HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >

Discussion

No Love for Island Cuisine?

It occurred to me that the cuisine of no island nation is truly popular globally.

Japanese sushi is admired, but Japanese cuisine in general...not so much.

Greek and Caribbean food has its followers, but they are relatively exiguous.

Sicilian food is adored, but is not usually separated from Italian.

British and Irish food--perhaps wrongly--is often a punchline.

Aussie cuisine is known for shrimp on the barbie, while New Zealand cuisine is known for less than that.

Philippino, Indonesian, Polynesian, Sri Lankan, Cypriot, Maltese? All quite obscure. Particularly in comparison to the almost universally admired Chinese, Indian, French, Italian and Mexican.

It just strikes me as odd that no island cuisine has attained truly classic status. Perhaps it's coincidence, perhaps its due to resource scarcity, or perhaps relative insularity has something to do with it. At any rate, just thought I'd mention this.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. Personally, I think that you are wrong on the Japanese Cuisine not being popular. It is true that things like Sushi and "Japanese Steak Houses" dominate what we often see of Japanese Cuisine, I think that this is often due to the difficulty in creating, or recreating, a true Japanese experience in a land so far from Japan (i.e. different fish, hard to get fresh produce, etc.).

    But, for those places that are able to recreate it, the response is usually very, very positive.

    ================================
    On the subject of Island Cuisine:

    One of the problems with "Island Cuisine" is that they tend to be smaller than some other popular examples (i.e. Italy, Mexico, France, Spain, etc.). So, with a smaller population, smaller land mass and, possibly, fewer emigrants/ex-pats, they may have fewer specialties to export and fewer people to popularize them.

    As an example of this from a non-island nation: Portuguese cuisine tends to be enjoyed by those that have it, but being considerably smaller than it's neighbor, Spain, they tend to have fewer specialties.

    1 Reply
    1. re: DougRisk

      I tend to agree with Dougrisk. Island populations do not proliferate on a world wide scale but tend to stay pretty much at home. My few experiences with island cusine is limited to England and Hawaii. Although you may see "hawaiian" themed eateries, there is not much Hawaiian in them. And unless you live in New Englan tou're not going to get much Portugese cusine either. Japanese cusine outside of sushi places is rare. I do not know of many teppan yaki places particularly here in Texas.

    2. I’m confused by your post. Are you looking for popular or classic cuisine? I don’t think of the two to mean the same thing at all. Mexican, Indian and Italian are all widely popular, but of those I would only put Italian in the classic camp (apologies to Rick Bayless and Floyd Cardoz). Ubiquitous to me doesn't necessarily mean classic.

      I also agree with DougRisk about Japanese cuisine. I've read that there are 4 cuisines that are viewed as among the top due to the food, technique, form and style: French, Italian, Chinese and Japanese. There are Japanese restaurants in nearly every town in my part of the country. Heck there are a least a dozen within a mile of my apartment. Not all of them are sushi places either. What about ramen? Surely you've had cup o'noodle? Terrible stuff that has worked its way to the far corners of america and a poor reflection on what you can get at Ippudo. Popular and classic is how I view Japanese food. Probably eat it at least every other week.

      As to England, I think you miss how much it has been absorbed into basic American lifestyle that you don't see its influence. Start your morning with bacon and eggs? Have a sunday roast? That's pretty classic stuff to me.

      I also don’t think of Greece as an island nation. Yes there are many islands that are part of greece, but the bulk of the place is attached firmly to the rest of Europe (though less firmly now to the euro).

      1. Maybe it's because I live on the West Coast, but when I think of Japanese food I think of noodles and donburi, and simply grilled fish and exquisite pickles: sushi's a snack rather than a meal. The Caribbean covers a large area, and I suspect Cubans wouldn't want to be lumped together with Trinidadians when it comes to cuisine. As another poster pointed out, standard US run-of-the-kitchen food is largely based on British cooking.

        I think the biggest factor is the size of the immigrant community: in places were you find large numbers of Indonesian or Filipino immigrants you'll find Indonesian or Filipino food. As for Sicilian food being "Italian", I think someone from Northern Italy might disagree.

        1. WTF are you talkin' 'bout? Who doesn't love SPAM!?

          heh.

