HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

Culinary fission?

Our attempt to keep the defining characteristics of various foods unique might be called culinary fission, as opposed to fusion.

Which fused foods would you like see go their separate ways?
Which ones would you like to keep fused?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Trouble is, almost everything is a fusion dish. Would I like spaghetti without a tomato-based sauce? Chicken teriyaki without soy sauce? Ice cream without sugar grown in the tropics? Chicken soup without jungle fowl? Turkey without sage dressing? Cinnamon rolls without cinnamon? Julia Child without her time in France? I dunno.

    1. Off the top of my head - (not saying these are good or bad!)

      currywurst and curry pies
      omuraisu with ketchup
      cream cheese wontons
      fusion burger with salsa

      etc.

      Some insist on healthy and "proper" food combinations.
      Some list "taboo" combinations.
      Some even list "toxic" combinations.

      Is there something to be said about ingesting one food item at a time?
      Fusing cuisines would then become a formidable job indeed...

      1. Okay. Now you've done it. You've gone and pushed my button! I HATE fusion cooking! It wasn't so bad back in th '70s or '60s or whenever it was that fusion cooking began. At least back then fusion restaurants labeled themselves as such, giving you fair warning that you'd better expect some crazy mixed up food when you got there, because they were big-time speicalists in messing with tradition! The signs read, "FUSION RESTAURANT - EAT AT YOUR OWN RISK!"

        But today fusion cooking is insidious and ubiquitous! Hakim's falafal burritos. Juan's wasabi fish tacos. Luigi's curried maranara. Ivan's sashimi borscht. Chang's cream cheese wonton. Who needs it? I would just like to be able to get some Greek food in a Greek restaurant, some Japanese food in a Japanese restaurant, and some French food in a French restaurant. I don't like Fusion Stew!

        Thank you for reading this vent.

        1. I really think dairy and East Asian cooking do not mix. That is why the thread with the Chinese fried shrimp with that condensed milk sauce makes me shudder.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Miss Needle

            Fried shrimp and condensed milk sauce! My.
            Should teriyaki goat cheese pizza also disappear from this planet, altogether?

            Is it possible that food preference based on convention has a bigger say than whatever the unlikely combination actually tastes like?

            1. re: Miss Needle

              while i haven't read the thread regarding Chinese Fried Shrimp with Condensed Milk Sauce.. i can see where you're coming from with saying this. I've never really ever enjoyed a 'fusion meal' that was asian based with dairies.

            2. The bastardization of sushi in the US, especially the use of cream cheese (agreeing with Miss Needle)!

              33 Replies
              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                I have to agree, but I'll be downright honest with you. If it weren't for bastardized sushi as a stepping-stone, I would never have tried that first piece of nigiri years and years ago, even though it was adorned with a piece of cooked shrimp, and thusly branched off into other, more delicious kinds of sushi. "California Rolls" are quite the bastardization, but if they didn't exist, many people would never get over the proverbial "sushi hump."

                Recipes, Restaurant Reviews, Food News and More! - http://www.epicureforum.com

                1. re: sirregular

                  That's a very good point. I think fusion is a great way to open up people's culinary minds....call them culinary training wheels.
                  I don't mind most fusion as long as it's not being passed off as an authentic form of whatver type(s) of cuisine the food is.

                  1. re: HungryRubia

                    "... authentic form of whatever types of cuisine..."

                    So, the key is in the name then?

                    A surprising new combination might be more likely to be accepted if they call it, say, New American or Californian, (or even molecular gastronomy!) but not any of the cuisines with more rigid traditional culinary guidelines.

                    Actually, I can think of plenty of strange fused creations which have been accepted over time, way before arriving in America.

                    1. re: grocerytrekker

                      Name can be key... look at Nuevo Latino! I am Dominican and at first I was a little put off by the updating of the foods my Mom and Grandma cooked for me. However, I ended up applauding the movement because it opened up the minds of many of my friends who were previously not so willing to head up to Washington Heights and eat with me. Now they were more willing to try regular old mofongo made with pork chicharrones after having been exposed to a more modern ritzier version made with say lobster and wild mushrooms or something.

