From seaweed to Syrian food: here's what's hot in food

11th March 2017 – Marie-Claire Grima

Introducing the weird and wonderful dishes and drinks making their way to our tables in 2017.

Syrian food

It started out as an online fundraising initiative, but the Cook For Syria cookbook, with recipes from Syrian families, as well as celebrity chefs such as Jamie Oliver, Yotam Ottolenghi and others, has become an Amazon bestseller, with another one in the works. “In the face of tragedy, a desire has grown outside Syria to know this war-torn country and its people more intimately,” says the book’s co-author, Itab Azzam, “and what brings people closer to one another than sharing food?” There are endless dishes to choose from, but favourite Syrian dishes include muhammara, freekeh and kibbe.

Sea vegetables

Over the past five years, demand for seaweed food and drink products has increased by 150 per cent in Europe. It’s not surprising – not only does it taste great, but one serving of seaweed is loaded with more calcium than broccoli and is almost as rich in proteins as legumes. There are various types and varieties of sea produce to choose from too; for instance, nori, which is traditionally used to make sushi, can be shredded and sprinkled onto salad, ramen or rice bowls, while dulse adds a briny component to food without loading it up with salt.

Low or no-alcohol drinks

Millennials drink less alcohol than the generations before them, and value quality, prestige and innovation in what they drink. As a result, non-alcoholic drinks are bound to become more inspiring than the sugary sweet juice bombs that were previously the only choices available for teetotallers. Expect to hear much more about turmeric shots, cold-pressed juices and non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ which can be used to make cocktails so delicious you’ll barely notice the absence of a buzz.

Photo: Charcoal Venice


Not the stuff you use to light your barbeque. The charcoal used in food is derived from peat, coal, wood and coconut shells, and is ‘activated’ by heating common charcoal with a gas which increases its surface area and increases its internal porosity. Purported health benefits include detoxification, boosting the metabolism, whitening teeth and curing hangovers. Watch out for it in an increasing number of dishes, snacks and cocktails, if you can handle its slightly menacing appearance.


Think of pignoletto as prosecco’s cousin, except with richer flavour and more depth. The wine is made from the Pignoletto grape, which grows in the hills between Modena and Bologna in the Emilia-Romagna region. The wine produced is refreshing and fruity, a wonderful light and sparkling alternative for those who are bored of prosecco, can’t stomach the yeasty flavours of champagne but still want something lovely to toast with.

Edamame noodles

Courgetti (spaghetti-like strands of courgettes) were once touted as satisfying replacements for a carb lover’s cravings, but nobody was fooled. Heartier but still healthy alternatives, such as edamame noodles, will be this year’s answer to carb alternatives. Not only do they retain the lovely al dente bite that so many pasta fans found lacking in courgetti, they’re also gluten-free, making them suitable for coeliacs who really miss their pasta fix. Other intriguing pasta substitutes taking centre stage this year include pea pasta and beetroot rice.


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