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Kenneth SZ Goh of The Potluck shares with us the top food trends of 2021. From birria tacos to feta pasta, find out which dishes were the most popular searches

2021 piled us with food trends such as dalgona candy, zero-alcohol beverages, luxe doughnuts and more plant-based food in local flavours. I checked out Google’s Year in Search 2021 to see which foodie moments captured the world’s attention this year. Here are five of them.

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1. Birria Tacos

What: Birria, a hearty traditional Mexican stew, saw its popularity rise this year—with the help of tortillas. Shreds of braised lamb or beef, drenched in sweet, sour and slightly spicy adobo, are ensconced in soft tortillas that are fried to a crisp, golden-brown exterior. Cheese is added to up the oomph and ooze factor and the tacos are served with a side of stew for one’s dipping pleasure.

Naturally, the food trend exploded in the United States, where Mexican food is ubiquitous. There was also high interest in the dish in South American countries like Costa Rica, Honduras and the birthplace of birria, Mexico. 

Why it became trendy: Birria tacos became a Tiktok sensation in late 2020 and early 2021. With a bouquet of spices, rich colours and dipping action, #birriatacos videos on Tiktok has garnered more than 565 million views. 

In Singapore, try the food trend at Muslim-owned online food outlet @thebirriaboys and Papi’s Tacos in Seah Street.

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2. Nasi Goreng

What: Nasi goreng has long been a staple fried rice dish in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. It is basically fried rice with meat and vegetables. What makes nasi goreng stand out are the dark brown grains of rice that are coated with kicap manis (sweet soya sauce spiked with palm sugar). The rice is coated with the sauce, which caramelises when tossed in the wok over high heat.

Why it became trendy:  Enter version 2.0: Nasi goreng melimpah, a search term that is trendy especially in Malaysia (search traffic on ‘Nasi goreng melimpah’ spiked sharply in April and October 2021). The dish has been upsized to a heaping pile of fried rice gloriously studded with eggs, meatballs, sausages, gizzard, tiger prawns and chicken that can easily feed three or four people. 

The source of this trend can be traced to Nasi Goreng Melimpah Viral, an open-air restaurant in Selangor, Malaysia. This search term is popular in other Southeast Asian countries—Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, and across the Indian Ocean—in Sri Lanka. 

3. Feta Pasta

What: This fuss-free recipe calls for baking a block of feta cheese, tomatoes, olive oil in a pan until the cheese softens, before mixing them up with pasta, basil leaves, red pepper flakes and garlic. And that’s how you whip up a creamy baked pasta platter, pronto. 

Why it became trendy: Baked feta pasta first exploded in the Finnish food blogging scene back in 2018 when a blogger posted the recipe. The no-frills dish received international fame in January this year when the Tiktoker behind the account Grilled Cheese Social posted a 30-second recipe video. The trend, which was more prominent in Canada, Australia, Finland and Denmark, lasted for around three months till early April this year.

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4. Charcuterie Boards

What: Charcuterie boards, which feature an assortment of cheeses, cured meat and fruit, continued to be all the rage this year. Many homebodies had fun arranging the communal grazing platters—with social gatherings gradually making a comeback.

Why it became trendy: More people craved the good’ ol comforting combination of cheese, fruit, crackers and cured meat on a board (more so in the Western hemisphere). And, with a multitude of self-assembling possibilities, charcuterie boards are begging to be Instagram-ed. 

Google search terms on “charcuterie boards” were accompanied by occasions such as Easter and Valentine’s Day. Netizens are also interested in the Halal version of the grazing board and DIY-ing wooden charcuterie boards. As they are predominantly featured in Western cuisine, searches mainly come from Canada, the United States and Australia, with the Philippines coming in fourth position. Since November, there has been a surge in interest due to the year-end holiday festivities. 

 

5. Shogayaki

What: This classic homespun Japanese dish comprises thinly sliced pork grilled or fried with soy sauce, sake, mirin and ginger.

Why it became trendy: One reason could possibly be the rise of home cooking in Japan, where the shogayaki trended as a food-related Google search term. According to a survey conducted by Rakuten Insight in February 2021, around one-third of consumers in Japan experienced an increase in occasions in which they cooked at home. Another homely Japanese dish that became popular is tonjiru (pork and vegetable miso soup).

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Rounding out the Top 10 food trends on Google’s Year in Search 2021 are other dishes:

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This story was originally published on The Potluck.

Kenneth SZ Goh is a food writer and founder of The Potluck, a newsletter that serves up trends and developments in the F&B world.

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