          1. It depends how you "cut the pie" (cut up the world). As mentioned, there are more people/countries on big land masses so more culinary traditions.
            However, instead of talking about island cuisines, you could refer to coastal cuisines--and there ARE a lot of those, and they are popular: French, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, etc... all have their coastal aspects and as such could be "island-like" I suppose--and those countries actually do have islands.
            Besides, at least in the US, the island cuisines of Britain (via the bacon and eggs example), Japan, or even Trinidad, or Jamaica, are better known than the land-locked cuisines of Uzbekistan, Georgia, Paraguay, Laos, Mali, or Uganda.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Wawsanham

              georgia is hardly land locked, it borders on the black sea.

              i don't think the op is accurate. also, 80% of the world's population lives near water, so there will be overlaps between "island"cuisines and "mainland-coastal" cuisines.

              1. re: soupkitten

                Fair enough about Georgia, though a large part of their coast is contested by the Abkhazians. True that most of the world's population lives in coastal areas--but still not on islands, which makes the argument stronger that there really isn't a bias against island foods, if we consider them a subset of coastal foods.

                1. re: Wawsanham

                  But islands are not landmasses. Even coastal ones. They face entirely different geopolitical and economic circumstances.

            2. Island cuisine revolves around grilled fish and fruit and rum and I love it just fine.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Veggo

                depends on which island you're talking about -- not much rum on, say, Corsica, Iceland, or New Zealand.

                (but I'm right there with you on loving *Caribbean* island fare)

                1. re: sunshine842

                  I choose my islands carefully. My peninsulas and isthmuses, too...

                2. re: Veggo

                  I love it just fine too. Especially Filipino: adobo, lumpia, and several other specialties that I couldn't tell you the name of because the proprieter of the Filipino place I go to doesn't speak great English and my Filipino doesn't exist. Still, I eat delicious food every time.

                  1. re: mamachef

                    I bet my Tagalog is worse than your Filipino...

                3. Hey, we've got great food in NZ!
                  Not the 'classic cuisine' type thing, but much of our produce is amazing.
                  Does wine and coffee count? The best of both I've ever had has been here.
                  We borrow a lot of other island nation's food: Malasia, Indonesia and of course, Japan.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: pippimac

                    Hi, pippimac:

                    Great cuisine in NZ? What explains the "food" that's imported to Rarotonga and the rest of the Cooks? Seemed to me y'all were feeding them like you would a penal colony.

                    Aloha,
                    Kaleo

                    1. re: kaleokahu

                      No place that has that much wonderful lamb can be all baad.

                      1. re: kaleokahu

                        Without getting into a political debate, most of the food imports into Raro and the rest of the Cooks are through private traders, which means that they are in charge or what is ordered. They also import from Australia and SE Asia. Rarotonga's political agreement with NZ is a free association, giving citizenship rights to its people, allowing them to live and work freely in not just NZ but in Australia. Unless there is a situation calling for it (natural disaster etc) we don't simply send out a boat with the food we feel is 'acceptable' for them.

                        Basing your view of one island nation's cuisine on their export arrangements with another is fairly harsh. In terms of development, NZ is a relatively new country. The traditional food of our indigenous people is not widely known outside of the country, because while it shares some similarities with other Pacific Island nations, our climate differs, making our food sources and the resulting product different. Colonisation and industrialisation has definitely shaped our ways with food - including (but not limited to) the arrival of Chinese and Yugoslavian workers for gold mining and Kauri gum, the Brits and the Scotts, SE Asians, families from India and Pakistan - my own family is a mix of English, Danish and Yugoslavian. The food we make is influenced from all of those areas, but that melting pot has meant that we don't have a defined set of rules that we can promote as 'NZ Cuisine'. Or maybe that's the whole point.

                        As Pippi pointed out, we have great produce. Meat, dairy, fruit and vegetables. We try hard to protect our biosecurity to continue being agriculturally successful. And, if you hadn't guessed by now, while we aren't that big on the bragging, slag us off and you'll get some fierce pride.

                      2. re: pippimac

                        also things are classically NZ cuisine either

                        1. get attributed to Australia (e.g. pavlova, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavlova_...

                        )

                        2. have *very* British origins e.g. roast lamb

                        3. aren't known/exported overseas e.g. paua, tamarillos, NZ yams, feijoa, Bluff oysters, toheora,

                        1. re: piwakawaka

                          Also the best damned mussels and apples I've ever eaten.