                      1. re: HungryRubia

                        The great thing about something like nuevo latino is that it has much closer roots than mainstream Mexican restaurants. A lot of these attempts to reinvent classics are also a return to the classics, or at least the good attempts are.

                        1. re: HungryRubia

                          I wouldn't have as much of a problem with fusion if it all too often didn't replace the originals.

                          Breakfast Diner: I'd like a bowl of oatmeal.

                          Wait Person: Oh, we don't make that anymore. But I'm sure you'll love our confit of oats with gorgonzola ranchero ahi!

                          Breakfast Diner: <sigh> Do you still make toast?

                    2. re: sirregular

                      My case is the obverse. I grew up eating sushi and sashimi. I recently tried some kind of fushion "sushi" with cream cheese. I about vomited. One person's stepping stone could be another's jungle path punji stick filled leaf-covered deep hole.

                    3. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      Sam, there is (has been) a sushi in Minnesota called the Minnesotan: Creamed cheese and roast chicken, with assorted "other things." Ugh. I've spent 20 years looking for good sushi in this state but things (fusions ick) persist.

                      Have found good sushi, though...still too mush wimpy fusion around. Should this thread persist, I will gab on and on about fusion.

                      Cay

                      1. re: cayjohan

                        whoa. i've never seen that. where is it sold?

                        1. re: soupkitten

                          soupkitten, I last saw it the last time I was at Kikugawa, about 3.5 years ago. Can't vouch for taste, as I couldn't even consider it.

                          Cay

                          1. re: cayjohan

                            blech! i'll be sure to avoid! thanks.

                      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        dunno about the problem with cream cheese in sushi. my first response was YUCK. but then i do love bagels with lox and cream cheese, maybe some capers. Not to be rude, but what's the difference Sam? And I have to agree with the comment about California rolls (even popular in Japan I'm told).

                        1. re: KaimukiMan

                          I love bagles with lox, cream cheese, capers, and onion. But I have no idea why cream cheese in sushi was revolting--it just was. Kind of like butter on hot gohan, I guess: hypothetically not as bad as it is to me.

                          1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                            I also love bagels/cream cheese/lox etc. For me, it is the combination of the cream cheese with rice that throws me for a loop. I am not a bg fan of rice and cheese at the best of times. I tolerate it when there is a rice dish next to an enchilada with cheese, but I don't crave it.

                            It may the the whole dairy/East Asian mix that Miss Needle commented on. Interestingly (although this is a small sample size and may be purely anecdotal) all 3 people who have commented on this combination are Asian (I think). There may be a cultural dis-association between rice and dairy products that we are dealing with.

                            1. re: moh

                              Moh, you may me on to something. However, I'm not that bothered by risotto served made with cheese. But I don't go out of my way to eat it.

                              And, yes, the cream cheese with the rice and seaweed can kind skeeves me out.

                              1. re: Miss Needle

                                oops, forgot about risotto! Of course, that has to have cheese. And I love it. But I don't think of risotto as rice (as I know it). Risotto is its own category. It is different than the bowl of rice I need when I eat Asian food. Maybe I am being hypocritical? But I can't imagine enjoying Parmegiano Reggiano sprinkled on my short grain rice.

                              2. re: moh

                                Okay, I'm breaking my silence over this one, but I am still sooooo pissed off over the amount of outright censorship that went on in the thread I started over table settings. As a some-times professional writer, censorship just bugs the hell out of me so I'm still debating with myself as to whether this is the forum for me. But anyway...

                                I am not Asian, but "fusion" in general, and cream cheese (and now salsa!) creeping into both traditional Japanese and Chinese cuisine just irks the daylights out of me. WHY do they do it! These are great cuisines that have been refined over thousands of years, and some swaggering guy who thinks he is a sushi chef starts tossing in cream cheese, salsa, and fake crab. What's next? Nutella?

                                I do like tradition. I also like modern creations. Now, if sushi bars, for example, would take up the practice of dividing themselves into traditional sushi bars, where people like me could go and get "the real thing," and fusion sushi bars, where people who adore cream cheese and KRAB can go and fill up with what they love, that would be a major step in the right direction. Maybe divide them into sushi bars and fushi bars?

