Food Innovation Safari: Nam Phrik, the Comma Chameleon, and Fight Club Fish Sauce

In our latest virtual trek across the world of global food development, we highlight innovative dips, drinks and desserts, with zero waste wizardry and nostalgic creativity catching the eye
Globe trotting on sand
It’s been a cracking start to 2023, with social media awash with chef creativity as restaurants across the world plot new menu additions to capture the hearts of diners both old and new.

In our latest Food Innovation Safari spotlighting innovators and their bold food and drink developments on social media, we ‘travel’ to Bangkok, New York and London, showcasing posts highlighting zero waste food strategies, flavour-forward dipping sauce opportunities, and even a nostalgia-driven dessert built around birchwood.

The Comma Chameleon
WNWN Food Labs x Lyaness, London
Arriving at the tail end of Veganuary 2023 is a new cocktail by London-based bar
Lyaness featuring dairy- and cocoa-free chocolate from UK food tech pioneers, WNWN Food Labs.

Co-founded by Dr Johnny Drain, the self-professed 'Walter White of ferments, flavour and food design'; WNWN harnesses the power of fermentation to develop its sustainable and ethical chocolate alternative, with Lyaness – named the world's best bar at the 2022 Spirited Awards in New Orleans – the first to develop a cocktail featuring the plant-based innovation.

Called the Comma Chameleon, the cocktail is a combination of The Lakes single malt English whiskey, Starward Australian whisky, Kanpai sake liqueur, a secret something from the Lyaness barmen, and a WNWN chocolate float.
Trailblazer Takeaway:
  • Egg Soldiers says:
    "WNWN is dedicated to delivering a flavour-forward alternative to cocoa-based chocolate, spotlighting critical supply chain issues of what it calls 'Big Chocolate', which it says includes links to deforestation, slave labour, and farmer exploitation, as well as an over reliance on palm oil.

    "As consumer awareness of the reported ethical issues with conventional chocolate increases, expect changes in purchasing behaviour, with collaborations with alt-choc pioneers such as WNWN potentially advantageous in terms of exploring alternatives and aligning your brand."

Nam Prik
Sri Trat Restaurant & Bar, Thailand
Next up is a shot of a Nam Prik platter at Bangkok restaurant, Sri Trat, taken by Jenny Lau, founder of the Chinese food culture hub, Celestial Peach.

In her recent post, Lau discusses how Nam Prik – a Thai chilli sauce made of fermented shrimp paste, chillies, garlic, and lime juice – can be a showpiece addition for an elevated vegetable salad (ignoring, of course, the whole fish seen in the photo).

"Take the nam prik platter you might get in Thailand – these combine fermented, fried, parboiled and raw herbs and veg (the variety of cooking methods and textures are important for digestion and stimulation of all the senses)," she says.

"But the star of the show in the middle is the nam prik; a funky flavour glue keeping you coming back for more.

"With this in mind, unseasoned veg is a necessary blank canvas, especially against the backdrop of other intensely flavoured sharing dishes."
Trailblazer Takeaway:
  • Egg Soldiers says:
    "Dipping sauces are in.

    "From the sloppy delights of Birria Tacos to the broader exploration of Korean dipping classics (Ssamjang and Chogochujang spring to mind); consumers can't get enough, with spicy flavours, globally-inspired spins, and, of course, indulgent quantities all hitting the spot.

    "So why not a showstopping spicy dip to elevate a dish of simple, sharable vegetable options? We particularly like the different cooking methods here as a way of broadening the eating experience.

    "Explore the traditional Asian dipping sauce scene – it's a gold mine."
Download our free white paper
Discover our UK Hospitality Food & Drink Trends To Watch 2023/24

Pearl Pie
Superiority Burger, NYC
Superiority Burger, the East Village veggie fast food spot that closed at the end of 2021, is hard at work developing a new menu ahead of its triumphant return, with its Instagram account teasing a 'deluxe' version opening soon.

This week, a dessert popped up: "a commercial cracker-crusted (vegan) and (DELICATE) coconut custard mango li hing mui-glazed pearl pie".