                      3. I'm going to have to disagree on this one.

                        Japanese food is well regarded everywhere. You can find a Japanese restaurant everywhere. Sushi, Steakhouse, Yakitori, Ramen, Izakayas, Bento places are all very popular types of restaurants on the coasts. In China, and throughout Europe, they tend to have Japanese restaurants that try to do it all, but in Japan and in SoCal and in bigger cities these are stand alone restaurants. And who doesn't eat teriyaki, sushi, tempura, and ramen noodles?

                        And then I'd argue that I have yet to visit a City that didn't have a bunch of Greek restaurants. Go to Yelp, type Greek and tell me how many places there are. There are five Greek places near me but not one decent Vietnamese place. Plenty of giro's but no dim sum.

                        And then I'd argue that Italy and Spain or pretty darn close to being islands. Surrounded by sea on three sides but not four and the four side being a mountain range in the case of Spain? Not a big difference. And Spain is the cutting edge of cuisine.

                        And then I'd argue there are those who claim that Italy had a big influence on French cuisine. These people are usually Italian but that's not the point. And Italy of course is nearly an island and it in turn was heavily influenced by Greece which is a bunch of islands.

                        And then I'd argue that England and its associated Kingdoms has great food and beer and whiskey.

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: thirtyeyes

                          I agree that Japanese food is probably the most popular of the island nations. But I also suspect it trails the popularity of Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican and French (perhaps Thai too) by a fair piece. And Greek food trails Japanese.

                          Of course, any large metropolitan area will have numerous Japanese and Greek restaurants, but small and mid-sized cities may well not, whereas you will invariably find the other "landed" cuisines I mentioned.

                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                            PK - I'm curious as to the time you might have spent outside of the US. Your perspective on popular foods is distinctly american. Plenty of Indian places in england for sure, but Mexican? I recall a curious plate of nachos that were served in one spot which you wouldn't have recognized where I don't think there was a jalapeno in the building. In France, I've seen plenty of Greek (which still isn't an island nation as I noted before) but no Mexican and not much Indian I can recall. The chinese was not so good either. Same in Germany. My buddies who worked in Bangkok said you could get decent Italian, Japanese and Chinese but Mex? French and Italian seem to be everywhere but Mexican, Indian or Chinese are not nearly universal.

                            1. re: Bkeats

                              That's a fair point. My frame of reference is primarily American to be sure. I suppose there's no way to accurately compute the global popularity of various cuisines. This would be interesting to know, though!

                              PS--I understand that Greece is primarily a coastal landmass, but it is also very significantly island. Enough so that I thought it fair to include in the original post.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  Indeed. And I don't know about your neck o' the woods, Veggo, but Danish cuisine is sweeping through west Texas like wildfire!

                          2. re: thirtyeyes

                            I'm with you—while I'm sure global demographics plays a role in this, i.e. who emigrates where and in what concentrations, proportionally speaking Japanese food (not just sushi), Greek, and Caribbean food are plenty well known. Australian cuisine is on the rise. Southeast Asian cuisines such as Indonesian are too. Cypriot and Malta have smaller populations than many US cities—I'm not sure why we'd expect their cuisines to be as well known as Mexico's or France's.

                          3. While larger island cuisine is found in many places I think smaller islands cuisine is problematic for wide dispersion.

                            Some things are based on customs and how families and communities interact. Take a whole pig roast, not many of us are going to do it with any frequency. Nor will you have friends and neighbors who have done it many times and are more than willing to help. Sure you could go to a restaurant that specializes in roasting whole pigs but the diner is far removed from the event. The dishes that accompany the island pig roast may not be practical.

                            Smaller islands have to feed themselves first and this may make certain dishes more difficult to create elsewhere. A finite amount of land dictates how much farming area is available, so produce exports may be small. The inhabitants of a small island would be very vocal about shortages of local produce even if it could bring in a sizable amount of money.

                            1. "Aussie cuisine is known for shrimp on the barbie"

                              Australia is an island?

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: arktos

                                Considering that it is surrounded on all sides by water, yes, I'd say it's an island as well as a continent.

                                1. re: arktos

                                  Australia is most definitely an island! Majority of our population lives along the coastlines as the centre is a particularly harsh habitat.

                                2. OK, a couple of points. Since when did Greece become an Island Nation? Did I miss some huge geological event recently? Australia is technically an island, but more of a mini continent.