                                Way back in the 50's, I took a course in college that was listed in the catalog as "Asian Philosophy." It turned out to be a class in Japanese history, culture, and traditions. We were even taught to do proper chanoyu. Oh, and ikebana. The fact that there were no cheeses or dairy products evident in the cuisine didn't escape my attention. When I asked the instructor about it, he just shrugged.

                                Years later, as a returning student majoring in archaology and cultural anthropology, I learned that the majority of Asians are lactose intolerant. Aha! No dairy!

                                Now, I will say that the Japanese (in Japan) of today have become a very adventurous people more than willing to fling tradition to the wind. They are willing to pay obscene prices for a glass of million year old water melted from an iceberg they have sent trawlers to drag to Japan from the Arctic circle. And they pay equally ridiculous prices for exotic cheeses, which leads me to believe Japan must be a nation of closet Lactaid users.

                                But I, as a non-Asian of English extraction, who grew up in Southern California, eating "real" sushi with my Japanese friends, really truly wish there were some traditions that were allowed to remain in their pure and pristine state. I'm almost grateful my arthritic and cartilege-free knees will no longer allow me to even think of chanoyu. Based on today's fusion reality, my greatest fear is, "My God, what if the host uses Lipton Tea Bags!"

                                1. re: Caroline1

                                  Caroline, I hate to say it, but the very first thought that crept into my mind while reading your post was, "hey... I wonder what slightly crisped unagi and nutella would taste like?"

                                  And I bet they'd really go well on a simple olive oil crostini. Perhaps topped with some kiwi.

                                  I think I'm ready for TFC now!

                                  Btw, now you know how us old-timers from the NY/New Haven area feel about things like pineapple and BBQ chicken on pizza ;-)

                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                    Don't despair, Caroline. There are people who respect cultural traditions and the foods that are part of them. They can't control what outsiders, who don't understand those traditions and therefore can't and don't respect them, do with their culture or their foods. They carry on.
                                    The greatest effect this has on me personally is that I have to endure too many meals at restaurants I don't enjoy.

                                    What I hate the most is trend-driven, anything-goes fusion by chefs who have little regard for the "why" of food, changing things only for the sake of innovation or to make it easier or cheaper to sell. I think a lot of home cooks and food writers are guilty of the same thing. They like a couple of tastes and techniques, and throw them all together, ending up with a mishmash. They get bored and look for the next fad. None of these is ever long-lived and the food world races on. There are new magazines to sell, new restaurant to promote.
                                    The people who engage in it never seem to understand why they are perpetually unsatisfied. Restaurants don't last long, the menus constantly change to attract people looking for new stimuli and they decree things to be "oh, so over." I'm starting to ignore this hamster cage.

                                    Maybe American don't know nearly as much about food as they think they do. For all of the emphasis we place on "diversity," I think that Americans by and large remain a culturally insensitive group, unwilling to yield their anything-goes philosophy out of respect for others, including food traditions. Food is one way to begin to know a culture because people eat a certain way for a reason. If you never take the time to learn "why" before moving on, have you really eaten their food?

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      If we promise not to use cream cheese in sushi, will the Japanese promise not to make 'beef and potatoes' and 'chicken fried steak'? Can we convince them not to batter fry our pumpkin and sweet potato? Why can't they respect the 'why' of our Thanksgiving pumpkin pie tradition, not to mention our sacred sweet potatoes with marshmallows?

                                      paulj

                                      1. re: paulj

                                        Funny, when I offer to cook Japanese food I slightly resent people asking for tempura. I'll do it, but it is, to me, not very Japanese.

                                        1. re: paulj

                                          You know, if they batter fry the pumpkin and try to pass it off as Thanksgiving pumpkin pie, I'll be happy to support your cause. Same re: sweet potato. Until then, I'm afraid I can't be so sympathetic. Please don't assume that you have some kind of monopoly on food items like a type of vegetable.

                                          1. re: moh

                                            what kind of food items do I have monopoly on? Does anyone else have a monopoly on certain food items or dishes?

