Now more than ever, savvy diners, especially millennials, are concerned with a meal’s authenticity. When it comes to ethnically influenced menu items, family-style preparations are a more authentic way to present food from other corners of the world. Large platters are nothing new to ethnic cuisine, as this type of dining is traditional at restaurants such as Chinese and Korean establishments.
When serving an ethnically inspired meal it may be considered more authentic to serve a large shared protein accompanied by complementing sides such as salads, sauces, vegetables, starches, and soups. We’ve created a simple guide with a few examples of how you can infuse cultural flavors into your large platter meals.
Italian cuisine is rich with influences that have developed over centuries by trade, conquerors, revolutions, and the discovery of the New World. With such a rich history, Italian cuisine offers a wide variety of dining options that will shine in a large plate program. You can choose to focus on the many regional cuisines of Italy. Each area has its own specialties and ingredients that are influenced by its proximity to the sea, mountains, or bordering countries.
For example, the Marche region is famous for a dish of suckling pig stuffed with rosemary, fennel, and garlic, then roasted on a spit over a fire. A dish like this can be served with polenta, mushrooms, and a vegetable, like rapini. Showcase the North African and Arabic influences of Italy with a large whole fish such as sea bass or swordfish with a couscous and fresh vegetables like eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.
With its traditional use of large cuts of meat, heaping portions of rice and beans, and generous amounts of vegetables, Mexican cuisine is an ideal candidate for large-format dining. Many customers and chefs alike may feel “been there done that” when it comes to Mexican-style foods but most of what is served in the U.S. is from the border regions of Mexico.
Focusing on the many other distinct regions of the country is a fresh approach to Mexican cuisine. For example, Oaxacan cuisine, named for the state of the same name, is one of Mexico’s major gastronomic centers whose cuisine is known internationally. It’s also the birthplace of chocolate, which is used for savory sauces like mole.
Dishes like barbacoa, slow-roast goat or lamb wrapped in maguey leaves can be served with an assortment of mole sauces and sides like Tamales Oaxaqueños, which are wrapped in banana leaves and garnachas, bite-size fried corn tortillas topped with slow-stewed shredded meat, a spoonful of salsa, queso fresco, and a garnish of shredded vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, and carrots.
South American cuisine has many influences, the most characteristic of which are Native American, African, Spanish, and Italian. All of these cultures are known for their love of shared communal eating. Once considered exotic ingredients, many have gained popularity in the U.S. like quinoa, tropical fruits, and unusual tubers such as yuca and maca are native to this region. Large plate service is a wonderful way to showcase the many flavors of the continent from the large cuts of grassfed beef roasted over an open flame in the Pamas region to the corn, potatoes and other tubers of the Andes region, and the seafood and exotic fruits of the Tropical region.
Asian cuisine refers to any of several major regional cuisines, including East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, and Central Asian. Though the flavors and ingredients of this cuisine can vary widely, the central theme is always the same: some kind of salad, pickled vegetables, soup, large cuts of grilled meat, poultry, and large whole fish. Asian-style large plates can be dishes customers are familiar with like Peking duck, new exciting flavor trends like Korean barbecue, Vietnamese chicken, or some combination of Asian flavors.