Once upon a time, “oriental food” meant a quick chow mein from your local Chinese but, these days, the term is a lot more sophisticated. The UK is fast becoming a nation of well-travelled foodies and their interest in food is driving the rapid growth of hot and emerging cuisines, which means that restaurants have to review menus regularly to retain a competitive edge. M&C Allegra’s Menu & Food Trends Report earlier this year identified Korean, Taiwanese and Vietnamese as being ‘hot’ cuisine trends in 2016, along with the ongoing popularity of Japanese and Thai food, and this is now translating to the high street. Chinese New Year (January 28) is the perfect opportunity to capitalise on the trend and make big takings, with even bigger margins. So how can independent caterers incorporate Oriental dishes onto their menus and how can these flavour trends be adapted for food on-the-go? We asked eight chefs to share their fortune cookies….

Rachel Green, TV chef and brand ambassador for Golden Turkeys www.goldenturkeys.co.uk (Photo credit www.michaelpowell.com) Nasi Goreng is a brilliant dish for chefs looking to offer something a bit different a breakfast time. My Nasi Goreng with Lime, Cashews and Roasted Golden Turkey recipe was inspired by my love of rice, which is so lightly valued as an ingredient in the west. I love the fact that in Malaysia and Indonesia leftover rice is used for this dish and served with all sorts of interesting toppings. Who doesn’t love the traditional breakfast of Indonesian fried rice, served with all the salty, sweet, spicy flavours of Asia and topped with a sunnyside- up egg and chilli, a perfect start to the day.

Bob McDonald, Major’s consultant development chef for Ireland Pan-Asian flavours, Japanese, Thai are still up there and Korean has definitely gone mainstream. With the current trends towards fusion, spicing up your offer to eat in or take away is easier than ever. An international mari base such as Major’s brand new Korean, can be incorporated into a multitude of dishes in various ways from popular street food inspired grab and go wraps and tacos shredded short rib beef taco to pulled meats, a broth, main course or a Korean-inspired salad.

TV chef Ben Bartlett I’m fascinated by the Vietnamese method of adding meat fat to cooking oil. Render off duck or pork and cut up the pure fat into chunks – they can be kept in the freezer until required. Add them to the cooking oil and they work beautifully with dumplings, meatballs, soups – all kinds of meat dishes. It’s not something we would normally consider in European cuisine, but it adds an intensely deep and rich meaty flavour that is simply fantastic.Far East-inspired cuisine is a wonderful way for schools and care homes to create dishes that are full of fresh vegetables, lean meats and rich, zingy flavours. Keep the heat and spice subtle, and tone down strong flavours with yogurt or coconut milk, for example with a mild version of a Thai green curry.

Matthew White, chair of TUCO and director of catering, hotel & conference services at The University of Reading According to the largest ever global eating trends study carried out by TUCO, only 5% of UK university students actually want to eat British food – 84% want to eat a ‘mix of foods from home and elsewhere’. A major trend, identified by the same research, was the emergence of South East Asian cuisine. Consumers are drawn in by the hot, sweet, sour and salty flavour combinations that this gastronomy provides, due to an always-growing sense of adventure. For this reason, customers are progressively looking beyond the ‘Thai green curry’ to other dishes, which are packed full of new and fresh flavours. South East Asian dishes, ingredients or flavour influences can add an ‘on trend’ twist to a caterers’ food offering. Banh Mi, Pad Thai or Nasi Goreng can find a prominent place on the menu – especially in universities where Oriental students make up a large proportion of undergraduates.

Leon Mills, Knorr marketing manager at Unilever Food Solutions One reason Chinese dishes have such high margins is that lots of them use inexpensive cuts of meat, such as boneless chicken thighs. They’re also a good way to use up leftover protein. And for dishes which use more expensive protein – like prawn or duck – customers expect to pay a small surplus, so make sure you take advantage of this. Another good way to increase your average spend per head is to avoid one plate dishes. Customers expect to pay for rice, sides and extras separately when they go for a Chinese – so ensure you have plenty of tasty sounding sides and extras on offer. Finally, little touches make a big difference to delivering an experience customers are happy to pay a premium for. Clay or metal dishes are easy to get hold of and help add to an authentic experience.

Billy Wong, head chef at the Royal China Club, London To celebrate the Moon Festival, we gave our diners the opportunity to purchase a box of our signature moon cakes. Our mini egg yolk moon cakes are a firm favourite and consist of an egg yolk custard encased in crisp, buttery pastry. They are adorned with the signature decorative patterns associated with moon cakes and a delicious oozing centre. To make the indulgent custard filling we combine butter, condensed milk, caster sugar, egg yolks, coconut milk, a small amount of flour, and custard powder, before steaming the mixture for a few minutes and leaving it to chill in the fridge. The sweet pastry is a simple mix of flour, butter, icing sugar, egg, custard powder, and baking powder, which are combined and chilled. The last step is simply to add the mixture to the moulds and pop the moon cakes in the oven at 180 – 200ºC for 30 minutes.

Willem Fijten, culinary product design scientist for Mars Global Product Development Serving oriental cuisine presents a great opportunity for caterers to offer customers themed menus, limited editions and daily specials alongside their usual menu. As its popularity continues to grow, a plethora of Chinese inspired flavours and ingredients can be seen in many different dishes – from traditional Chinese stir fries to fresh, spicy salads. Sharing plates which can be enjoyed with a drink or two by a group of diners offers a more social way of eating, so why not look to introduce a Far Eastern platter to menus, and include dim sum such as steamed buns and dumplings; and rice noodle rolls and meatballs served on bamboo skewers. These can also be served as starters in their own right or as sides

James Davidson executive chef, Rich Sauces
• Making perfect tempura batter – the key here is to keep the batter mix as cool as possible and not over-whisk, so I always place my mixing bowl inside another that has some ice cubes, allowing a constant chilled temperature throughout. Make sure your sparking water is chilled.
• Perfect fried rice – Always use rice that has been pre-cooked and chilled. I normally allow overnight in the fridge before using. This will allow for the grains to firm up, making it easier to separate and decrease the chances of it turning mushy.
• Diagonal cutting – When preparing vegetables for either stir-fries or general Oriental dishes, I diagonally cut, as it allows better overall coating and fuller internal absorbing of the sauce to take hold. It also looks much better on the eye for presentation.
• Nut-free Satay sauce – Use a 100% nut-free peanut butter then simply add to fried onions, garlic, chillies, Soy sauce and coconut milk.