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              Merely pointing out that you are comparing apples and oranges. Sushi is not an ingredient, it is a dish. Pumpkin is an ingredient, and is not limited to use in Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. So if an Asian (or any) person takes that ingredient and batters it and deep fries it, they are not disrespecting your tradition. If they then say, "this is my version of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie", then fine, they are disrespecting your tradition, and I'll be happy to agree with you.

                                              1. re: paulj

                                                Ooops, brain must not be functioning, joke center must be turned off. Smiles noted!!!

                                                (just ate, all blood rushing to gut. Now I have a craving for sweet potato)

                                          2. re: paulj

                                            Well, I suppose there is some room for a trade-off. American "fushi" bars can open in Japan featuring cream cheese, avacado, and krab sushi in exchange for the Japanese pizza entrepreneurs opening their chains in this country featuring pizzas topped with tater tots, mayonnaise, squid, corn, and eggs.
                                            http://www.chachich.com/mdchachi/jpiz...

                                            1. re: paulj

                                              Cream cheese in "sushi" is a very good example of what I meant by abusing the concept of fusion to "make it easier to make and sell." Cream cheese keeps the "sushi" from getting soggy in the grocery cases so it keeps for a few days. It does the same things for "wraps," which get soggy quickly with normal makings. So "sushi"-lovers can pick up sushi at a convenience store or grocery on their way home - and maybe never really know what the real thing tastes like.
                                              Totally different from a basic ingredient - say, pumpkin - being used in another way such as being battered and fried. Why would Americans think that you can only make pie with pumpkin? Or that sweet potatoes have to have marshmallows?

                                              1. re: MakingSense

                                                Is it ok to put butter on sandwiches? Doesn't that serve to keep the bread from getting soggy?

                                                I'm still having trouble seeing the big difference between cream cheese in sushi, and using pumpkin in tempura. I'm not arguing that cream cheese is a good ingredient for sushi, but I think the criteria should be whether it tastes good or not, not whether it is respectful of some tradition.

                                                If I recall Iron Chef (Japan) correctly, there was an on going 'battle' between the innovators and upholders of tradition. I think there was battle in which the challenger was an expert in 17th century Tokyo (Ito?) style sushi. I may have the century and place wrong, but it is clear that even among highly trained Japanese chefs, there differences between 20th century dishes, and earlier centuries, and differences between culinary centers.

                                                paulj

                                                1. re: paulj

                                                  Butter on a sandwich? Sure. Hell, I personally don't care if you do peanut butter "sushi." As long as I don't have to eat it. Some of the recipes I read, even on CH, not to mention the names people attach to them, give me the heebiejeebies. No respect for tradition. The problem comes, as I see it, when a generation of diners and cooks loses sight of the real thing and begin to think that all sushi is like that "sushi" because the crap has become the new accepted standard.

                                                  Periodically, someone laments that they can't wait for some "trend" like crème brulée to be over. How can that be a "fad?" Other than it became "hot" for awhile, was overdone to death, often poorly riffed on, and then everyone got tired of it. Some are actually surprised that things like this are traditional recipes. So the abuse stops and good crème brulée returns. It's disappointing when someone says, "Oh, this isn't like real crème brulée..." because all they've ever had is the crap.

                                                  Tradition provides a standard for quality. It's a means of educating yourself.
                                                  You think the criteria is simply tasting good? Millions of Wonder Bread consumers agree. It tastes good to them.

                                                  1. re: MakingSense

                                                    So what is the tradition behind sushi? One account claims the form that we see now appeared about 1820 in street stalls of Tokyo (Edo). This was the Nigiri-sushi style. With fresh fish placed on top of rice, the skill in selecting and cutting the fish is important.

                                                    However cream cheese is used in the Philly Roll, a Maki style.
                                                    http://www.sushilinks.com/sushi-recip...
                                                    I haven't seen anything about the origin of maki-sushi. I suspect there is more room for innovation in this style.

                                                    Considering that cream cheese and smoke salmon are considered a natural pairing with bagels, I'm not surprised to see them used in a sushi roll. I don't recall every having one myself, but it sounds reasonable.

