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is it un-chowish to mix cuisines in one meal?

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For some reason, I always wonder about this when i have one dish from one region, alongside one from another.

Example, sort of, is my casual supper tonight. I made a veggie burger wrap with mushrooms, seasonings and cheddar, topped with jalapeno mustard (Beaver brand btw...yum!)...but I had already made a side dish of kohlrabi and carrot salad, which in addition to peanut butter, included rice vinegar and sesame oil in the dressing...pretty much asian. It was a pretty good meal, all told. No one ate it but me.

Am I doing my food a disservice when i do stuff like this? It's not very often , and the above example is not totally distinct, but it has happened. Like when i've had friends over and made crab rangoon as a pre-dinner snack (on the request of a friend, who loved them), with dinner being lasagna and salad.

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  1. I wouldn't get as hung up on mixing cuisines as just making a few bad choices of combos, which you already fessed up to doing. That said, if you are deliberately going to mix cuisines, it certainly shows your guests that you put some thought into it if you stick with a geographical region or something that either thematically or historically ties the cuisines together. For example, when I do Spanish tapas, I don't hesitate to include many middle-eastern dishes since there is a heavy Moorish influence on Spanish cuisine.
    BTW, my choice for a dish to follow Crab Rangoon would be MORE Crab Rangoon. Can't get enough of that heart-stopping appetizer.

    5 Replies
    1. re: HSBSteveM

      just curious....what's the bad choice? Neither made the other taste weird, i dont think.

      I love the rangoon too....but i typically make it for crowds who are likely to hoover it quicker than i can get many down in me too. The meal i mention above was, overall, a heart stopper minus the salad. The lasagna in question is the artichoke and mushroom lasagna from epicurious.com which i tend to add even more cheese to, along with the bechamel. I don't even want to think about the calories, never mind the fat in that baby. The meal finished with La Bete Noir from the same site...WITH cream. yikes.

      1. re: im_nomad

        I was joshing a bit, but if there was a bad choice, it was the Rangoon with cream cheese, followed by Lasgna, presumably with Ricotta. That's a dairy O.D.. It would sit like a lead balloon. But I pretty much agree with everything posted below.

      2. re: HSBSteveM

        Agreed.... deliberate thought overcomes any resistance to fusion in my mind.

        1. re: HSBSteveM

          Crab rangoon. Oh my. I had never tried it until recently when I came across a thread dedicated to it on, of all places, a cat board.

          I thought I'd died and went to heaven. I don't know how I'd missed it all these years. SO bad for you, and SO tasty!

          1. re: Catskillgirl

            It is really good and addictive. Lucky for me i have all the ingredients on hand to make my favorite "ealthy" bastardized baked version so I will be getting my fix soon.

        2. I don't think so! Isn't discovery the better part of chowhounding?

          1 Reply
          1. re: tatamagouche

            This is what being a Chowhound means to me. Occasionally you will mix something that doesn't work on any level, but they you have that rare EUREKA synthesis when it seems so obvious but nobody understand.

            Those are the moments when culinary trends are born.

          2. I wouldn't worry about it being unchowish. But I do find that mixing cuisines can be a little jarring. I eat a lot of mixed cuisines, and on leftover days, I can have very odd dinners. It doesn't always do the food justice to throw it together. So kimchi and hummus and mac and cheese and thai curry - not so magical. But sometimes that's what you got left in the fridge!

            1 Reply
            1. re: moh

              Right, it may not always work—plenty of ill-considered fusion in the world. But there's only one way to find out!

            2. This one is easy -- no, it isn't!

              1. I don't think it's a problem as long as the dishes don't hamper each other. An example, the combo moh mentioned, hummus, kimchi, and thai curry. Eesh.
                I think I personally may be a little apprehensive to do it in any big way for a dinner party, but I unashamedly will drink lassi alongside most spicy food whenever I am at home, regardless of the cuisine.
                Fusion can be a wonderful thing. If you ever make it to Biloxi you'll have to visit the Thai Po'Boy shop that's up the street from my house =)

                1. i don't think it's unchowish at all, im_nomad. i'd love to eat at your house! i also do it all the time. (i've served east asian shrimp crackers -- those things that puff up when you fry them -- alongside peruvian ceviche.)

                  moreover, i'm sometimes guilty of intra-dish x-cultural combinations, too. examples: Chinese red roast pork wrapped in fresh corn tortillas, topped with cilantro and cucumber (really pretty good); hash browns and served them with indian mint chutney; baked potato topped with leftover lamb gosht; turkey and dill pickle sandwiches using shao bing (those flat breads commonly had with you tiao, or fried crullers); irish blood sausage wrapped in a paratha.

                  it's all part of the fun in my opinion.

                  having an asian inspired kohlrabit salad with veggie burger sounds pretty good to me.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cimui

                    kohlrabi, i mean. kohlrabit would be a meagetable, i believe -- not entirely suited for salads.