                                  I think Japanese food is popular pretty much worldwide. Even Korea has Japanese restaurants, in spite of the fact that there is little love lost between those two countries. You won't find many Mexican restaurants outside of North America, maybe a handful in the world's capital cities but thats about it.

                                  In spite of the jokes about it, English cooking forms the foundation of much of the cooking in the English speaking world, and as the old saying went, "The sun never sets on the British empire". Sure it's been adapted and acculturated, but the roots are still there.

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                    Australia is considered to be both a large island and a small continent.

                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                      unless I've missed an equally large geological event, an enormous part of Greece's land mass is islands. Part of the country is the continental landmass, but islands make up somewhere around half of the total area.

                                      Any country with 227 inhabited islands, especially when they take up such a large percentage of both landmass and population, probably should be included in any discussion of island anything.

                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                        I'm betting the U.S. has more than 227 inhabited islands. We're an island nation! Let's go start up a luau.

                                        1. re: Exy00

                                          Not that take up nearly 50% of the land mass and population....

                                          Go on ahead with that research project --

                                        2. re: sunshine842

                                          Some of my favorite recipes are from islands and island nations - Hawaii of course (Kahlua pig! Lilikoi pie!!), but also England, Ireland, the Caribbean and (Greek) Cyprus. I also know that I can cook any of these things for anyone (adjusting of course for personal quirks, such as vegetarianism) and be thanked sincerely for it.

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            there's Guinness stew and shepherd's pie in my fridge right now...we've been on an Anglo-Celtic kick this week.

                                        3. re: KaimukiMan

                                          Australia may seem like an island, but technically it is a CONTINENT. It is defined as a continent geologically as its crust is continental--this being a strictly geological term. Really all continents are surrounded by water. Of course, it is a whole 'nother issue if the Australians see themselves as "islanders"--living near the shore, far away from the rest of the world, etc... In that sense, Chileans also seem themselves as "islanders."

                                          1. re: Wawsanham

                                            Australia is classified as both island and continent. Unless my entire Australian education was totally wrong and the curriculum in Australian schools is peddling misinformation, we are most definitely considered to be both.

                                        4. Alright, I am definitely going to stand up for Australian cuisine - we may be on the arse end of the planet, but I will definitely say our cuisine is much, much more than "a shrimp on the barbie".

                                          Modern Australian cuisine tends to be a fusion of SE Asian and Mediterranean with a twist. Our climate allows us to grow a massive selection of fabulous produce and we're just starting to gain a foothold into some small, but lucrative food markets with our truffles and other delicacy's prized by other cultures such as seaweed and sea cucumbers. Our wines are world class and are fast gaining recognition on the international stage.

                                          But you are right, Australian food has not achieved a classic status. We will forever be known as a bunch of larrikins with big knives, flipping shrimp on the barbie. Ah well...

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: TheHuntress

                                            Oh and I must mention we never talk about "shrimp" over here. We refer to prawns, but everywhere else thinks we throw "shrimp" on the barbie. Crocodile Dundee has so much to answer for!

                                            1. re: TheHuntress

                                              Never say forever (sounds like a James Bond title). Twenty years from now Aussie cooking could be all the rage.

                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                Yes! Let there be Moreton Bay bugs and barramundi for all!

                                                1. re: Veggo

                                                  Did you know that barramundi is being farmed in the U.S.?

                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    I did not know that so I Googled it - the whole first page is trying to sell me barramundi farm starter kits. Is this hapless fish the ostrich / alpaca / Kinkade of the sea?

                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      The one I came across (somewhere in the northeast, perhaps NY state) is currently selling only to restaurants. I had some, and it is the real deal. If I were going to farm fish, this is the one I'd choose. There are people farming shrimp here in Indiana, completely sustainably. They recycle, scrub, and re-use the water. Pretty cool. Please do not put the words "barramundi" and "Kincade" in the same post -- gave me quite a turn.

                                                      1. re: pikawicca

                                                        I didn't think the waters would be warm enough in the NE of the US? Barra thrive in fresh and salt water, but really need very warm water temps to survive.

                                                        I have to say barra fishing is one of the coolest things ever. Stand on the bank of a river or on the beach, throw a handline in, wait 5 minutes, pull in monster fish! Very cool. And I have to say that lightly battered wings is my favourite way to have barra. So, so good!

                                                        1. re: TheHuntress

                                                          In some fish farming operations, it's possible to control the water temp.

                                                      2. re: Veggo

                                                        Barramundi: Fish of Light...?

