2019 has been a flavourful year for food and drinks. From salted egg everything to the surge of boba outlets all across the city, this year has been nothing short of adventurous for the makan kakis of Malaysia.
But will it be the same for 2020? Or will bubble teas make way for a new dessert trend? As we head into the new decade, let us take a look at what to expect, what is here to stay and what is best left in the past.
Trend #1: Plant-based alternatives
Of course, sustainability has been a consistent topic for a while now, especially with the plant-based lifestyle steadily rising in the last few years. Thankfully, as we head into the new year, the idea of going meat-free isn’t as foreign as it once was. Research has shown that omitting meat from our diets can do us more good than we have ever realised, and for this reason, this trend is here to stay, at least for a few more years.
Restaurants like Simple Life has always been the stand-out outlet when it comes to vegetarian food, but not anymore. With places like The Fish Bowl and Nando’s providing meat-free alternatives, local cafes have also followed suit, with new eateries specialising in vegan or vegetarian fare popping up all across Klang Valley.
Our changing mindset towards the trend means plant-based substitutes are becoming more accessible in our grocery shops, allowing homemade recipes to have the option of being meatless too.
Additional research has also indicated that a plant-based lifestyle can have a significant positive impact on the environment, with meat and dairy companies being two of the biggest contributors to climate change.
Though it is a pipe dream to adopt this new change immediately, 2020 is without a doubt the year we will witness the most change in the way we eat as we go greener for the better.
Trend #2: Insta-worthy foods
Speaking of green and colours, Insta-worthy foods are not going anywhere either. With the addition of new filters on Instagram, there are now more reasons to snap pictures of our breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, supper, Happy Hour and what not.
As such, in the upcoming year, we can expect restaurants to continue innovating traditional dishes to meet the demands of our social media-obsessed generation. This means more colours, more shapes and more creative plating of our meals.
According to UberEats in the United States, foods that meet the “Insta-worthy” criteria include squid-ink noodles and star-fruits, both unique in their appearance that is sure to give an extra element of surprise on our plates. But back on home ground, we can expect aesthetically-pleasing foods to come in the form of brunch and desserts as they continue to dominate our social media feeds.
Trend #3: Weird and wonderful adaptations
As true blue Malaysians, we wear the flavours of our foodie culture with pride. So it’s no surprise that the second half of 2019 saw a rise in innovative snacks made from local dishes.
From Nestle’s Chilli Crab Kit Kat to Cendol Pocky, there’s clearly a demand for the foreign without letting go of the familiar. Incorporating local flavours into bite-sized snacks and desserts is just the start of what could be the future of food adaptation. As snacks like Chicken Rice Potato Chips and Laksa Chips go mainstream, there is clearly potential for more innovation to occur and 2020 might just be the year for this trend to take off.
Trend #4: Zero-alcohol alcohol
In line with becoming healthier, consumers are starting to seek out indulgent alternatives that have all the good without the bad. A classic example of this was when Heineken launched its 0.0% Non-Alcohol Beer earlier in 2019.
The alcohol-free beer had all the refreshing crisp taste of a good pint minus the alcohol content, and it was no surprise that it blew up all across the internet, with influencers and drinking kakis posting Instagram stories of the latest fad.
This phenomenon will likely continue in the new decade as Gen-Xers and Millennials steer towards a healthier, more sober lifestyle. In cities like Brooklyn and New York, booze-free bars are starting to take over the nightlife scene, but it’s hard to expect the same to be happening in Bangsar any time soon.
Nevertheless, it’s exciting progress to keep an eye on. Maybe by the end of 2020, all of us can enjoy a good drink without the Asian flush and the terrible morning after pains.
Trend #5: Out-of-the-ordinary dining experiences
Not a food trend per se, but one that concerns the way consumers eat are the rise of one-of-a-kind restaurants.
Over the course of 2019, takeouts became more popular than ever, with the convenience of food delivery services like foodpanda and GrabFood allowing consumers to satisfy their cravings via the touch of an app. But this doesn’t mean that restaurants have become obsolete. In fact, consumers are still eating out…but only if the restaurant has something unique to offer.
The popularity of food delivery services means restaurants have had to severely upgrade their offerings to keep consumers patronising the outlets, and they’re doing so by providing something more than just delicious dinners. They’re creating experiences.
Take Xing Fu Tang for example. The boba outlet has been frequented perhaps more often than its competitors and it is largely due to the ‘extras’ customers are promised to on their visits. The fortune-telling shelves in all their outlets are perhaps Xing Fu Tang’s biggest draw aside from their sinfully sweet bubble tea beverages. Just take a look at how often Insta-stories of fortune slips are shared on social media platforms.
The trend of visiting dining outlets with a distinct aesthetic or vibe isn’t likely to go outdated given how millennials are obsessed with curating their social media feeds with the latest experiences.
Currently, experiential dining outlets in the city include Lounge in the Sky, where diners are guaranteed, quite literally, an elevated dining experience 150 feet above the ground.
Another unique setting would also be the newly-opened FUHU Restaurant and Bar located in Genting Highlands. The vibe-dining restaurant is the first of its kind in Malaysia and it combines Michelin-star meals with a touch of nightlife flair and is touted as the Most Instagrammable Restaurant in town.
For those special nights where ordering in just doesn’t quite cut it, these experiential outlets will be there to give consumers the experience they’re looking for. As such, we can expect more of such unique outlets to pop up in the new year.
What’s Next in 2020?
In summary, the majority of these trends align with the general mindset of becoming more health and environmentally-conscious. As most of us become more aware of what we put into our bodies, restaurants and franchises have had to adapt their offerings to cater to our demands.
2020 will probably see the most change in our culinary landscape as we strive for a lifestyle that both good for us and the planet. Having said that, one thing will probably remain unchanged, and that is our love for food. So no matter what 2020 throws at us, you can bet Malaysians will still be queueing up to try the latest food trend.
And when that doesn’t work out, there will always be the comfort of familiar local food to keep us satiated and satisfied.