                  2. I think it's unchowish to turn your nose up at mixing cuisines if it does tastes good. My MIL brings her special egg rolls to most functions and they're always welcome, no matter what we're having.

                    1. IM

                      Sounds like your reading too many posts and thinking too much.

                      Bottom line is good food is good food. You would not believe the combination of cuisines the jfood's group of friends have eaten at the get-togethers. For example, last week was chicken cordon bleu, with salmon terriyaki, southwestern rice and oven fried yams. And ten of them laughed and hooted and had a fantastic time.

                      So the easy answer is NO, serve what your little heart desires and enjoy the friends.

                      1. As long as it's good. I was reading my Culinary Artistry last night where one chef was talking about honoring cultural traditions and ingredients. He felt it was not right to combine two unconnected ingredients like soy sauce and corn tortillas, especially when you've got things like Mandarin pancakes. Why not? If it's good, that's all that matters. And soy and corn do go together. There are Chinese stir-fries combining corn and soy sauce. I feel the same way about mixing up cuisines in one meal. My mom had to have kimchi with everything she was having, whether it was falafel, beef stew or bi bim bap.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          I really love that Culinary Artistry book. It is a fascinating read!

                          I do understand that chef's stand about honouring cultural traditions and ingredients. A well-constructed meal that respects a single culinary tradition can be such a beautiful experience. The different dishes meld into a wonderful flavour palate that seems timeless and classic.

                          I am not against experimentation and fusion. I love innovation in food. But the key phrase is "if it's good". I think we have all had our share of failed fusion. It is hard to have the vision to make disparate elements blend seamlessly. Let me tell you, kimchi and hummus and thai curry are NOT seamless (blech).

                          And Miss Needle, I think you'd agree that the Korean tendency to eat kimchi with absolutely everything does not necessarily represent culinary artistry! :)

                          1. re: moh

                            "I think you'd agree that the Korean tendency to eat kimchi with absolutely everything does not necessarily represent culinary artistry!"

                            He he. Try telling that to some Koreans. I'm sure they would eat kimchi and cake if they could. ; )

                        2. Not at all, especially when there's leftovers in the fridge! :-)

                          Seriously though, I mix cuisines all the time, though I do usually try and stick to one region at a time, unless it's fusion cuisine that I already know works well (japanese-style spaghetti with cod roe sauce for example). Only rule of thumb for me is, if it works well, do it!

                          1. Call it "fusion cuisine", serve it with a somber expression wearing a black apron, and charge $40 per entree. It works around here, anyway.

                            1. If it is, I'll have to put the kibosh on the Mexican main/apps and Japanese apps/dessert meals that happen in my expatriate home! I feel weird about cooking Japanese food for my local friends, so I often make Mexican food; they bring rice crackers, Kirin beer, and J-Haagen-Dazs for dessert. I confess to not giving it much thought, but the flavor combinations (soy and rice, followed by red chile and pinto beans) haven't seemed remarkably complementary or discordant. Mostly, I prefer to cook something different that I'm good at and let them bring what they're comfortable with -- the sharing is a big part of the experience.

                              1. Salad of baby greens, cranberries, candied walnuts in a dijon-based vinaigrette for seven (French-inspired); grilled Pacific halibut with a citrus vinegar accent for my parents (Contemporary American?); Italian chicken/sun-dried tomato sausages for four of us(Italian); cucumber/tomato salad w/ feta on the side(Greek/Balkans); red curry w/ cashews and tomatoes (Indian vegan). This is what my parents (watching their cholesterol), my sister (vegan), my two kids, my wife and I (our family of four will eat just about anything) had for dinner tonight. Things get complicated when we have folks over with seperate eating issues, so I try to make it interesting for all. Un-Chowish? I guess everyone has their own opinions. I'm like most of you - whatever works, and if you've done your best with what you have at hand, then the only critics you need to make happy are those eating with you...

