Over the years, restaurant users have become more discerning and more concerned with the ‘authenticity’ of their restaurant experience, a number of restaurant trends have emerged that offer a more realistic reflection of the food from its country of origin.
For the last couple of decades, far eastern food from various countries has increased in popularity, with many towns now having a Thai restaurant and perhaps even a Japanese restaurant. There has even been a trend for seeing authentic Thai food served on pub menus as Thai families take over pub tenancies or simply run the kitchen.
Japanese food has been a huge foodie trend in the UK, with most supermarkets selling packs of sushi alongside their sandwiches – although if that’s the only sushi you’ve tried (especially as the packs from a certain high end supermarket do not contain fish!) then you’ll be amazed at the difference in quality and taste when you first try ‘proper’ sushi. After all, sushi chefs train for seven years just to master making rice, let alone cutting fish!
The latest restaurant trends are towards South American food. Not just the big, juicy steaks from Argentina – that is SO 2007 – but more the smoked chipotle chile flavours of Peru. Mexico has also been a source of inspiration for a lot of newly opened places, with authentic burritos and salsas showing the wealth of difference between regional cuisine and the ‘Tex-Mex’ style that was popular in the 1999.
Spring rolls is an umbrella term used in Western culture to describe disparate varieties of filled, rolled appetizers similar to the Chinese chun-juan (??, lit. "spring roll"), from which the term was derived. East and Southeast Asian cuisine foods referred by the term have different names depending on their country of origin, as well as the type of wrapper, fillings, and cooking techniques from which they are made.
They are commonly eaten in many Asian countries, most notably China, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia and Cambodia.
Saag gosht is a classic curry traditionally made with spinach and lamb. Saag is, strictly speaking, a general term for tender green leaves such as spinach, mustard greens and fresh fenugreek leaves.
If you were talking about spinach on its own it would be called palak. Many restaurants these days will offer a chicken or a prawn alternative to lamb and so the dish will show on the menu as just "saag" or "palak" omitting the gosht (lamb) from the name altogether.
The saag is usually served medium hot and is made in the bhuna style.
To my mind it is fruitless to enter the debate on the origins of the famous chicken tikka masala. If you want to remind yourself of the contending arguments then take a look at the essay on the subject "Is it or isn't it? - the chicken tikka masala story" by food historians Peter and Colleen Grove.
Chicken tikka masala is the all time most popular dish on the Indian restaurant menu and what the restaurant diner really needs to know is whether the restaurant is providing a good example of the dish. And what is a good example? Well, the chicken tikka pieces should be aromatic and slightly smoky from the tandoor. The masala sauce should be well spiced but not hot, rich and creamy and have a hint of coconut. Tikka masala usually has a deep red colour, gained from the use of artificial food colourings.
The vindaloo was originally a Portuguese dish which took its name from the 2 main ingredients which were "vinho", wine/wine vinegar, and "alhos", garlic. Over time it was spiced up, hotted up and otherwise changed by the indigenous peoples of the ex-Portuguese colony of Goa. Not many restaurants produce an authentic Goan vindaloo not least because the pork used by Christian Goans in their recipe would not be acceptable to Muslim chefs. In some restaurants the vindaloo is just a pumped-up Madras i.e. the same recipe but with lots more chilli powder. Other restaurants have interpreted the "aloo" part of the name as meaning potato and introduced diced potato to a hot standard curry with added lemon juice for tartness and black pepper for extra pungency. Very hot.
Fast food is the term given to food that can be prepared and served very quickly. While any meal with low preparation time can be considered to be fast food, typically the term refers to food sold in a restaurant or store with preheated or precooked ingredients, and served to the customer in a packaged form for take-out/take-away. The term "fast food" was recognized in a dictionary by Merriam–Webster in 1951.
Outlets may be stands or kiosks, which may provide no shelter or seating, or fast food restaurants (also known as quick service restaurants). Franchise operations which are part of restaurant chains have standardized foodstuffs shipped to each restaurant from central locations.
