Asian consumers nowadays have become more conscious than ever of their dining choices due to numerous food scandals, chronic diseases and rising obesity.
Taste and price are no longer the only things on their mind. From the selection of ingredients to the preparation of food, Asian consumers are scrutinizing restaurants they patronize and safeguarding their own health.
Many restaurant owners are changing the way they prepare their food. More are promoting the health benefits of their dishes by using natural, organic and fat-free products. Working at a leading hospitality solution provider as managing director, I have traveled to numerous parts of Asia and interacted with many restaurant owners. Here are my recommendations on how businesses can better meet consumer demands for tastier and healthier food.
You can start your healthier cooking with looking at three simple elements: heat, oil and seasoning. These are the three cooking essentials commonly found in Asian cuisines.
In traditional Chinese cooking, the use of “big fire” is quite common when preparing food. However, cooking with high temperatures tends to produce carcinogenic toxins, diminish food nutrition and produce high calorie and high-fat content food. Therefore, your first step to offering a healthier menu is to reduce the use of “big fire” but not compromising the taste of the food.
After the cooking oil scandal that hit Taiwan in 2014, there was a great outcry for food safety regulations. Consumers now tend to be more aware of the oil they consume and are willing to spend more for what they consider to be healthier food. It is therefore highly recommended for restaurant owners to pay 10 percent more for non-GMO (genetically modified organisms) oil extracted from fruits and vegetables to ease consumers of their worries and serve as a selling point when highlighted on your menu.
Chemical style cooking is also considered an “out” for the food industry these days. This comes as no surprise as most consumers nowadays avoid conventional chemical flavorings such as monosodium glutamate (MSG) as much as possible. In response, many restaurants have taken a more natural approach to seasoning such as using herbs and spices to enhance food flavors instead. In addition, preservatives – which used to be used a lot in pickled food – have also been discouraged as research indicates that they could cause chronic diseases.
Years ago, a chef told me that the days of chemical cooking are over and that technical cooking will be the next trend. To date, his prediction seems to be spot on and has become a global phenomenon, hence leading me to my next piece of advice.
Businesses often associate the benefits of innovative cooking equipment with operational efficiency and long-term cost reduction. However, they also offer huge health benefits to consumers. Leading commercial kitchens are already using the latest cooking technology to prepare healthy dishes.
Take combi-steamers for example. A combi-steamer is an all-in-one machine that can grill, bake, roast, braise, steam, stew and poach. They have greatly lowered the threshold for opening a restaurant and have helped chefs across Asia make tasty dishes with a fraction of the fat or oil used in traditional cooking techniques.
Sous-vide is another cooking method gaining in popularity among commercial kitchens. This is a classic example of the food processing revolution where in the past the easiest way to soften the meat was through chemical usage. But sous-vide, a low temperature-controlled cooking method that cooks food in vacuum bags, minimizes the loss of moisture and retains all the vitamins inside the food, making the meat even more tender and juicy.
If your restaurant has a heavily fried menu but wants to elevate its health appeal, the latest technology for deep-fry cooking is water molecule control. It uses electric waves to change the water molecules of the oil, which greatly reduces oil combustion and prevents oil from entering food, while trapping the moisture in the food and minimizing frying smoke.
With these tips mentioned above, you may be keen to adopt these innovative technologies as soon as possible. But more importantly you need to think about how to leverage these techniques and offer dishes that appeals to your local customers.
Sous-vide cookers, as we mentioned before, are known for Western-style cooking such as preparing a steak. It is however also great to use for Asian-style dishes like steaming a soft and juicy Hainanese chicken. A combi-steamer is built to be versatile in offering different cooking techniques as needed. I even see chefs in Taiwan using it for fish frying dishes. It cuts down the fish grease but makes the fish skin a crispy brown texture. This is something that is difficult to achieve even when using a traditional frying pan. The water molecule control technology is great for deep-frying food such as Japanese tempura. It is the perfect solution for a healthier version of salty crispy chicken, a very popular Taiwanese street food.
There are many examples of how these technologies can be used to create delicious local menus that customers will enjoy. However, in order to take full advantage of the Asianification trend and the evolving cooking technologies, it is crucial that restaurant owners seek out a business partner who has a clear understanding of the global industry trends and strong insights into local markets’ demands.
You can drop by one of DKSH’s demonstration laboratories located in various parts of Asia to have a closer look at the different options, talk to our experts, learn how each technology works and see how it can benefit your business.
Weilun Tsao is Managing Director of Technology, DKSH Taiwan. Prior to his current role, he spent ten years in general management and strategy consulting in San Francisco’s Bay Area, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. He has vast experience in business development of high-tech products, including hospitality equipment, machine tools, laboratory instrument, and wire and cables. He holds dual master degrees in international business and economics from University of California San Diego, USA.