                                                        1. re: ricepad

                                                          Lightly battered works for me. No, not THAT battered; we're not running a fish shelter here...

                                                      3. re: Veggo

                                                        Hurrah! That's more like it! With a lovely sav. from Margeret River to wash it down :)

                                                    2. re: TheHuntress

                                                      Not arguing with the quality of your food, because I bet it's good, but, well, what are Australian dishes that deserve to be recognized across the globe? I'm asking out of genuine curiosity because all I know about is Vegemite.

                                                      1. re: Exy00

                                                        LOL Yeah, good old vegemite. Throw that out there with Fantales and Minties and you're all set. Australia is a young and diverse nation, which is reflected throughout our cuisine. I wouldn't pick any singular "dish" that should "deserve" to be recognised, rather an innovative fusion style. You can pick "Mod Oz" cuisine from a mile off, which is generally a SE Asian/Mediterranean mix, but as tastesgoodwhatisit points out below, it is most likely a numbers thing. Australia (on a world scale) is an insignificant nation on the butt end of the planet - we could never travel in numbers to truly spread our style across the globe.

                                                    3. I would argue that it's simply a numbers effect.

                                                      For major island cultures, I can think of United Kingdom, Australia/New Zealand, Japan, South Pacific Islands, Indonesia/Papua New Guinea, Philippines and Caribbean Islands*. Hong Kong and Taiwan would be part of Chinese and Hawaii part of the US or South Pacific (depending on how you classify it), and Sri Lankan as South Indian.

                                                      From a Western point of view, one of the above is ubiquitous to the point of missing it (UK, which is such a major part of standard North American cuisine that we don't think of it as a separate cuisine). Japanese is both popular and well known, although only for a limited section of its cuisine. The rest are fairly minor.

                                                      But compare that to the number of non-island based cultures and how popular their cuisine is in a Western-international sense. There are a number of popular ones, but a lot of others that are not particularly well known outside of immigrant neighbourhoods or small markets in large cities, the same way you'd find Indonesian cuisine, or South Pacific, or Philipino or Carribean. Take, for example, Swahilian, or Tibetan, or Guyanese, or Finnish.

                                                      *Yes, you can subdivide some of these, but I'd say this classification matches one where Chinese and Indian as a single cuisine each.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                                        Absolutely true. There are various "inland" or continental cuisines that are as obscure to the Western World as certain island cuisines. There is no tendency where island cuisines are unappreciated and continental ones are.

                                                      2. I understand where you're trying to go with this, PK, but for me, I don't really care that much about what is popular with other people as long as I can get what I like. It's my experience that exceptional island food of any denomination is hard to come by because it is so rarely done well. Exceptional Japanese restaurants are rare. I don't think there is a single Australian or New Zealand restaurant in the entire Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex. If I want really good Greek food, I have to make it myself. Restaurants in these parts often make tzatziki with sour cream. blech! Not an Icelandic restaurant in a carload! However, there is a genuine L&L Hawaiian Barbecue a couple of miles up the road from me that does pretty good lau lau, kalua pork, loco moco, and some fairly mean musubi, so I'm not entirely without decent island food, not ot mention really good Hawaiian lunch time macaroni and potato salads! Outriggers and surf boards optional but you have to bring your own ocean. '-)

                                                        http://hawaiianbarbecue.com/live/menu...

                                                        17 Replies
                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                          We've got a Hawaiian resto in Lubbock, too. Truth be told, I'm not crazy about it. Maybe the restaurant is just not that good, or maybe Hawaiian food just doesn't float my outrigger.

                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                            Well, you know those crazy Hawaiians.... They LOVE Spam! 'nuff said.

                                                            1. re: Caroline1

                                                              And pineapples. I'll never acquire a taste for pineapples. Too doggone sweet for this ol' boy.

                                                              1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                Well, it's a good meat tenderizer. But if you try to put fresh pineapple in gelatin, it won't set. You'll end up with pineapple soup! If you'd like, I can send you some sour pineapples, but I don't think you'd like those either.

                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                  I'd probably prefer the sour to the sweet. But something tells me you'd still get more out of them all the same.