The cheesecake-esque innovation looks the business, and we're particularly interested in the li hing mui glaze.

Li Hing Mui is salty dried Chinese plums, and it has a strong, distinctive flavour – namely a combination of sweet, sour and salty.

In its powdered form, Li Hing Mui has been popular in artisan cocktail bars and as a flavouring for sweets. And here, as a glaze, we imagine it delivers a tangy tartness that pairs nicely with the mellow coconut custard.
Trailblazer Takeaway:
  • Egg Soldiers says:
    "Li Hing Mui is a close cousin of Umeboshi (pickled, dried Japanese plums), which also delivers sour, salty, savoury flavours.

    "Umeboshi is fairly trendy in the US, particularly for elevating sushi, dressings and marinades, with its complex, powerful flavour profile an increasingly intriguing prospect for diners across the pond.

    "Globally-inspired flair and 'culinary discovery' is obviously very much a thing in the UK, too; so the idea of harnessing Li Hing Mui's distinctive, memorable flavours in fruit-forward baked options and cakes could be one worth pursuing."

Nostalgic Milk Ice Cream Dessert
Cúán Greene (chef), NYC
Nostalgia-driven comfort food has become a huge hit with UK diners over the past few years, particularly since the disruption of lockdown, with chefs drawing from their respective childhoods to deliver creatively ‘grown-up’ spins on comforting classics.

That's not to say that nostalgia is reserved for the comfort food scene, as showcased by Irish chef Cúán Greene this month with his new high-end dessert inspired by his childhood experiences eating ice creams, specifically the flavours of the sticks once he'd finished.

"The dish reminds me of my childhood, eating ice creams and chewing the stick on the way home," Greene wrote on his Instagram post.

"I somehow always loved the taste. Only found out recently that they are made from birch wood."

The currently unnamed dessert is built of milk ice cream, dried berries, shortcake and horseradish and walnut oil, with the lot to be eaten with a birchwood spoon.
Trailblazer Takeaway:
  • Egg Soldiers says:
    "Such a cool dessert. We can only imagine that the horseradish and walnut oil unlocked something for Cúán in development, allowing him to recreate the flavour (and emotional feeling) of chewing birchwood sticks on his way home as a child.

    "Harnessing nostalgic flavours from your childhood is a fantastic way of bringing your diners closer to a dish; to bring it to life; and, on occasions, evoke strong, positive feelings deep within them when they realise they share that same childhood nostalgia."

Rounding us off this month is another trip to see the zero waste wizards of Silo in East London.

Previously, we've highlighted their experiments with amazake, and their Siloaf ice cream sandwich as an example of a food waste-saving innovation.

Now, it's their fermented tuna garum (or Fight Club Fish Sauce as it's brilliantly labelled) that's caught our eye.

In an Instagram video posted this week, they revealed the now year-old sauce, which is made from the bones of tuna which, in true Silo fashion, they refused to waste.

In the short clip, the garum is described as "super indulgent", "quite spectacular", and "a wildly delicious barrel of umami gold", with the term 'Guts to Gold' coined by the team.

No word yet as to how they might use it on their menu, but when they do, Egg Soldiers will be there!
Trailblazer Takeaway:
  • Egg Soldiers says:
    "Fight Club Fish Sauce – brilliant!

    "Garums are an age-old sauce/condiment and a great zero-waste, high-flavour addition to dishes, big or small.

    "They're super versatile in terms of recipe and application (we still remember the famous Noma cheeseburger patty being glazed in a beef garum), and an absolute umami flavour bomb for diners.

    "Guts to Gold, as Silo say – always think twice when throwing out food waste. Imagine if Silo had tossed the tuna bones."
Sign up for our
FREE food trends & insights newsletter!
Regular food trend intelligence from the experts, straight to your inbox

Meet our trend specialists and discover our unique 'Chef Nexus' & research methodology

Read our free deep-dives and sign up for our regular food trends newsletter

One F&B topic, one-page PDF format. Short, sharp food intelligence