                                1. Don't see anything more chowish than mixing and, most importantly, matching dishes from different cuisines.

                                  Homemade falafel in a pita, with hot sauce, and a bowl of homemade borscht with a dollop of sour cream.

                                  1. There are some ethnic foods that I love to cook; and for good reason. With my typical ingredients and seasonings I move effortlessly (or perhaps I mean comfortably) between Mexican, Thai, Chinese and Indian. So many similarities. It is not unusual for me to go fusion... I just hope that it doesn't explode, one day.
                                    I certainly do a lot of mixing with leftovers. When my garden's producing, anything goes!

                                    1. I feel like the sole dissenting opinion here, but I'll say a qualified yes. I just finished Michael Pollen's "In Defense of Food" where he suggests to stick to one culture's diet. Now, I won't do that in totum. But in one meal, yes... unless there is a good reason not to. Foods within a culture act together in balance, contrast and harmony. When you take abrupt turns, you lose that. Pollen also mentions that cultures have learned to gain optimal nutrition without specific science, that you lose by taking it out of context. For example, the veggie staple rice and beans.

                                      12 Replies
                                      1. re: thinks too much

                                        Over time, foods from different cultures fuse. If the case is that each original culture has developed the optimal nutrition, then it's all been bastardized over the years. For example, Japanese food has permeated a lot of Asian cultures in the past decades. Is it wrong that Chinese will have pickled turnips w/ their morning rice porridge? How far back would you take it? Pasta in China and Italy?

                                        In the case of rice and beans, the "complete proteins" in a meal has been shown to be a myth.

                                        1. re: chowser

                                          What is the myth about complete proteins? I think millions of people in India & Mesoamerica might have something to say about that.

                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                            The myth is that you have eat a food with the missing amino acid(s) at the same time (or in the same meal). If, for example, you eat a food that is low in lysine but high in all of the other essential amino acids, you do not have to eat another food with adequate lysine in the same meal to get the protein benefit.

                                            1. re: nofunlatte

                                              Oh yeah... I thought you were implying that complimentary, vegetarian sources of proteins did not exist. But you are correct... I believe that the balance over a 2 to 3 day period is much more important (as I understand it.. our bodies only produce a certain finite number of "carrier" molecules that can absorb various types of Aminos within a day so if you say had all Corn one day, then all Beans the next... your total effective consumption of the Aminos would be a bit lower than if you had both Corn & Beans on the same day... but as I understand the model is not linear and a bit more complex than that.

                                              1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                I'm still watching for clear urine....nevermind whether you mix corn with beans, or not. If you eat too much undercooked corn in a setting you will have issues with those aminos.

                                        2. re: thinks too much

                                          1) There is a difference between the occassional Fusion meal and completely revamping your diet.

                                          2) Without a doubt there are risks to Fusion.... much of Europe suffered great epidemics when they switched to Corn but didn't figure out Nixtamalization.... Southeast Asia had its epidemics when it started hulling Rice etc., There is wisdom in successful Ancient diets.

                                          The Mesoamerican basis of 3 Sisters + Tomatoes & Chiles is one of THE most succesful diets ever... but when the U.S. colonized Hawaii & Cuba and Mexico's primary sugar export market disappeared... refined sugar crept into the lifestyle.. and now Mexicans consume more sugar than just about anybody else and the results vis-a-vis Diabetes are telling. Now my major concern from the Mexican diet perspective is the increasing use of Soy Sauce in everyday cooking. China might keep gastric cancer somewhat under control because lightly cooked vegetables (that quickly move the salts & formaldehyde like substances in their pickles through the digestive tract)... aren't as prevalent in Mexico where Soluble Fiber from Beans, Avocados & Fruit are much higher than in Asia.

                                          1. re: thinks too much

                                            I can definitely appreciate what you're saying and do agree with it to a very large extent. However, we need to keep in mind that we don't live in the same type of society that a lot of our ancestors did. Modern society is generally less active and their nutrition needs tend to be different than what their ancestors ate. For example, quinoa works much better with my body than sticky white rice (which is what my ancestors ate). Perhaps if I was toiling in the fields for hours a day and making my kimchi by hand, my body would be better able to metabolize the sticky white rice. But my job is on the sedentary side, and find that the rice doesn't work quite well with me. I seldom eat sticky white rice. So I function better with a meal of quinoa, kimchi and fish casserole as opposed to sticky rice, kimchi and fish casserole. We can learn a lot by looking to our ancestors, but always try to keep it in context of today's world.

