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Taste the Tropics: 6 Tips for Infusing Your Menu With Exotic Flavors

Summertime is perfect for escaping a humdrum life for a sunny beach getaway. However, those unable to travel might search for paradise closer to home. Restaurateurs can fulfill their customers’ cravings for exotic flavors by mixing up their menus. 

Even your star dishes can start to get boring after some time. Although they may be year-round fan favorites, consider a special summer menu for a change. Here’s how to create delectable offerings with tropical, exotic flavors.

Embrace the Tropical Flavors of Summer

Keep things fresh with the season’s best produce — summer is abundant with bright, bold fruits and vegetables. When considering staples reminiscent of tropical dishes, you might want to stock up on the following ingredients:

  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Corn
  • Cantaloupe
  • Mangoes
  • Lemons and limes
  • Tomatillos
  • Summer squash
  • Dragon fruit
  • Papaya
  • Passion fruit
  • Jackfruit
  • Coconut
  • Pineapple

You should also consider fresh herbs and spices like pineapple sage, mint, cilantro, chilies, peppercorns and cinnamon. Prepare a few spice blends, such as Jamaican jerk seasoning with spicy and sweet ingredients like red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves and brown sugar.

Combine coriander, cumin, annatto seeds or turmeric powder, garlic powder, oregano and salt for an irresistible sazón seasoning blend, perfect for poultry, rice and soups.

6 Ways to Make Your Menu More Exotic

Restaurateurs have endless options for creating idyllic concoctions that leave your tables fully booked. These six tips will help you infuse your menu with exotic flavors that send customers on a culinary journey to the tropics.

Make a Zesty Sauce

You can turn an ordinary chicken or shrimp dish into a tropical dream by drizzling it with a zesty sauce. A lime juice and avocado crema pairs well with grilled entrees or tacos and uses Greek yogurt as a thickener for a smooth and creamy finish.

You might also blend orange zest, mango, pineapple, banana, coconut milk and honey to create a citrusy dipping sauce for vegetable spring rolls — the perfect appetizer on a summer menu.

Chop up a Fruit Salsa

Grilled or blackened salmon topped with fresh fruit salsa cools off spicy seasonings that make your tongue tingle. Salsa is easy to whip up in bulk, too. You can create several recipes using exotic flavors like tomatillos, mango or pineapple.

Mix diced pineapple, onion, red bell peppers, cilantro, lime juice and salt in a bowl. You might also add finely chopped jalapenos — seeds removed — to round out the flavors. 

During the summer, many people focus on nutrition and look for low-calorie menu options. Pineapple — most of which gets imported from Costa Rica — boosts immunity and improves bone health, among other health benefits. It’s also delicious when served raw.  

Lean Into International Cuisines

Few people have mastered exotic flavors as well as Caribbean islanders — they practically wrote the book on tropical dishes. South America, Mexico and Puerto Rico boast delicious entrees, too. 

Consider adding traditional dishes to your offerings or creating a twist on a classic. Some exotic menu item ideas could include the following:

  • Jerk chicken or pork
  • Fried plantains
  • Arroz con pollo — a traditional chicken and rice dish from South America
  • Mexican street corn
  • Baja fish tacos
  • Bandera Dominicana — the national dish of the Dominican Republic, consisting of chicken or beef, white rice, red beans, avocado or salad, and fried green plantains

It may be challenging to match the authenticity of cultural cuisines, which is why restaurants should embrace fusion dishes to make them their own. 

Mix a Fresh Salad

Customers may prefer lighter fare on hot summer days, so offering a salad using seasonal fruits — berries, watermelon, pineapple or mango — is best.

Crisp romaine, chopped basil strawberries, mango, and goat cheese crumbles topped with mango dressing and toasted almonds is an entire meal. You may also offer customers their choice of protein with it, such as grilled chicken or shrimp.

There are plenty of options for infusing your menu with zesty, fruity salad dressings — you just need some creativity.

Create a Specialty Cocktail Menu

Infuse vodka with herbs and lime to create a tropical beverage menu. Basil and strawberry, raspberries, grapefruit and limes are options.

Customers love sipping on tropical cocktails during the summer and will likely splurge on a few cold drinks with friends. You can make your menu stand out by offering a specialty cocktail menu for the season.

Include classic summer cocktails with unique flavors — like watermelon mint mojitos and strawberry lime margaritas — or add something extra special to the menu. For instance, a Navy Grog is a fizzy drink with three rum varieties, lime juice, grapefruit juice and honey syrup — a tropical beverage even men will love.

Serve Something Cold and Sweet

Your dessert menu is another place to infuse exotic tastes. It won’t take much to appeal to the masses, either. Customers will love fruity sherberts garnished with mint. You could also serve up ice cream with fresh berries or papaya.

Other excellent options include strawberry shortcakes, coconut pies, mini trifles and passion fruit and mango mousse. 

Things to Avoid in an Exotic Summer Menu

Ultimately, you’ll want to avoid offering anything too heavy or loaded with salt. For example, red meats are best during the winter months. 

Too much sodium can also cause water retention and weight gain, making moving around in the summer heat uncomfortable. Additionally, it can make you dehydrated. 

Also, be mindful of where you source your seafood from and how you handle it. There are nearly 50,000 seafood poisoning cases annually worldwide. The last thing you want is for customers to get sick after dining at your restaurant.

Embrace the Exotic Tastes of Summer

Seasonal ingredients allow you to concoct new dishes and put your spin on traditional favorites. Enjoy the opportunity of enhancing your menu with tropical flavors patrons will love.

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