                                                    From the premier Japanese grocery in Seattle, Uwajimaya, you can get the 'Seattle Roll'
                                                    http://www.uwajimaya.com/deli/deli_su...
                                                    which I think is the same thing, possibly different in the choice of smoked salmon.

                                                    Is smoked salmon used in another way in sushi? Is there, for example, such a thing as a Vancouver Roll?

                                                    paulj

                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                      Further search on Vancouver turns up this bio item about Tojo. Looks like he may be guy to blame for many of these sushi innovations.

                                                      "Vancouver in the early 1970s had only four Japanese restaurants, and Tojo's first original dishes were aimed at helping locals learn how to appreciate the world of Japanese cuisine. His Tojo tuna (maguro ai) and Tojo-maki (inside-out version of what would become known as "California roll") created a bridge. His dishes enabled locals unfamiliar with sushi and sashimi to enter a new world. Increasingly, fresh local ingredients unknown or very rare in Japan found pride of place in his new recipes: Gindara (broiled black cod, now known as sablefish), baked local oysters, local albacore tuna, asparagus, and, famously, salmon. Tojo's barbecued salmon-skin roll, first created in 1974, can today be found in virtually every Japanese restaurant on the West Coast, under the name of "BC roll". He was also the first to introduce smoked salmon into Japanese cuisine."
                                                      http://www.tojos.com/
                                                      paulj

                                                      1. re: paulj

                                                        It is possible Tojo may be to blame. I will say that this restaurant does great sushi and sashimi. So I'll happily eat there, but I will avoid Cream cheese/rice combinations. (Blechhh.)

                                    2. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      OK, I admit... I was buying sushi yesterday evening... and I just couldn't bring myself to get the Philadelphia Roll, the cream cheese just looked so wrong in there. Now the spicy tuna roll, the inside out california roll, and the crunch shrimp roll.... anyhow

                                    3. Very fun to read this thread! I tend to agree with a lot of what is being said on this thread, I also shudder at the thought of sushi with cream cheese, although the notion of fusion as a stepping-stone is an excellent point.

                                      It is very difficult to define fusion, as many of our great cuisines are based on fusion, if you go far enough back in time.

                                      I have no significant problem with fusion itself, as long as the food is tasty. Good food is good food, and it doesn't matter if "rules" have been broken.

                                      I do have to remind myself that sometimes, my frustration with fusion may just be personal taste, or may just be what I have become accustomed to. For example, I cannot handle vanilla in savoury dishes. Just can't wrap my head around it. I've had vanilla and lobster dishes in some very fine restaurants, but for me it just doesn't work. Then I vent. But I have to accept that maybe some people like this combo.

                                      However, if they offer you a kimchi donut, run. It may happen. Doughnut Plant has opened a branch in Seoul, and Koreans will try Kimchi in anything....

                                      5 Replies
                                      1. re: moh

                                        A whole lot of stuff is bad, but you can sell it as innovative. And the great thing about fusion cooking from an ownership standpoint - you almost never have to toss anything - there's always another recipe.

                                        Easy fusion cuisine that works for home cooks: Next time you're making a blender soup, almost no matter what it is, when you get done straining, scrape off those solids from your chinois/tamis and add that stuff to next batch of gnocchi dough. I've done this a bunch of times with all sorts of mixtures, whether the essence of origin of the soup was Russia, Norway, Senegal, Ecuador or Oregon it always seems to work. Make the dough, cook 'em up and serve them with whatever sauce you think works (a light butter/cream/wine with some herbs covers most variations, although you'd probably want a light tomato for that Senegalese groundnut gnocchi).

                                        1. re: moh

                                          Hmmmm...
                                          I haven't tried to make kimchi donuts yet....
                                          I have done American style pancakes with kimchi. didn't exactly work.
                                          American style soups and stews don't accept kimchi very well either.
                                          Kimchi waffles were pretty good. Something about the crunch of the waffle with diced kimchi went well together.
                                          Kimchi & rice omelets are great.
                                          Kimchi quesadillas are great. In fact kimchi works very well with most "border foods" (tacos, burritos, etc.)