                                            1. re: Miss Needle

                                              Well said! That's why I gave a qualified response. Furthermore much of our food today is more refined, making an approximation of a cultural diet much more difficult. How much more polished is sticky rice today rather than a century ago? Corn also has a higher sugar content, to cite one more very easy example. The ingredients have shifted.

                                              But, when we mix cultural foods, we often cherrypick items out of context which in turn leads to a lack of balance in the whole meal. Crab rangoon followed by lasagna are 2 heavy, greasy items that still conflict in flavor and reinforce rich foods rather than balance.

                                              1. re: thinks too much

                                                That's where the chowish part comes in--being able to balance a lighter appetizer w/ a heavier entree regardless of culture. You could just as easily have too heavy of an appetizer with an entree within the same culture or mixing cultures. Obviously, there are combinations that don't work well but finding the ones that do are the key.

                                              2. re: mrbozo

                                                that song makes me want to be a lumberjack.

                                                1. re: cimui

                                                  and have buttered scones with tea.

                                                2. re: Miss Needle

                                                  This is a great point. Keeping with cultural foods when you don't keep with the entire culture could be counterproductive. I don't need the carbs/energy from white rice three meals a day, either. I've tried the steel cut oatmeal as rice porridge idea suggested here, more liquids, served savory w/ eggs, dried pork, etc--I didn't love it but it was a good experiment. Some people I know love it. I don't think it's unchowhoundish to enjoy it.

                                              3. If it tastes utterly delicious, then it is very Chowish. There's a restaurant around here called Chino Bandido that specializes in such things... you haven't lived until you have tried a sweet & sour chicken quesadilla!

                                                1. I used to worry about the same thing. When I was a kid, it irked me to see our Thanksgiving table laden with turkey and mashed potatoes along with biryani and chicken tikka next to the pancit and eggrolls. At the time I might have thought that it was just too "different" to be acceptable, but now I also realize that there were a lot of very strong flavors vying for domination on that table making for an unbalanced meal.

                                                  Now I am fine with juxtaposing different flavors and foods, so long as they blend together. Kimchee as a side to bratwurst, kibbeh with my tapas, spanakopita with Peruvian chicken. An ideal football platter for me would have crab rangoon, eggrolls, sliders, nachos and pork pies. Certainly disparate cuisines, and certainly a showstopping platter.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: JungMann

                                                    i'm reading your description of your family's t-giving table with great interest and no little drool, jungmann. my family's always includes a generous platter of freshly fried vada (perfectly crisp on the outside) and biryani for the vegetarians, as well as an extra, extra big soufflee dish of corn pudding, which my chinese relatives and i can't get enough of. i love the combination of turkey and green bean casserole with biryani, vada draped with a moist, slender slice of turkey and dipped in giblet gravy....

                                                    i could see how chicken tikka doesn't fit as neatly, but overall, i would've loved to eat at your house for t-giving -- not to mention football games.

                                                    p.s. samosa's are great for superbowl platters, too, and masala cashews, watermelon seeds, and.... :)

                                                    1. re: JungMann

                                                      Yeah, that sounds like the best Thanksgiving ever.

                                                      That and Charlie Brown's, with the popcorn and the jellybeans.

                                                    2. I was thinking about something related this evening, when we had a meal that I describe as "California Home cooking." Ingredients mostly new world, but combined in ways that aren't strictly traditional, and certainly not using traditional techniques. Example: I was cooking some beans with onions, green garlic, chopped jalapeno, cilantro, and cumin. On a whim, I threw in a chopped overripe nectarine. It was pretty good!

                                                      When you get down to it, most cooking is "fusion" to some degree or other. Flour tortillas? Potato latkes? Marinara sauce? All fairly recent innovations that have become "traditional." And I personally love to eat Asian main meals with Western desserts (not so much vice versa).

                                                      It's true that we have lost or are losing a lot of traditional food cultures; but I don't think that means we should try to go back (which is not possible anyway), I think it means that we should try to form new traditions of how to combine foods, cook them, and eat them. This is why I am pretty serious about California home cooking, which is what I grew up with (more or less) and what seems to come naturally to me now. Sometimes it means a meal with courses or dishes from differing traditions. Sometimes it means a leaf or two from Italy, several from Mexico, a quick tour of East Asia, a nod to France, and then I take my artichokes and avocados and goat cheese and meyer lemons and olives and zinfandel (not necessarily at the same time) and make something new.

