In the age of COVID, fusion can be less about creating new and exciting flavors and more about making food relevant and responsive to the new dining environment.

Whether entire menus are based around this concept or a restaurant is simply updating a single dish — such as a Pho-Rench, replacing the jus for a French Dip with pho broth — bringing new life to a well-worn favorite is a great way stand out from the crowd.

Wrap It Up

While fewer people are eating in-house, it’s unlikely the trend of delivery and carryout is going to go away. In fact, the trend is likely to be a part of the business model of even the most upscale restaurants going forward. With portability in mind, chefs have been borrowing from other styles of cuisine for eating on-the-go.

Maybe it’s filling a crispy spring roll with cream cheese and thinly sliced steak meat or mac ‘n’ cheese inside. On a warmer day, it could be a chopped chicken Caesar or flaked salmon romaine salad in a rice or cellophane wrapper that fits the bill. Pretty much any dish, if cut into the right size pieces, can look to the vast number of Asian options, whether it be rolls or dim sum, to put your food in its own edible package. And, yes, you can even put some of your soups — as long as they aren’t too chunky or thick — into a soup bun.

The key is selecting the right package for your food. Bigger and chunkier might work better in a roll while intensely flavored ground or shredded meats might work better in a potsticker or lumpia-style wrapping.

Looking south of the border is also great for inspiration. Perhaps it’s putting barbeque into a quesadilla or filling an arepa with creamy cheddar cheese and ham. Crunchy taco Fun with Fusionshells might have some appeal but the tendency to crack and fall apart could make a soft taco shell more appealing when portability is the goal.

There is also a side benefit to using edible wrappers for your dishes — you might save some money. Self-contained, hand-held dishes can simply be wrapped in paper. No need for plastic clam shells or even silverware packs to spend money on or worrying about an increased waste footprint.

Fry It Up

Americans love french fries. Even more, consumers have become obsessed with poutine — fries covered with gravy and something akin to cottage cheese. Of late, however, you can see all manner of “fry bowls” created to appeal to the quarantine-inspired demand for comfort food and expanding global palates.

Cheesy-bacon fries have given way to butter chicken over spicy masala dusted fries. Maybe it’s some spicy pad thai over those fries or perhaps the aforementioned poutine gravy becomes a brown Hunan sauce so you can add some stir-fried beef.

Regardless of the fry bowl topping or the region from which you’ve sourced flavors, furikake seasonings can be used to help tie the components together. From katsuo to shiso or even wasabi, you can find a furikake seasoning shake to help flavor those fries perfectly. Side bonus, when bar service returns, use that furikake to sprinkle over popcorn or other bar snacks for a uniquely exciting change of pace from plain salt.

Looking more domestically, barbeque could top off those fries — whether it be hickory smoked or a North Carolina vinegar-based pulled pork. Or how about an inverted shepherd’s pie-inspired fry bowl where the fries are the platform for seasoned ground meat and tasty veggies.

Eating-in or to-go, these bowls, anchored by the fries, can be easy to produce and appealing to current dining trends — not to mention a way to deliver fries to your off-premise diners in such a way that not being perfectly crispy is less of a concern.

Drawing from the cuisine of other cultures was initially a way to create buzz around your menu or for a signature dish. As it has become more mainstream and commonplace, utilizing fusion to help deal with the COVID era and respond to increasingly mobile eating habits, might just be what you need to succeed.

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