A Comprehensive List of Quarantine Food Trends, Ranked by How Much We Never Want to See Them Again

Has it really been a year?

Quarantine Food Trends: From Baked Feta Pasta to Basque Burnt Cheesecake
PHOTO BY Shutterstock ILLUSTRATION Warren Espejo

(SPOT.ph) Can you believe it’s already March? Yup, that means it’s pretty much been a year since the Philippine entered lockdown in light of COVID-19—and we’re still in lockdown to this day. Not that we should be celebrating or playing it down, of course—the battle against the pandemic continues on—but if there’s anything that’s come out of all of this that you can view in a more positive light, it’s all the darn food trends that have popped up in the process.

Some are recipes that have turned people who don’t cook into “shefs”; others are old food faves that suddenly came into vogue again, while some are completely novel creations that may or may not be here to stay. But let’s face it: Some food trends have been so ubiquitous, so overrated, or just plain nonsensical that we wouldn’t mind not seeing it in our social media feeds for the next few months (or ever). Here, we rank these quarantine food trends from the ones we’d most like to stay, to the ones to which we’d like to bid a big, fat good riddance.

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Also read:
The Most Exciting Food Trends Predicted for 2021, According to Manila's Chefs and Restaurateurs
The Past, Present, and Future of Dining in Metro Manila
The Dalgona Coffee Trend, Explained
The Rise of Sourdough, and Why It Deserves a Place in Your Pantry

These quarantine food trends were everywhere in the past year; ranked by how much we'd like to say goodbye to them:

14. Sourdough

A cross section of a Sourdough
PHOTO BY Unsplash/Vicky Ng
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Sourdough is nothing new, being the oldest form of leavened bread that’s been around as early as ancient Egypt. It’s distinct from other breads in that instead of commercial yeast, it relies on what’s called a “starter” to help the bread rise. The resulting bread has a tangy flavor and chewy makeup, which might not be for everyone—but we’re in the pro-sourdough camp. The bread tastes great on its own, or just toasted and buttered, but also works great as a base for open-faced toast or sandwiches. It’s also said to be pretty good for you! We’d love to see sourdough stay on people’s radars.

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13. Basque Burnt Cheesecake

Sliced up Basque Burnt Cheesecake
PHOTO BY Shutterstock

“Burnt” isn’t usually considered a desirable quality in food—unless you’re talking about Basque burnt cheesecake, of course. This cheesecake variation does away with the graham crust of the more common New York-style version of the dessert, and is known for its telltale “burnt” exterior. Dark outer appearance aside, the exterior has got a caramelized taste that’s worth swooning over, and that complements the creamy cheesecake interior beautifully. It’s also great on its own (toppings are very much optional)! We’d say it’s up there—if not better—than New York-style cheesecake.

12. Cinnamon Rolls

A close-up of a Cinnamon Roll
PHOTO BY Unsplash/Fallon Michael
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Do cinnamon rolls even need any introduction? Soft, pillowy, and scented with the unmistakable aroma of cinnamon, cinnamon rolls have long been a well-loved pastry and experienced a rise in popularity in 2020. This is another one of those classics that never gets old, because how does one argue with butter, cinnamon, sugar, carbs? If anything, we wish online sellers would take it easy with the crazy cinnamon-roll variations (we’ve seen everything from Ube to Fruity Pebbles), but some of them actually work—online seller The Sweetest Cinn’s Apple Pie cinnamon rolls are worth the try.

11. Choco Butternut Spinoffs

A plateful of Choco Butternut doughnuts
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes

Choco butternut doughnuts are well-loved for their chocolate-and-nutmeg (and/or, some would argue, coconut) combo, which gives extra nuttiness and oomph to the usual bittersweetness of plain ol’ chocolate. Inspired by the doughnut, home bakers and online sellers started adapting its flavors into other desserts—some we’ve seen are choco butternut cakes, crinkles, brownies, and ice cream. We really want to hate them because they sound gimmicky on paper, but we’ll be honest and say the treats we’ve tried are actually pretty good, even (dare we say) improving upon the original doughnut—a choco butternut loaf the author has made came out moist and fluffy, while online seller By Chefkin’s Choco Butternut Crinkles are beautifully fudgy with a molten center.

