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In this series, Mintel analysts share their recent food adventures, highlighting the exciting, the delicious, the intriguing and the terrible food and drink they’ve tried lately. This month, they’ve experimented with unexpected local ingredients, while giving plant-based dishes a go, inspired by Veganuary.

The tuna-lessness of Tu’No’ Salad (Palm Springs, California)

Marcia Mogelonsky, Director of Insight, Mintel Food and Drink

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen is one of the first all-vegan restaurants in Southern California, and all of their food is fantastic! While they’re especially known for their seitan and tempeh, I especially love their Tu’No’ salad. It uses chickpeas and seaweed instead of fish, but surprisingly manages to taste exactly like a tuna salad! I had it on its own and as a sandwich filling. In fact, I now make this at home all the time, following the recipe by Forks over Knives.”

Credit: Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

The surprise of Maori cuisine (New Zealand)

Tabata Sommerville, Account Director

“I recently visited Hiakai, a restaurant in Wellington specialising in Māori cuisine. The whole menu was mind blowing! The dishes are inspired by the land, sea, and people of New Zealand. Tītī Bird, Red Matipo, Mamaku – items rarely seen on a restaurant menu – are regular there. They focus on researching and showcasing Māori and Polynesian ingredients in modern and innovative ways. I tried some really creative dishes including green-lipped mussel ice cream and a dessert involving a “potato” crafted from Milo, the chocolate drink powder, with potato-skin ice cream, proving once again that umami flavours combine well with sweets.”

Credit: Chef Monique Fiso

The freshness of traditional Custard Apple shake (Rajkot, India)

Minesh Patel, Trends & Innovation Consultant EMEA

“With Gujarat being a ‘dry state’ in India, it’s becoming something of a foodie central with locals and tourists always looking for the perfect dessert to complete their meal. The locals are very much into making the most of fresh seasonal fruit and this over-the-counter dessert parlour called Santushti Shakes uses fresh custard apple pulp in its milkshake. Custard apples are only in season around the Indian winter (up until late December/early January) so they can be difficult to find, making this shake a nice surprise. I thought it was amazing and would recommend it if anyone visits the area.”

The juiciness of Beyond Burger (UK)

Ophelie Buchet, Global Food & Drink Analyst

“We’ve been following Beyond Burger since the start. I’ve finally decided to try it and to replicate exactly how I would make a traditional burger at home: the right buns, onions, cheese, tomato and fries. I was first amazed by the experience of cooking the patty as it releases a lot of fat and juices, like a normal burger would. The ingredients list did concern me as I noticed a lot of processed fats. While the initial smell was a bit strange (it reminded me of pet food!), I actually enjoyed the taste. And it highlighted to me how important other good ingredients are in a burger. Indeed, the experience might be quite different eaten on its own. That said, the texture of the patty is pretty impressive as it’s really juicy and replicates quite well the look and feel of a real beef burger.

Credit: Beyond Burger

The healthiness of Pret a Manger’s Charcoal Shot (UK)

Amy Price, Senior Food & Drink Analyst

“It’s January, a time for prioritising health and wellness. This is why I tried Pret a Manger’s Charcoal Shot one cold(ish) winter morning. At £1.99 for 110ml, the price is rather on the steep side, although a shot size is probably enough. The main unique selling point is the presence of ‘activated charcoal’, an ingredient that has been lauded for its health benefits and seen across new product launches from toothpaste to Heston Blumenthal bagels. The 100% cold-pressed shot tastes a little like lemonade, although apple is the main ingredient. However, this is not listed on front of pack. Instead, reference is made to the presence of coconut water and lemon, the former particularly likely to appeal to foodies. While some have mentioned a salty/powdery aftertaste, I didn’t really notice this and I found it overall enjoyable.”

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