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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Cool consumables: a look at the latest culinary terms and trends in the UAE

A guide to the latest culinary terms and trends doing the rounds, so you can impress even your most well-informed foodie friends

Bulletproof coffee. Courtesy Wild & the Moon
Bulletproof coffee. Courtesy Wild & the Moon

From Instagram posts and specialist dietary requirements, to pop-up restaurants, chef takeovers and food bloggers aplenty, never have we talked more about what we eat. If you find the whole thing a bit overwhelming, but still want to keep up, here’s our guide to the latest ingredients and food trends making waves in the UAE. Read on and you’ll be able to breeze your way through any hipster-inspired menu.

Nutritional yeast

We’ll put our hands up here: nutritional yeast really doesn’t sound very appealing. But if you’re serious about hopping aboard the food-trend train, this is one ingredient to familiarise yourself with. Drop it into conversation with your fellow foodie friends or, better still, serve them a dish garnished with nutritional yeast – and your credentials as an informed eater will be secured.

But first, swot up on your subject. Nutritional yeast is a form of yeast that has been harvested, heated, dried out and consequently deactivated, meaning it has no leavening ability. This dried yeast is then crumbled or broken down into powder or flakes, which is how it’s sold. The result is genuinely fantastic. Not only is nutritional yeast free from both gluten and dairy (and therefore suitable for vegans), it’s a good source of protein, fibre, folic acid and vitamin B12, and it doesn’t contain any sodium. Better still, it just so happens to have an altogether moreish, umami-rich, definitely savoury, slightly cheesy flavour and can be used in much the same way you would Parmesan. Purchase a packet and sprinkle over salads, roasted vegetables, garlic bread or warm popcorn, or use it to make risottos, pasta dishes, pesto sauce and more.

Bulletproof coffee

If you’re a coffee drinker who looks back fondly to the days when a cafetière with hot milk was considered a sophisticated choice and you have no truck with double-shot, super-­skinny, extra-hot, no-foam offerings, then it might be best to skip over the next few paragraphs. But if you’re a connoisseur who was ordering flat whites well before the global chains started selling them, then by all means read on because, currently, the trendiest way to get your caffeine fix is bulletproof coffee.

The first step in embracing this high-calorie drink is to get your head around the combination of ingredients, namely high-quality coffee (so far, so good), grass-fed butter and medium chain triglyceride oil (MCT oil). Devotees claim that it delivers a sustained energy hit, keeps you feeling full (MCT oil is believed to suppress the appetite), promotes fat burning and helps sharpen cognitive functions.

Now, you’re probably thinking that this all sounds great, but the all-important question remains: what does butter-­blended coffee actually taste like? Well, opinions are divided: some enjoy the creamy richness of the drink, while others just can’t stomach the oily sheen and buttery slickness. Find out which way you lean by making your own at home, or try the version at healthy-eating café Wild & The Moon in Dubai.

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Vegetarian options in Abu Dhabi have improved, but vegans still forage

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Amazake

An easy one to stumble over, this is an ingredient that’s probably only made its way on to the radar of those foodie hipsters with their noses pressed most firmly to the stove. Come 2018, though, and we predict that amazake will be well and truly in vogue in the UAE, so there’s no harm in getting acquainted.

This nourishing foodstuff has been consumed in Japan for hundreds of years and is prized for its health-giving properties: it contains a host of vitamins and essential amino acids, and is thought to play a role in boosting the digestive system and increasing energy levels. Amazake is made by combining cooked wholegrain rice with a starter ingredient called koji. Over a period of several hours, the koji acts on the rice, breaking it down into simple, unrefined sugars and giving amazake a sweet taste and rice-pudding-like texture.

As the amazake craze gains traction, you’re most likely to encounter it as a soothing warm drink, either mixed with water and infused with ginger, or with almond milk, cardamom and cinnamon, as it is at cafe and concept store Comptoir 102 in Dubai. That said, the ingredient can also be used to make smoothies, as a natural sweetener in desserts, or even eaten as is for a snack. In Japan, it’s also often fed to weaning babies.

