When it comes to ethnic cuisine means a cuisine typical of a people that can be distinguished by its ingredients and cooking styles. During the event organised by Just Eat to present the 'Map of food delivery in Italy 2023"where they cooked the two Masterchef finalist chefs Alina Gotta and Maurizio Rosazza Prin who currently lead the Delivery Valley*one trend particularly struck me. I have therefore decided to report the full article published on the research with my own final comment, which finds me partly agreeing - and hopeful that Just Eat is right - and partly a little more sceptical. However, my recent having seen The Old Oak the latest film by Ken Loach where Syrian refugees in England manage to find precisely in the sharing food a key to both overcoming language and cultural barriers and integrating in a land full of racism and prejudicemakes me optimistic about an Italian opening to global cuisine.

*Delivery Valley is a kitchen that offers quality food delivered to your door on the Just Eat app, with all the dishes presented on the evening that you can see in the photos in this article being ordered in a Combo sold for €12. I found them really tasty, but the one that will push me to order them one of these evenings is the pumpkin and ginger cheese cake, really delicious!

Ethnic cuisine: Just Eat's trend for home food

In an increasingly technologically hyper-connected world, it seems paradoxical that today's consumers feel a lack of connection, but this is precisely the heart of this trend that places ethnic cuisine among the protagonists of food delivery. 

Towards a standardisation of taste?

Consumers are increasingly looking for food that gives them a connection: to the environment, to nature or to the global communities where the ingredients come from. In urban contexts where previously distant cultures are now in close contact, the food industry has experienced unparalleled contamination: culinary cultures from all over the world mix and influence each other. This leads to a transformation of traditional dishes that may be modified or merged with ingredients or cooking styles from other cultures.

The direct consequence is a standardisation of dishes that become more and more adapted to the contexts of local consumers. On the contrary, discerning consumers demand a valorisation of authentic culinary traditions.

Ethnic cuisine just eat Masterchef

[In photo - Delivery Valley x Just Eat event: Gourmet, home-made fried and crispy polenta with Parmesan cream and truffle salt]

Ethnic cuisine and food delivery

The food delivery sector, and more specifically participating restaurants, play a key role within this landscape. On the one hand, consumers are looking for new flavours and ingredients, on the other hand, chefs and industry experts can be influenced by trends and the demand for exotic and authentic food.

Culinary authenticity, however, is evolving and is not limited to the simple fusion of typical and local dishes, but aims to create products that reflect cultural identities, becoming types in their own right. This is why it is interesting to note that in Italy there is a marked interest in experimenting with intense and new flavours, a desire particularly pronounced among young people in the 25-34 age group. At the same time, the need to maintain close contact with familiar dishes emerges.

Ethnic cuisine just eat croquettes

[In photo Delivery Valley x Just Eat event: Truly bravas potatoes - potato croquettes, herbs and the famous still good cube of charcuterie with slightly spicy special sauce]

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Ethnic cuisine: trends from North to South

As a culturally rich country, many regional differences in culinary preferences emerge: in Northern Italy there is a preference for traditional dishes, while in Southern Italy Mediterranean and Oriental cuisines are the most popular. Interest in experimentation increases when it comes to dishes that are not easily replicated at home.

Felafel ethnic cuisine just eat

[In photo - Delivery Valley x Just Eat event: Falafeel Good, chickpea falafel, turmeric maio]

Italian-Japanese cuisine stands out among the most popular and most tried combinations, while younger people particularly appreciate Italian-Brazilian cuisine.

Cheese cake ethnic cuisine just eat

[In photo - Delivery Valley x Just Eat event: Zucake & Cheese, cheese cake with amaretto biscuits, cream cheese, pumpkin and ginger jam]

More generally, many consumers, especially younger ones, are interested in ordering food delivery consisting of dishes and drinks from different culinary cultures. This suggests a desire to diversify the dining experience especially through food delivery.

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Ethnic cuisine: what the Just Eat expert thinks about it

Once upon a time, there was Italy steeped in mum's gravy, the Italy that waryly spied every exotic novelty that arrived at its gates. That Italy is today losing ground in favour of the different, the unseen, and trust in the new. We were helped by the gradual realisation that many of our certainties and supposedly millenary traditions were often in reality lies constructed to give a carpet of poetry to vulgar sales mechanisms.

Grandmothers pull more than models when it comes to promoting the good and it matters little if we have to tweak the truth a little to make them invent recipes that have nothing to do with them. Along with disillusionment, however, comes a growing curiosity about the giant cultures that we have neglected and mistreated for years.

Alida Gotta Chiara Bassi Maurizio Rosazza Prin Gianluca Moreschi

[In photo - Just Eat event: from left Alida Gotta, Chiara Bassi, Maurizio Rosazza Prin and Gianluca Moreschi]

We are even learning to comment on the food of other peoples without looking for points of comparison that bring it closer to our own familiar culinary lexicon. Tacos are not corn piadinas and ramen has nothing to do with our local minestrone. Both are ancient artisanal mainstays that tell the story of two gastronomic heritages at least as deep-rooted and strong as our own. Once we overcome this mental hurdle, the world opens up to us like an endless edible amusement park capable of offering us continuous unexpected sensations. This broadens the colour palettes with which we can paint the new canvases of our cuisine.

If one starts from a basis of respect and puts one's own knowledge on an equal footing with that of others, then one can really find the points of contact between distant habits to create happy interweavings based on consistency. One does not spite the Italian cuisine when appreciating the flavours of another country, just as we are not forced to always listen only to our favourite singer to avoid feeling betrayed.

Ethnic cuisine and the need for connection: the opinion

When it comes to trends in food, the analysis is extremely complex because several factors come into play, most notably culture and price. This is because food culture, just like wine culture, is not the business of most people, but of a small subset of them. Even today, the main lever of the average customer is price and its first possible derivatives: quantity - price and, at best, quality - price. There is a third fundamental relationship that is only the preserve of the more educated - and consequently more affluent - classes, and that is experience - price. If I open the Just Eat app and set the area where I live, i.e. Corso Lodi in Milan, I have 138 restaurants to choose from and most of them are ethnic cuisine. Probably traditional Italian cuisine occupies a very limited space in the offer because it is unthinkable that a dish that does not belong to the street food genre could survive a delivery. The same pizza eaten at the pizzeria table is enormously better. And I, who tonight ordered a plate of ttõkbokki of the Korean cuisineI can't help but wonder how they would be eaten sitting in a real Korean restaurant. Home-cooked food remains, however, an amazing commodity that I adore, especially to be consumed while relaxing in front of a Netflix series. As for the rider controversy, it honestly makes me smile: when I was a child, I remember that no one complained about pizzas being delivered, and yet the deliveries were often made by kids who were paid €1 per delivery when it was going well.

In short, I am not sure that the trend of consumption of ethnic cuisine stems from a desire to discover new cultures, but I think it is rather a problem of supply due to the fact that proposing a spaghetto alla carbonara or a Fiorentina steak as home-cooked food is not a viable option. However, it is to be welcomed if this leads to a real openness towards new cultures and new flavours, breaking down that typically Italian saccence and its gastronomic parochialism.

Chiara Bassi

Writer, sommelier and gastronome

Tteokpokki Korean restaurant just eat

[In photo - Just Eat app: The best Ttŏkpokki of my life, ordered from restaurant Sŏn Via Calimero 3, Milan and arrived on time]