As use of bold, adventurous flavours and fresh ingredients expands across healthcare foodservice, and we strive to meet our guests’ cultural preferences, two cuisines in particular—Cuban and Southeast Asian —are ideal choices for invigorating menus.
According to a 2015 report from Technomic Inc., Cuban cuisine is trending in healthcare foodservice. With their full-flavoured pan-Latin fare, Cuban dishes offer abundant variety. Southeast Asian cuisine’s profusion of fresh vegetables, herbs, citrus and contrasting textures, is inherently healthful and has broad appeal. Both cuisines are highly adaptable, which lets you use products already on hand. Just swap in seasonal produce and change up proteins to keep menus interesting.
“Baby boomers may well be the first generation that demands international cuisine,” says Bob Moulson, RD of the Milton, Ontario-based Gordon Food Service® Nutrition Resource Centre. “There is keen interest in mainstream dishes from around the globe.”
Gordon Food Service Corporate Consulting Chef Gerry Ludwig, CEC, agrees. “Within healthcare—and long-term care, specifically—diners are increasingly more sophisticated,” he says. “They’re looking for more variety, complex flavours and inspired dishes that go beyond comfort cuisine.”
Incorporating a wide variety of vegetables into a healthcare foodservice diet is often challenging. Not with bowls. On-trend and nutritious, bowls are ideal vehicles for menuing Cuban and Southeast Asian cuisines. And they make it easy to create multiple combinations of healthy and flavourful elements.
Take a modular approach: Layer noodles, rice or whole grains with an assortment of toppings—grilled chicken, roast pork, shrimp and whatever veggies are on hand. A colourful Cuban-inspired bowl with plenty of eye appeal, for example, could contain brown rice topped with slow-simmered black beans, queso fresco, roast pork and vegetables escabeche (quick pickles) or fresh avocado. A Korean beef rice bowl, with stir-fried sesame beef, zucchini, carrots and spinach packs a nutritional punch with familiar, craveable flavours. Cross-utilization is a snap—grilled chicken, roast pork or sizzling shrimp fit with either cuisine, as do fresh herbs, rice and quick-pickled veggies.
Global sandwiches are an attractive option for lunch, grab and go, catering and snacks. Vietnamese bahn-mi sandwiches are spot-on satisfying and provide great opportunity for innovation. While the traditional filling is chilled sliced pork, you could also use warm pulled pork or grilled chicken. Fresh herbs and pickled julienned veggies add crunch and contrast.
Use the same bahn-mi roll to create a Cuban-inspired sandwich. Layer meat proteins such as braised chicken tinga, pork carnitas or beef barbacoa with some combination of lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, avocado, refried beans, roasted peppers, shoestring potatoes and/or melting cheeses for sandwiches that overflow with flavour and serve as significant competitive differentiators, especially in cafeteria settings.