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Manufacturers Find Asian Inspiration

In “Rising to the Occasion With Asian” (February 2014), author Brent Frei explored various ways that school nutrition operations are embracing this cuisine type as an opportunity to menu flavorful, appealing and healthy ingredients. Manufacturers serving the K-12 school nutrition segment are doing their part to capitalize on this growing trend, offering products to help operators deliver on-trend Asian flavors and textures, while remaining within the USDA regulations. Following, Frei looks at a few of the new solutions now available to operators.

Kent Precision Foods Group, Inc., offers a variety of shelf-stable Asian seasoning and sauce mixes for rice, noodles and other dishes under its Foothill Farms® brand. The company says it has been able to greatly reduce sodium in its products for schools—like Asian Noodle Seasoning—while enhancing flavor thanks to a natural umami source that does not contain MSG. Precision’s top-selling sauce for schools is Mandarin orange, which is uniquely different from merely “orange,” and an important flavor distinction in Asian cuisine, asserts the company.

Kikkoman Sales USA’s newest Asian sauce for schools is NuMami Sauce. The product was originally targeted to manufacturers as an ingredient in product formulations. That changed when corporate chefs from some of the largest restaurant chains requested the product for their menu development after discovering it at a Worlds of Flavor Conference held by The Culinary Institute of America. Kikkoman decided to offer it to foodservice operations in a half-gallon size.

The low-sodium product (said to be about 12% of the sodium found in the same amount of table salt) contains naturally high-umami ingredients, such as soy sauce and kelp to make it a powerful flavor booster. Because it’s lighter in color than soy sauce and neutral in flavor, its versatility extends to recipes featuring chicken and seafood, while enhancing flavors of dishes across the menu.

Through its Minh® product line, Schwan’s Food Service, a leading supplier of egg rolls (including whole-grain versions), offers operators multi-component Stir Fry Kits that include tender pieces of chicken and sauces. Soon, says the company, schools will have the opportunity to divert their USDA commodity chicken for processing. Also new for schools are marketing materials to help participating operations capitalize on the Minh brand on the serving line or at designated stations. Signage and graphics include posters, menu boards, danglers and table cards.