy-skin whole duck carnitas marinated with lime & garlic, served with black beans, sweet plantains, classic guacamole and a roasted tomatillo molcajete salsa.
Alma Cocina in Atlanta brings a fresh approach to contemporary Latin and Mexican cuisine. It’s Masa Fried Shrimp Tacos masterfully combines shrimp chorizo, pear and plum salsa, chile morita mayo and avocado mousse. A long-time traditional Latin side Sweet Fried Plantains is also offered with red chile agave nectar and queso fresco.
“Latin restaurants have grown as more people of Hispanic origin make their way to the U.S.”, says Mary Chapman, director of product innovation at Technomic Inc., in the QSR article on Mexican menu innovations. “At the same time, American palates have become more sophisticated and adventurous,” she explains in the article, “so we are looking for new flavors.”
With consumers’ tastes evolving and demand for creativity on the rise, we can expect fresh innovation and tasteful twists on traditional Latin fare to continue to make way onto menus across America.