Plant-based 'crab', faux caviar: 4 innovative foods showcased at Gulfood 2023

The event is the largest of its kind in the world – 30 times larger than the previous year with more than 5,000 exhibitors, nearly 1,500 of them new


Lamya Tawfik

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Published: Mon 20 Feb 2023, 6:47 PM

Last updated: Tue 21 Feb 2023, 11:22 AM

Exhibitors at Gulfood have brought in their top game when it comes to creativity and sustainability in the food industry – rightfully so, considering the event, today in its 28th edition, is the largest of its kind in the world – 30 times larger than the previous year with more than 5000 exhibitors, nearly 1,500 of them new.

Here are four innovative products identified by Khaleej Times during the first day of the event.

Plant-based crabs from the Netherlands

When visiting the Netherlands pavilion in Hall 3, visitors can see Matthijs Nieuwkoop, Product and Development Manager from Dutch company Plnt, deep frying crab-cakes that are not made from crabs – but smell and taste like the real thing.

“Plant-based meat came first because it is the bigger market, so it’s the easier market to target for plant-based food. Seafood came later because it’s a niche,” he said, adding that the Netherlands is the pioneering country for plant-based food and that their main target audience are sceptical meat eaters.

The crab cakes are made from wheat protein and soy sauce as a taste enhancer, and other ingredients like paprika, spices, and natural aromas for the ‘fish flavour’ like nori. “You can taste that it came from the sea,” he said.

They are also developing plant-based salmon made from peas. “Every product we make has a different approach. Proteins have different structures and what works for chicken doesn’t work for fish for instance,” he said, adding that it is still a work in progress, which is why they didn’t bring it.

3-week roasted black garlic

How does roasted black garlic on ice cream sound? Estonian company Must Umami have brought their 3-week roasted black garlic to Gulfood, and visitors can try them.

In this slow fermentation process, the upper part of the Nordic garlic bulb and stem is roasted for three weeks on a low temperature which allows the natural sugar to be caramelised and turns the garlic black. The end result is a sweet, non-pungent garlic with a taste of ‘umami’.

“The sulfur which makes garlic bitter with an intense taste evaporates, [leaving] the ‘umami’ taste, which means deliciousness. This goes well with both sweet and savoury dishes,” said Must Umami expert manager Kristiina Saul, adding that it can be put on pasta, salad, risotto, but also it can be used in a cake, sprinkled on ice cream or even on a fruit salad.

Estonia, explained is in the northern part of Europe where garlic is strong because of the harsh environment. In terms of nutrition, it is high on antioxidation – even higher than regular garlic, at nearly 70 times more. “It’s a healthy snack, even though some vitamins are lost. You can get vitamins from other fruits and vegetables but antioxidants can’t be found easily,” she said.

Salmon ‘faux’ caviar made from broth

When it comes to saving the future generation of fish, Ana Irisarri, expert manager and owner of Pescaviar, a family business based in Spain, came up with an innovative solution. Why have caviar when you can have salmon pearls that taste just like salmon roe?

“We are very happy that we are transforming our company, my sister and I, into something more modern with new flavours and concepts that are sustainable,” she said, adding that the initial step was creating caviar alternatives.

The first trial was creating caviar from smoked herring, and the salmon caviar was the development of this first product. “We knew that caviar was very expensive so we wanted to create alternatives that look like caviar but [are] not. It’s very sustainable,” she said, adding that the main concept is that people are not eating the future generation of fish.

“I can do fish roe from the broth, so I need less fish to make them,” she said. Pieces of salmon that are not used or sold are used to make a broth, and then the spherification technique, used by chefs, is used to transform the broth into the pearls. “We are using the circular economy and you’re saving the future generation of fish. It tastes like salmon roe and the texture is the same as salmon roe which is difficult to recreate,” said Ana.

While the spherification technique is commonly used by chefs in the cooking industry it’s difficult to make industrially – which was the main challenge, she explained. “We don’t add flavours. We use the real juice and syrup and then create different flavours of pearls. We thought how can we do it with fish? We need to create broth that can be transformed into spheres,” she said.

Date-sugar macaroons

Macaroons, the already-perfect dessert, also got a makeover by Alia Adi, owner of the Maison Amarella from Switzerland. Alia, a Syrian woman living in Switzerland, wanted to give a twist to the French delicacy.

“We use top Swiss ingredients that are 100 per cent natural. We don’t use artificial food colouring, no additives and no preservatives,” she said. But what really sets them apart is the inclusion of Arabic flavours – especially flavours from the Gulf such as kleija, tahini, pomegranate, saffron, cardamom and dates.

After offering these unique flavours, she wanted to innovate even more. “This is when we started to work on macaroons with the shells made from date sugar. It adds texture to the shell because you get the fibre from the dates, it has a date-taste and it is a healthy alternative to white sugar,” she explained, adding that in the filling, date syrup is also used.

The target audience of her chewy delicious macaroons are people with fine taste, she says, because she doesn’t use much sugar – which macaroons normally do.


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