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Funky and Fermented

Fermentation may be one of the oldest food preservation techniques known to man, but its application on today’s menus hits on all the latest flavor trends. Contrast is the name of the game, and fermented ingredients deliver the sour, umami, tangy and funky notes that make menu items memorable and balanced.

Kimchi, pickle brines, preserved fruits and infused vinegars also tell a story, lending lend house-made touches to a dish and increasing value in the eyes of the patron. And with current consumer interest surrounding gut health and the human microbiome (especially among millennials), fermented foods offer the intriguing possibility of wellness benefits, too.

Jars of pickled vegetables


This fusion of Southwestern and Vietnamese flavors will add excitement to your sandwich offerings.
Watch our Southwestern Bánh mì Chicken Sandwich recipe demo today!


From miso to kimchi, fermented ingredients lend a bold touch to items across your menu. Custom Culinary® products help you incorporate these exciting flavors with ease.

Miso Salmon Bowl

Miso Salmon Bowl
This umami-rich entrée features a bowl of soba noodles, vegetables and salmon topped with shiro miso gravy made with Custom Culinary® PanRoast® Peppered Biscuit Gravy Mix.
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Tonkotsu-Style Ramen Bowl
A bowl of Custom Culinary® Tonkotsu Ramen Pork Broth filled with vegetables, noodles, chashu pork and a mirin egg truly warms up your menu offerings.
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Vietnamese Pho Glazed Grilled Beef Skewers
Bring the complex flavors of pho to a tasty appetizer by glazing flank steak with a Custom Culinary® Beef Pho Broth reduction.
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Asian Breakfast Porridge
For global breakfast inspiration, consider this savory porridge made with Custom Culinary® Thai Style Vegetable Broth, rice, ground pork, Thai chilies, fish sauce and lime.
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Dill Pickled Avocado Fries

Dill-Pickled Avocado Fries
Rich, buttery avocado wedges pickled in Custom Culinary® Garlic and Dill Brine*, beer-battered and fried to a golden brown perfection.

Hot Dog Bánh Mì
A split, char-grilled hot dog served on a crispy hoagie roll with Custom Culinary® Kimchi Seasoning* slaw, scallion curls, jalapeños and togarashi-spiked chicharrón crisps.

Black Garlic Snapper
Wok-fried whole red snapper doused in Custom Culinary® Balsamic Vinegar and Black Garlic Sauce* and topped with fresh chilies, Szechuan peppercorns, cilantro and crispy black garlic chips.

Katsu Sando
Two slices of pain de mie stuffed with seared ribeye steak and a generous amount of Custom Culinary® Miso, Mustard and Caramelized Onion Chutney*, pressed and toasted to serve.

Maitake Mushroom Wings
Maitake mushroom pieces fried and tossed in Custom Culinary® Fermented Korean Pepper Sauce*, served with pickled daikon, scallions and toasted sesame seeds.

Chef's Perspective

Saurkraut, kimchi, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, and pickles of all forms are great examples of fermented foods. As a general rule, fermented foods have a reputation for being "Good For You" and promoting digestive health. The popularity of high-end apple cider vinegars that contain "the mother" [as it is affectionately known], which are rich in acetic acid, is a byproduct of fermentation. 

That stated, I love fermented foods, not necessarily because they're good for my gut, but because they taste good and open up the opportunity to get creative on a vast range of dishes and menu segments. From burgers, Bahn mi, and beyond… On breakfast and dinner menus, or as appetizers, fermented foods are increasing because they are great flavor drivers.

When I was a kid, my grandmother and I would make fresh pickled vegetables of all kinds, with produce harvested right off the vines of our garden. Back then, we didn't do it because it was trendy or healthy; we did it to preserve our generally bountiful harvest (and, more importantly, because it tasted good). My greatest professional experience and education regarding fermented foods came when a group of us from Custom Culinary® had the great fortune to spend some time in South Korea as part of the World Association of Chefs' Societies (WACS) Congress. 

On that trip, we worked in several Korean kitchens, learning their uniquely delicious cuisine (the scope of which spans much further than kimchi). On that very trip, I fell in love with fermented gochujang as an ingredient to elevate all sorts of dishes. Just a touch of this impactful paste brightens the flavor of foods without overpowering them—the unsung hero, if you will. As the nature of our Blog is short, I won't go into greater detail, but I recommend you purchase a small tub of this stuff and start playing with it; I know you won't regret it!

Another one of my favorite fermented ingredients of all time harnesses miso. Albeit most commonly featured in soup, one of my favorite dishes is Miso Chilean Seabass. The best I've ever had was at a little restaurant in New York City called Blue Water Grill. Their version with added soy literally dissolved in your mouth "like butta," served atop sticky rice and charred bok choy; this version was clearly the most delectable I have ever enjoyed.

A lesser-acknowledged fact is that fermented foods also fall into the realm of spirits. Not that the healthful aspect comes into play in this category, but most concoctions are pretty tasty. On a side note, from a health perspective, ginger is known to soothe the stomach… This individual [to remain nameless] would enjoy several Ginger Martinis the night before the trip in case of rough seas… Let's say that didn't work out all that well…. But I digress...

My favorite fermented spirit is Mezcal, or tequila's smoky cousin. Mezcal is made when yeast and bacteria are introduced into crushed agave. My favorite Mezcal concoction, the Paloma, was served at Comal (a little in Berkeley, CA). Their version of the libation was prepared with Mezcal, fresh grapefruit juice and Cocchi Americano, a quinine-laced aperitif.

As we keep you up to date with the hottest trends out there, I hope you take some time to experiment with fermentation. Whether it's house-made pickles, gochujang, fermented spirits or any other familiar fermented foods or ingredients, one thing is sure: it will help you drive flavor and profits. 

Until we chat again, have some fun in the kitchen and get funky with fermentation.


4 Craveable Ingredients Made Better with Age
4 Craveable Ingredients Made Better with Age

From fish sauce and kimchi to preserved lemons and pungent black garlic, consumers are open to expanding their palates with the sour, tangy, umami-forward flavors.

5 Funky Ways To Try Kimchi
5 Funky Ways To Try Kimchi

Here’s the truth: Being true to the food isn’t only about the food. It’s also about smart, simple ways we can improve the world around us.

What Are Functional Foods, Anyways?
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Here’s a sneak peek of this month’s trend: it’s all about functional foods.

*Products are customized; please contact your Custom Culinary® representative for more information.

“8 menu trends that prove the power of pickling,” Flavor & The Menu, March-April 2018
Cathy Siegner, “A bubbling market for fermented ingredients shows no sign of popping,” Food Dive, February 8, 2018
Jonathan Deutsch, “How Restaurants Can Introduce Fermented Foods Safely,” Restaurant Business, July 26, 2018

Katy Askew, “'There is a mega-trend around fermentation': The rising star of fermented foods,” Food Navigator, May 8, 2018
Lorri Mealey, “Fermentation-Themed Food Trends on Restaurant Menus,” The Balance Small Business, January 4, 2019