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10. Milky Cheesy Doughnuts

Rolls of white-powdered Milky Cheesy doughnuts
PHOTO BY Facebook/Marikina Bakery

With the way FIlipinos love sweet and savory treats, it’s no wonder that milky cheesy doughnuts—doughnuts stuffed with cheese and covered in sweetened milk powder—rose to fame in quarantine. They can be pretty good, playing on the Filipino penchant for milk-flavored treats (that actually taste of milk—think pastillas, Mik-Mik, and the like), and the saltiness of the cheese keeps you going back for more bites. The trick, though, is to eat it fresh; as with any doughnuts, these treats don't age well and can get greasy over time.

9. Leche Flan Doughnuts

A set of three leche flan doughnuts
PHOTO BY Facebook/Kuh Meal
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Filipina-owned online bakery Kora rose to popularity in New York in 2020, and one of their signatures—the leche flan doughnuts—has even gone on to trend here on our shores, post-enhanced community quarantine. As the name implies, these treats combine leche flan (usually in the form of a leche-flan cream plus a separate topping of leche flan) and doughnuts (often of the brioche sort). These can be good if—as with online seller Pufft's version—the doughnut base is light and fluffy and the leche flan isn't too sweet. Otherwise, it risks overloading on too much indulgence upon indulgence. We also wouldn't mind some sort of contrast in texture or flavor—say, chopped nuts for crunch or a sprinkling of sea salt—to add some complexity to this dessert.

8. Baked Feta Pasta

Baked Feta Pasta surrounded by cherry tomatoes
PHOTO BY Shutterstock

A relatively more recent trend that’s gone ultra-viral on TikTok, baked feta pasta is a recipe that’s gotten the attention even of non-cooks thanks to its ease of preparation. In essence, it calls for putting a block of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and olive oil in a pan and roasting them in the oven, then stirring them together into an instant "sauce" into which you can toss cooked pasta and herbs. The ingredients come together into a pasta dish that’s part-tangy, part-herby, part-creamy. There’s nothing wrong with it and it’s definitely inoffensive, it’s just that it’s also not terribly inventive. Combining cheese, tomatoes, olive oil, and herbs is nothing new or radical, so we don’t completely get the hype.

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7. Kori Kohi

Popularized by UCC Café, Kori Kohi basically involves coffee frozen into ice cubes, then served with milk that you’re meant to pour over the frozen coffee. The coffee cubes then melt into the milk and infuse it with its robust flavor. Part and parcel of its appeal is the novelty of the melting process, which is very Instagrammable, but what you get once everything’s melted down is essentially just iced milky coffee. To which we say, why not just order an iced latte or a milky cold brew?

6. Ube-Cheese Pan de Sal and Other Ube-Cheese Treats

A set of Ube-Cheese Pan de Sal
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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There’s something about the way the saltiness of cheese brings out the nuttiness of purple yam. And when stuffed into soft and fluffy pan de sal, you get ube-cheese pan de sal—a salty-sweet treat that became a huge hit in 2020. People started making other ube-cheese goods as well, like crinkles, kakanin, and more. Now, creativity is generally a good thing, and there are definitely good ube-cheese treats out there (e.g., Taste & See Bakeshop’s, which uses real ube halaya and Eden cheese!), but also a lot of not-so-great ones that overload on the fake ube flavoring. Plus, they're just everywhere. We say ube-cheese pan de sal (and other eats) are the kind of thing that can be good enjoyed once in a while, but with their sheer ubiquity, we’re ready to throw a fit if we see another purple-yellow item on our feed.

5. Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Bread

Two buns of Korean Cream Cheese Garlic Bread
PHOTO BY Shutterstock
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A popular South-Korean street snack, this trend combines bread (usually brioche), sweetened cream cheese, and a garlic-herb butter topping. It’s often served sliced about three-fourths of the way into wedges, which makes it easy to pull apart and gives you a peek of the lighter-colored filling against the golden-brown bread crust. It’s savory, it’s sweet…. and it’s also so incredibly rich that it’s easy to get sick of it. Granted, it could just be that that we're used to purely-savory garlic bread, but there's something about the sugar that doesn't bode well with the other components here. And sure, the use of garlic in sweet applications is kind of a thing—but we can't say this is a good example of how to do it. We'll pass.

4. Pancake Cereal

A bowl of Pancake Cereal
PHOTO BY Shutterstock

Essentially pancake batter cooked into teensy baby pancakes that you’re meant to consume like cereal—i.e., with multiple pieces in a bowl—pancake cereal took over TikTok around the second quarter of 2020. We’ll admit they look really freaking cute and totally IG-worthy, but once you get over their appearance they’re not all that great. They’re not exactly easy to make, and with such a small area per individual pancake, they don’t get to develop the fluffiness we love in its bigger counterpart. You could argue that you get more crispness in return, but that disappears once you pour on the milk and they turn into a soggy mess. Some resort to serving them with butter and syrup instead of milk, which is fine, but overall they’re just not worth the effort.

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3. Minimalist Cakes

A minimalist cake with a message in Filipino
PHOTO BY Shutterstock

Minimalism has been everywhere in the past few years, and in 2020, this extended to cakes. This “minimalist” style of cake hails from South Korea, and veers away from the more elaborate versions you likely grew up with its toned-down, less-is-more look, often involving a simple layer of frosting (either in a solid hue, as a gradient, or as watercolor-style splashes of color), simple message (often in a single color and small, clean-looking font), and minimal accents. They were cool for a while, but after some time they all started looking quite predictable… and kind of the same. Bring back the huge sugar flowers, the ornate font with lots of swirls, and the lavish use of sprinkles!

2. Sushi Bake

A platter of baked sushi with one handful serving rolled in nori wrapper.
PHOTO BY Patricia Baes/SPOT.PH ARCHIVES
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Who hasn’t seen some iteration of sushi bake on their social-media feeds in quarantine? It’s essentially a deconstructed sushi roll turned into a baked casserole with layers of rice, protein (often seafood like kani or tuna), some creamy component (like cream cheese or mayo), and an optional topping of the Japanese seasoning known as furikake—and meant to be served sliced or scooped into roasted seaweed sheets. With tons of the umami that Filipinos so love, no wonder it’s a hit. There are great takes around as well, like online sellers Eleven Baker Street's and The Sushi Bake's, which both have a good balance of rice to toppings and don’t skimp on the seafood, that we don’t mind having once in a while. Sadly, a lot of other versions are a bit too much: too much flavor overload, too much fattiness, too much hedonism in one tray. There’s nothing wrong with getting creative with tradition, but it’s worth taking a page from good ol’ sushi by implementing more balance.

1. Dalgona Coffee

A cup of Dalgona Coffee with coffee beans on the side.
PHOTO BY Shutterstock
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Ah, dalgona coffee—a.k.a. milk topped with foam made with coffee and sugar, kind of like a reverse cappuccino. This could very well be the representative of quarantine food trends, with how it trended relatively early in the pandemic and gained an ultra-wide reach. We have to admit, the idea of making it once or twice is appealing because there’s something magical about seeing the sugar-coffee mixture whip up into a foam just with some muscle work (or a hand mixer). It feels like a bit of an accomplishment to post your version on social media—that is, if you’ve actually managed to produce a thick and creamy mixture. Taste-wise, it’s pretty meh, primarily because the coffee foam is often way too sweet—which makes sense because it’s essentially whipped sugar with instant coffee powder in it. Do it for the 'Gram, but don’t expect it to sate your coffee craving.

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