Breakfast: Chilaquiles and Tolucan Chorizo with Chipotle Sauce.
Lunch: Thai Massaman Curry with Ginger Beer.
Dinner: Korean "Fire Beef" and Kimchi Jjigae with peppery Bloody Mary.
Are you salivating after reading that menu? Want your tongue burned with bold piquant flavors? If "yes" is the answer, you're part of today's flaming addiction for hot & spicy dining.
Numerous indicators exist. Three of Mintel's 7 Flavor Forecasts are spicy sauces: Chimichurri (Latin American), Peri-Peri (African), and Masala (Indian). The Daily Beast sees garlic, ginger, and onion potato chips as top tasties in our future. BiteClubBeats picked South American cuisine as a top 2010 trend, and AJC HealthNews chose Spicy TexMex.
Everything is heating up. Once-meek food items like salad dressing, mayonnaise, mustard, sour cream and cheese spreads are now found with incendiary ingredients like wasabi and cayenne. McDonald's has spicy chicken, Tyson Foods has spicy pulled pork sandwich, and the temperature on the salsa bottles is rising. Even bartenders are mixing it up, with habanero, ginger, and jalapeno in their cocktails.
Why do we yearn to burn? One theory is that the passion is promulgated by aging baby boomers; this post-40 demographic has a diminished sense of taste and smell due to their degenerating olfactory nerves. To make their mouth and nose feel virile again they crave the searing sensations that spicy dining provides.
Another reason is "healthier"- hot, spicy plants are packed with medicinal properties that appeal to consumers.
Garlic lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and cancer risk. Ginger is also a cancer preventative, with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. Curcumin (in curry powder) protects us from a multitude of maladies, such as fungus and bacterial infections, diabetes, arthritis, cancer, and Alzheimer's Disease.
Humanity's desire to devour spicy cuisine will provide income to nations that cultivate the following heat-containing crops:
Black Pepper: The "King of Spices" inspired Vasco de Gama's voyages and it was once so expensive it was used as currency. Today Vietnam is the unchallenged champion exporter by a large margin that is "nothing to sneeze at." Trailing behind are Brazil, Malaysia, India, and Indonesia.
Garlic: This Mediterranean flavor is primarily produced elsewhere. Top exporter of the "stinking rose" used to be China, but that nation was dislodged by a recent Indian hot streak. Mexico, Argentina, and Spain are also successful merchants of the pungent bulb.
Onions: There's a subcontinental market battle between India and Pakistan (two top exporters) for dominance in the Persian Gulf States. Onions - the 4th biggest-selling vegetable, a stat we can all "tear up" about - is also exported voluminously by The Netherlands, Egypt, USA, and Argentina.
Ginger: China is the overwhelming export leader in this snappy-tasting tuber. Asian neighbors Thailand, Nepal, and India are also strong traders, plus there are surprising contenders from three other continents: Nigeria, Brazil, and The Netherlands.
Peppers (Chile, Bell, Jalapeno, etc): Last, but not mildest. The main exporters of this throat-scorching vegetable are Mexico, The Netherlands, Spain, China, India, Turkey and Israel. Demand for the heat-bombs is increasing at a 6.6% annual rate.
I predict that there will be no cooling off of this trend towards fiery flavors. The global population is increasing and aging and demanding healthier food, plus its crossing cultures and trading recipes. Farmers and farm nations that produce and export the five flammable foodstuffs I've catalogued above will continue to see excitable profits.