In areas which had access to coastal or tidal waters, 'fast food' would frequently include local shellfish or seafood, such as oysters or, as in London, eels. Often this seafood would be cooked directly on the quay or close by. The development of trawler fishing in the mid nineteenth century would lead to the development of a British favourite fish and chips, and the first shop in 1860. A blue plaque at Oldham's Tommyfield Market marks the origin of the fish and chip shop and fast food industries in Britain.
British fast food had considerable regional variation. Sometimes the regionality of dish became part of the culture of its respective area.
The content of fast food pies has varied, with poultry (such as chickens) or wildfowl commonly being used. After World War II, turkey has been used more frequently in fast food.
As well as its native cuisine, the UK has adopted fast food from other cultures, such as pizza, Chinese noodles, kebab, and curry. More recently healthier alternatives to conventional fast food have also emerged.
Although fast food often brings to mind traditional American fast food such as hamburgers and fries, there are many other forms of fast food that enjoy widespread popularity in the West.
Chinese takeaways/takeout restaurants are particularly popular. They normally offer a wide variety of Asian food (not always Chinese), which has normally been fried. Most options are some form of noodles, rice, or meat. In some cases, the food is presented as a smörgåsbord, sometimes self service. The customer chooses the size of the container they wish to buy, and then is free to fill it with their choice of food. It is common to combine several options in one container, and some outlets charge by weight rather than by item. Many of these restaurants offer free delivery for purchases over a minimum amount.
Sushi has seen rapidly rising popularity in recent times. A form of fast food created in Japan (where bentō is the Japanese equivalent of fast food), sushi is normally cold sticky rice flavored with a sweet rice vinegar and served with some topping (often fish), or, as in the most popular kind in the West, rolled in nori (dried laver) with filling. The filling often includes fish, chicken or cucumber.
Pizza is a common fast food category in the United States, with chains such as Papa John's, Domino's Pizza, Sbarro and Pizza Hut. Menus are more limited and standardized than in traditional pizzerias, and pizza delivery is offered.
Kebab houses are a form of fast food restaurant from the Middle East, especially Turkey and Lebanon. Meat is shaven from a rotisserie, and is served on a warmed flatbread with salad and a choice of sauce and dressing. These doner kebabs or shawarmas are distinct from shish kebabs served on sticks. Kebab shops are also found throughout the world, especially Europe, New Zealand and Australia but they generally are less common in the US.
Lamb shish kebab
Fish and chip shops are a form of fast food popular in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. Fish is battered and then deep fried.
The Dutch have their own types of fast food. A Dutch fast food meal often consists of a portion of french fries (called friet or patat) with a sauce and a meat product. The most common sauce to accompany french fries is fritessaus. It is a sweet, vinegary and low fat mayonnaise substitute, that the Dutch nevertheless still call "mayonnaise". When ordering it is very often abbreviated to met (literally "with"). Other popular sauces are ketchup or spiced ketchup ("curry"), Indonesian style peanut sauce ("satésaus" or "pindasaus") or piccalilli. Sometimes the fries are served with combinations of sauces, most famously speciaal (special): mayonnaise, with (spiced) ketchup and chopped onions; and oorlog (literally "war"): mayonnaise and peanut sauce (sometimes also with ketchup and chopped onions). The meat product is usually a deep fried snack; this includes the frikandel (a deep fried skinless minced meat sausage), and the kroket (deep fried meat ragout covered in breadcrumbs).
In Portugal, there are some varieties of local fast-food and restaurants specialized in this type of local cuisine. Some of the most popular foods include frango assado (Piri-piri grilled chicken previously marinated), francesinha, francesinha poveira, espetada (turkey or pork meat on two sticks) and bifanas (pork cutlets in a specific sauce served as a sandwich). This type of food is also often served with french fries (called batatas fritas), some international chains started appearing specialized in some of the typical Portuguese fast food such as Nando's.
A fixture of East Asian cities is the noodle shop. Flatbread and falafel are today ubiquitous in the Middle East. Popular Indian fast food dishes include vada pav, panipuri and dahi vada. In the French-speaking nations of West Africa, roadside stands in and around the larger cities continue to sell—as they have done for generations—a range of ready-to-eat, char-grilled meat sticks known locally as brochettes (not to be confused with the bread snack of the same name found in Europe).