                                          1. re: hannaone

                                            I am surprised the kimchi waffles worked, especially since the American Style pancakes didn't. Given the existence of things like Pa Jun, bin dea duk, boo chin keh and other savoury pancake-like substances that go very well with kimchi, I would have thought pancakes would have been the best bet.

                                            Kimchi and rice omelets also make sense. And Kimchi quesadillas also make sense, given the importance of chiles in both groups.

                                            But as much respect as I have for you and your wife's Korean cooking prowess, I will have to part ways if you make a kimchi doughnut...

                                            (what next? Natto trifle?)

                                            1. re: hannaone

                                              Haha. Brilliant. But have to disagree with you on the pancakes, as well. Just don't add vanilla to the batter, and do add a bit more salt.

                                              I also like kimchi on rice cakes--the puffy Lundberg / Quaker Oats kind. And -- hopefully this doesn't make Sam vomit -- wrapped up in a maki roll.

                                              I'm not sure I've ever had anything that wouldn't go with waffles.

                                              1. re: cimui

                                                That's probably why my pancakes didn't work, I use vanilla and sugar, or fruits added to the batter - just doesn't quite make it with kimchi.

                                          2. Fission candidates or marriage made in fusion heaven?

                                            wasabi mayonnaise fries (and terimayo Japadog)
                                            feta and watermelon and mint and jalapeno
                                            peanut butter and chutney
                                            hummus and jelly pita sandwich
                                            sashimi salad with honey mustard vinaigrette
                                            milk/cream and soft drink
                                            milk/cream and tea
                                            pickle ice cream

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: grocerytrekker

                                              wasabi mayonnaise fries (and terimayo Japadog) -- yes, please!
                                              feta and watermelon and mint and jalapeno -- yes
                                              peanut butter and chutney -- no
                                              hummus and jelly pita sandwich -- NO!
                                              sashimi salad with honey mustard vinaigrette -- no
                                              milk/cream and soft drink -- maybe
                                              milk/cream and tea -- obviously
                                              pickle ice cream -- maybe sorbet, but not ice cream

                                            2. Culinary fusion is a normal and desired function of a healthy culture. It has been happening since man first looked over the next hill to see what was there.
                                              No culture exists in a time warp where everything remains the same with out influence from outside sources.
                                              "Fads" or "trends" from long ago which survived the test of time have become a solid portion of XXX cuisine.
                                              Look at Mexican foods - a fusion of mostly native american and spanish which is now an established and respected cuisine in it's own right.

                                              Don't worry, the "bad" fusion does not survive time, it WILL eventually disappear (maybe not soon enough for some of us though).

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: hannaone

                                                You make an excellent point. I think few people stop long enough to consider the roots of the food they're eating. Most of the world's great cuisines reflect history as in the example you gave of Mexican food reflecting native American and Spanish influences. Peel the onion and the food tells the tale of exploration, conquests, immigration, economics and geography.
                                                Food is like a history book on a plate.

                                                Fortunately, bad fusion does seem to disappear more quickly than ever before. Fads die almost as quickly as they appear on the internet or Food Network. By the time they appear in mid-range restaurants or supermarkets, they're over. Passé.
                                                I think we can all welcome the return to an emphasis on local sourcing and the regional specialties that emphasize them. That style seems to make bad fusion more difficult and less appealing.

                                                1. re: MakingSense

                                                  The Renaissance was really the great era of fusion cooking as ingredients started moving around the world. In particular, tomatoes, potatoes, corn, beans, and peppers flooded out of the Americas. What was Thai food like before peppers? What was Italian food like before tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, peppers and polenta (and pasta, which may or may not have been introduced from China, depending on who you believe)? What were northern European cuisines like before potatoes? Spanish and Hungarian food without paprika? For that matter, what was any cuisine like without some form of peppers, either hot or sweet? Every cuisine is fusion cuisine -- what would they have been like if people hadn't experimented with combining new ingredients with traditional/indigenous ones?

