A hot culinary trend is hitting Auckland this winter - an increasing number of new Asian restaurants are serving their food on fire.
Cooking over fire and flambe techniques are not new, but using fire as a visual treat is, especially in Asian restaurants, says AUT culinary arts senior lecturer Michael Choi.
Nem, a new Vietnamese fusion restaurant in Parnell, served its hapuka green curry and coconut prawn dishes in a flaming bowl.
In Ponsonby, diners at Epicer by Michellin-starred chef Manjunath Mural would also be served meat on fire when they ordered the flambe slow-cooked lamb chop.
A signature dish at Auckland's newest Chinese fine-dining restaurant, Red Wall 1939 was its fiery braised ox-tail.
"Flambe was popular 20 years ago, but using fire on food seems to be making a strong come back," Choi said.
"The use of fire is classic in French cuisine, where quail or chicken is served doused with brandy or rum, which was lit in front of customers on the table, and similarly with desserts like baked Alaska.
"But what's new, I think is the number of Asian and Asian-fusion restaurants embracing this technique and this is a huge change from using just sizzling plates."
Choi said many restaurants were seeing "food on fire dishes" as being good for business.
"The fire is not being used to cook the food, like traditional hot pot or Japanese sukiyaki," he said.
"It's used as a visual treat to bring in more people and even more importantly, to get people taking pictures and sharing it on instagram and social media."
He added: "We don't teach chefs to serve food on fire at cooking schools, they do it because they know it's good for business."
Choi said he too was considering adding a couple of flaming dishes to the menu at his Lucky Buddha restaurant on Fort St.
Nem executive chef Duc Cao, 41, said he wanted to re-create a sense of "campfire dining" with his fire meals.
"Vietnamese food is communal and is usually eaten shared," said Cao, originally from Hanoi.
"Having fire - like a campfire - makes people feel warm, both inside and outside, and feel happy sharing the food."
Owner Eric Tra Tran, 35, said the flaming coconut prawn curry, served in a whole coconut husk on a burning bowl of fire fuelled by ethanol - was the restaurant's top seller.
"Always the first thing people do when we take out the coconut prawn curry is to use their phones and take photos," Tran said.
"I think it's the best seller because people share these photos online, and so their friends come and also want to oder it."
Epicer's chef Mural said flaming food created a "wow factor".
"It showcases Indian food and for me, it's a touch of royal Indian cuisine which is missing in this modern era," he said.
"The fire and flambe brings liveliness and also gives a burned rum alcohol flavour to the lamb dish."
Masu, Black Rice Asian Fusion and Red Wall 1939 - all involved in Elemental Feast, which is part of Auckland's first winter festival Elemental AKL - also embraced the use of flames in their fire element-themed special dishes.
Red Wall's flaming braised ox tail flambe is served with marcella prawn and crispy sea salt slice, and Masu's Robata Fire menu includes chicken yakitori and wagyu beef tskune served on kondo grill.