                                                      9 Replies
                                                      1. re: jlafler

                                                        Wolfgang Puck came to mind when I first saw the title of this post. Whoever imagined fusing french cuisine with pizza with asian with thai with BBQ, etc!

                                                        And I agree, California cuisine has become a delicious mix of local Californian ingredients, with asian, latino, and typical American/western cuisine.

                                                        1. re: jlafler

                                                          Wow, I feel like a complete idiot for not knowing this, but what were potato latkes before they were potato? What were they before this 'fusion' and could you direct me to the story of this development? TIA.

                                                          1. re: Lizard

                                                            Probably non-existant.

                                                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                                                              OK, but can you explain JLafler's comment for me then? I'm still not getting her claim about fusion and the latke.

                                                              1. re: Lizard

                                                                there were no potatoes in europe until the 16th century - hence no potato latkes either

                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                  So what were latkes prior to being potato latkes?

                                                                  1. re: Lizard

                                                                    i don't think anyone's sure, but some people speculate it was cheese mixed with egg binding. i also don't think european jews necessarily ate latkes at all for hannukah for many centuries. there just had to be something that was greasy / fried (to commemorate miraculous oil that stayed lit for eight days).

                                                                    1. re: cimui

                                                                      Yes, like donuts.
                                                                      I'm not questioning the Jewish thing (I'm not _that_ bad a Jew!) but curious about Jlafler's characterisation of the potato latke as 'fusion'-- seemed like there was a story there. And as she specifically characterised the fusion latke as a 'potato latke' I thought to dig (for potatoes?)

                                                                      Learning something though-- I know very little about the potato outside Ireland and Peru.

                                                                      1. re: Lizard

                                                                        Well Potatoes are native to Peru & Ecuador... but were well spread throughout Latin America by the time the Spanish arrived... the Tortilla Espanola was one of the earliest fusion dishes believed to have been invented by a Spanish cook in Veracruz. It spread back to Europe including Portugal by many returning Conquistadores (a disproportionate amount of them descended from the mountain regions that seperate modern day Portugal & Spain). The technique of making Pancackes with Egg & Batter is soooo endemic to that region of the world. There is no doubt it was the Portugese that spread these techniques to places like India, Japan & Macau.

                                                                        How it got to Eastern Europe? I have no idea, and have not researched it... but any theory involving the migration of gypsies (Roma as they like to referred to) from Western India through Eastern & Central Europe is compelling to me.

                                                                        Or perhaps... Sephardic Jews migrated to Eastern Europe during the inquisition having picked up these dish in the mid 16th Century prior to being forced to leave either the New World or Iberia?

                                                        2. no

                                                          no

                                                          no

                                                          the whole point of fusion, that people seem to often miss here, is that we do live in a global village, and it behooves us to take the best of everyplace, how and whenever we see fit.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: thew

                                                            Relativist!

                                                            1. re: mrbozo

                                                              proudly guilty as charged

                                                              i presume the proper CH answer is that mixing cuisines isn't "authentic"

                                                              ;)

                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                Not by me. I love chow and I do not cater to special appetites. At my table you get a variety of choices (hopefully enough to satisfy all but the most limited eaters). That includes ingredients and cuisines. But I am by no means a personal chef.

                                                          2. I have imitated and improvised dozens of "Veracruz" sauces for shrimp and fish. There are infinite variations, but most include onion, peppers, plum tomato, garlic, sliced green olives, and capers. Some include white raisins.
                                                            I have modified/expanded my experiments where I cut back slightly on the salty capers and olives and add soy sauce, lemon grass, and copious amounts of fresh ginger, traditional asian ingredients which rarely fuse with mexican. It is so delicious I no longer reduce the liquid; I serve it like a stew or soup with shrimp, fish, octopus and oysters.
                                                            At first I thought I was conveniently fooling myself, but recent tests with guests are extraordinary. I watch their expressions rather than wait for feigned praise.

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: Veggo

                                                              V., This sounds absolutely delicious!! As with other non-recipes you've posted, I think I can replicate soupy stew and can't wait to try!