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    Is there a difference between what we're calling "fusion" and "creolization" for lack of a better word? The examples you cite are the result of historic forces that caused new products or techniques to meld into existing cuisines and change them gradually. The current "fusion" fashion seems more ad hoc. Grabbing one from Column A and another from Column B with no particular rhyme nor reason. The reason perhaps that posters have reacted as they have to cream cheese in sushi. Perhaps this is why few of those endure.
                                                    Some of course do such as the influence that Hispanic immigrants have had on mainstream US food in a relatively short time although a base existed in several sections of the country. It's unlikely that this is a fad that will pass. The food of that population is becoming more Americanized as the standard US-diet is becoming more Hispanic-influenced.

                                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                                      These last two exchanges between you, MS, and Ruth have set me thinking. First about "fusion," and then about why I have such a problem with cream cheese in traditional Chinese and Japanese dishes.

                                                      So first about fusion. When there is a new food made available by trade or discovery, and it can be used to enhance the diet of a population, then using it is a very natural thing. I feel fairly confident that had lime trees been carried to the Arctic Circle, and thrived, then whale blubber marinated in lime juice would probably have fast become a favoritie among the native populations. And that's pretty much what happened with cocoa, corn, vanilla, tomatoes, yams, new world peppers, and a huge number of foods. And European food stuffs made their way to the Americas, where they were incorporated into the native diet.

                                                      And now I come to cream cheese. Or any cheese, if you ike. And I know a little more about Japanese history than Chinese, so I'll use that approach to illustrate my point.

                                                      Without going into details that are fairly irrelevant when it comes to food, the fact is that the Portuguese and Spanish (and the Roman Catholic Church) entered into extensive trade with Japan in the 16th and 17th centuries, and the Japanese were widely exposed to the foods of both Portugal and Spain. They were both kicked out of Japan by the shogun over religious dissension brought about by conflicts between Catholic converts and their Shinto beliefs that caused great alarm. The religious confilct and consequences were major, the Portugues, the Spanish, the Jesuits, the Franciscans were all banned from Japan. Only the Dutch were allowed to stay, and then their presence was restricted to a a small island. I think it was in Yokohama Bay, but I'm too lazy to look it up to refresh my memory because it's not that important to my point.

                                                      What is important is that all of these Europeans ate cheese as part of their standard diet. Every last one of them. But NO cheeses were accepted or absorbed into the Japanese diet. Just as no cheese is native to or has been incorporated by China.

                                                      Now, both of these countries, Japan and China, have lots of milk bearing animals. But neither country developed cheese on its own because the vast majority of the natives of both countries are lactose intolerant. Tofu is as close as their digestive systems allowed them to come to cheese.

                                                      So whether it is rational on my part or not is of no of concern to me, but it really does bother me when cream cheese is used in food where it would never have been incorporated under normal circumstances. I don't know whether the Portuguese or Spanish, or the Holy Roman Catholic Church, included cream cheese in their diet at those times, but I feel quite confident they had something similar. Along with harder cheeses and grating cheeses and the whole nine yards. But NONE of that was incorporated into the Japanese diet.

                                                      As I said, I don't know the history of China as well as Japan, but I do know that trade with China was carried on parallel to trade with Japan, and continued with China after the shogun banned the Portuguese and Spanish. And China did not incorporate any cheese into its national diet.

                                                      I don't have much problem with ratatoulle tacos or spaghetti kabobs or even whale blubber ceviche, but cream cheese wontons and sushi just bug the hell out of me. They're unnatural!

                                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                                        That explains why Italians consider seafood and cheese to be an unnatural combination :)

                                              2. Pure cuisine is a myth. People have been trading with neighbors for ever. As has been mentioned above, many iconic food items would not exist without fusion from different cultures. The tomato in italy, the chili in thailand or india, almost any spice or bean (other than fava) in europe - these are all the products of food being introduced into a region from the outside. Cultures are not museums, they are living things.
                                                I remember many years ago (over 20 damn how did that happen) standing outside a small shrine in Kathmandu, that was decorated with some neon lights. Behind me were some other travelers, and they were complaining how disgusting it was, and how it should not be allowed to let some 20th century technology on a 14th century shrine. So i turned to them (i was very brash in my youth) and told them that this was these people's shrine, and this was their culture, not a museum put there for their amusement, and if they liked neon lights more power to them (pun somewhat intended).

                                                I had a similar conversation about he use of tobacco in chillums in India, but that's another story.