Bringing the heat to UK seafood dishes

As more Britons travel to Asia and other regions, they return craving a spicier cuisine. And often, those spicy dishes are paired with seafood at local restaurants across the country.

“The rise in quality Indian chefs in the U.K. and their restaurants, plus more travel to the Far East and Asia as travel gets ever more accessible and celebrity chefs like Rick Stein championing Thai and Indian fish dishes (have fueled the spicy trend),” said Alex Aitken, chef patron at The Jetty in the Christchurch Harbour Hotel & Spa in Christchurch, U.K.

The Jetty’s spicy seafood dishes, such as the Sri Lankan-style monkfish curry that was added after Aitken’s trip to Sri Lanka, sell very well. Another popular entrée is seared tuna with chili and ginger, with a wasabi and avocado ice cream.

“We are seeing a rise in spicy flavors and Asian dishes,” said Rachel Royster, senior coordinator of editorial content for foodservice consulting firm Technomic, Chicago. The mentions of “spicy” on U.K. restaurant menus along with a fish dish increased 28.6 percent for the second quarter of 2015, compared to the same quarter last year. The mentions of “spicy” along with a shellfish dish also soared 28.6 percent.

Recent spicy seafood dishes featured on menus include Thai Square’s crispy spicy tilapia, Itsu’s omega3 salmon quinoa and Chiquita’s San Paulo sea bass.

Executives with London-based Catering UK Ltd., which operates 15 Thai Square restaurants, agree that Britons’ growing love for spicy foods stems from their travels. “A lot more U.K. people travel to Asia each year. When they come back from holidays, they might still reminisce about their good times. Some people just become the spicy taste fan once they have tried it,” said Ami Rienjaroensuk, marketing manager for Catering UK Ltd.

Another growing trend on U.K. restaurant menus is squid and octopus appetizers, which increased 20 percent in the second quarter of 2015. Breaded shrimp apps also grew 4.7 percent. “This is most likely due to consumers seeking lighter, healthier fare in warmer months,” Royster said.

The Jetty’s salad of chorizo, chili jam and squid rings with Wild Rocket is very popular, as is its slow-cooked octopus with chili garlic and spring onions, Aitken said. However, breaded shrimp and prawn appetizers are not as popular as they were in the past, according to Aitken, because of the rise in gluten-free diets. “We do, however sell a great menu item, tempura prawns, served with sweet chili dipping sauce. We have now created a gluten-free tempura batter to fry the prawns in.”


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