Activated charcoal

Call it a direct response to the recent and, let’s face it, somewhat schmaltzy unicorn and rainbow food trends. Or maybe it’s all down to the purported health benefits of this particular ingredient. It might just be the lure of the new and unexpected. Either way, charcoal is smoking (or at least glowing) hot right now.

Yes, charcoal. Now before you baulk at the idea of eating carbon and ash, activated charcoal (made by heating wood, coconut shells or coal until they disintegrate into powder) is perfectly edible. There’s a certain school of thought – not, it must be said, without controversy – that champions charcoal’s detoxifying qualities and ability to naturally absorb chemicals and toxins, and transport them out of the body. Fans of the ingredient say they have more energy, improved digestion, glowing skin and whiter teeth as a result of consuming it.

You can sip activated charcoal in liquid form at one of the many juice bars across the UAE. Often labelled as black lemonade or charcoalade, it tends to be mixed with purified water, lemon juice, maple or agave syrup, and sometimes cayenne pepper for an extra kick.

Charcoal-infused burger buns. Courtesy JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
Charcoal-infused burger buns. Courtesy JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

This isn’t just an ingredient for health enthusiasts, though – the appeal of ink-hued dishes runs deeper than that. Eat at the Bridgewater Tavern at the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai and, on its signature All Blacks menu, you’ll spot a burger of the distinctly gourmet variety: Angus beef patty, maple-brushed veal bacon, caramelised onions and chutney, all encased in a gleaming, charcoal-infused brioche bun. And in case you’re worried about the charcoal staining your hands, fear not, a bib and gloves are provided.

To really embrace charcoal with abandon, though, pay a visit to the gem of a homegrown restaurant that is 3 Fils at Dubai’s Jumeirah Fishing Harbour. Take a leap of faith in chef Akmal Anuar and order the Charcoal Fry (no further description offered on the menu). A plate filled with hot, crisp, jet-black nuggets of deliciousness interspersed with actual pieces of charcoal will emerge from the tiny open kitchen, meaning you’ll need to be wary of the way you eat the dish, but it will be worth it.

Jackfruit

If you’re at a barbecue with friends over the next few months or are perusing a food-truck menu, and jackfruit makes an appearance alongside the sliders and chicken wings, don’t blow your cover and register surprise. The fibrous tropical fruit, which belongs to the fig family and is native to South East Asia, just so happens to be the most on-trend, vegan alternative to uber-popular pulled meat. In fact, it’s putting pulled meat firmly in the corner.

A jackfruit. Getty images
A jackfruit. Getty images

While meaty-tasting cooked fruit sounds downright bizarre, this is one idea that not only works, but also is easy to execute. Like many starches, jackfruit takes on other flavours really well, yet it’s the slightly fibrous texture of the fruit that makes it a viable meat substitute – it can easily be shredded once cooked then cooled, and is often likened to slow-braised beef. If you need further convincing of the virtues of jackfruit, note that it’s also a good source of protein, potassium, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C.

Although a quick internet recipe search will throw up numerous recipes for pulled barbecue jackfruit, that certainly needn’t be the end of your repertoire. Instead, put it to good use as a meat or fish replacement when making curries, stews and crab cakes, or for filling tacos, enchiladas and sandwiches. You can buy canned, unripe jackfruit in supermarkets across the UAE: simply drain and cook in boiling water for 10 minutes or so, leave to cool, then shred before adding to your sauce base and heating through.

Where to buy and try:

Nutritional yeast

DesertCart

Organic Foods & Café

Bulletproof coffee

Wild & The Moon

Amasake

Comptoir 102

DesertCart

Organic Foods & Café

Charcoal drinks and dishes

Various juice bars, including Comptoir 102

Bridgewater Tavern

3 Fils

Jackfruit

Supermarkets across the UAE

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