                                                            2. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                              I'm curious. Is this traditional Hawaiian food (poi, laulau, squid luau, kalua pig, dried fish) or more modern island food (teri chicken, mac salad, chicken long rice, etc.) that represent Hawaii's more recent history of incorporating the foods of immigrants - as represented by L&L drive-in (a chain I won't eat at here because the food is so awful - salt, mayo, msg, sugar... and more msg.) And yes, I have learned to LOVE spam. And no, pineapple is not native to Hawaii, it wasn't grown here till the 1770's and not commercially till the 1880's. It is still not commonly served at a traditional luau or a major part of a local party spread. but few fruits or vegetables are.

                                                              1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                <sigh> Well, here in Plano -- one half a LARGE ocean plus one half a large continent away from Hawaii -- we are sort of unique on the American mainland for even having Hawaiian food available for purchase! And now you have to go and tell everybody that the food is bad? Okay, they do tend to overcook the laulau (by a country mile), but the mac salad is passable, and the prices are bearable. We DO have one other sort-of Hawaiian resto here that proclaims its menu to be Hawaiian Fusion, courtesy of Roy Yamaguchi, and the place is called (what else?) "Roy's." I havent been there. Their menu reads delicious, but having suffered some major disappointments at the hands of delicious reading menus in the past, Roy's isn't riding very high on my "Must Go" list. Have you tried any of their 6 Hawaiian locations? Well, there's also the minor hinderance of me not liking fusion of any sort. I prefer originals! Just like my art work! Can you imagine a Rembrandt Picasso painting? I rest my case.

                                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                                  I've been to the original Roy's a few times, it's not a price point i can hit too often, but Roy's is seen as one of Hawaii's best restaurants, maybe number 4. I understand the mainland chain is some kind of joint venture between Roy and outback steak house, but that may be an unfair or misleading characterization. Unlike most chains Roy's has certain standards, but each head chef has a fairly broad jurisdiction over that particular location.

                                                                  I'm glad to hear that the mac salad at your L&L is passable, here it is mayo salad with a little bit of macaroni in it to keep it from sliding off the plate. And clearly from their success I am in a minority view as to their quality.

                                                                  Hawaii people have a rather different view about fusion. On the mainland growing up, people of mixed parentage.... like our president... were viewed with some level of disdain. In Hawaii the common notion is that the 'hapa' kids are the lucky ones.... "they take the best from both sides."

                                                                  Would I be wrong to assume based on your comments that you don't like cajun food? Or that you would never order Honey Walnut Shrimp in a Chinese Restaurant? Are Pad Thai, chop suey, or the ubiquitous "general tsao's chicken" in your no fly zone? And living in Plano, surely you can't reject ALL Tex-Mex, or maybe you can. But face it, hamburgers and hot dogs, two enduring symbols of american cuisine are in fact fusion cuisine.

                                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                    My greatest and most enduring objection to fusion is that it seems unable to exist side by side with the originals, but instead replaces them. For me (and okay, maybe I do have a rich imagination?) when I taste an original well made true to its heritage ethnic dish such as a sauerbraten or a gulyash, a baba ganush or a dong po rou, an exceptional kaiseki meal or an authentic goat taco, when I experience these foods it's like being touched by the whole culture behind the traditions. It is savory in more ways than what happens in my mouth.

                                                                    Fusion, on the other hand, is one guy's take of two or more cultures all shoved into a mish mash of what he (or she) thinksi is fun. And it may well be fun! And my sole objection to it is that it doesn't take long before the originals that are being fused are lost.

                                                                    One of the things I enjoy doing when I have the time is surfing the global web and reading the menus of the world's great restaurants. But they are becoming more and more similar with every passing year. Just look at a menu with no idea of the name of the restaurant or where it's located and chances are there won't be many (if any) clues whether its Hong Kong or London or Chicago from the dishes they serve.

                                                                    I've reached an age where it is more comfortable to just stay home than it is to travel, but when I did travel, I avoided Hiltons and Internationals and Marriots because they are all so homogenized. I like the flavor of the countries I travel to touch me. And I like the foods the natives have loved for many generations to find their way into my food memories. Some things in life should never take on a "one size fits all" aspect.

                                                                    Cajun? I don't dislike cajun, but it's not on the top of my favorites list. Two problems with it for me. First off is my food allergies. I have to be careful, so when I do eat Cajun, it's usually at home where I have control of things. The other thing about Cajun is that it varies greatly from cook to cook and restaurant to restaurant. I also like Creole, which is similar to but different than Cajun, and for some reason much harder to find in today's gastro world. Decades ago we lived in Biloxi while my husband went to air traffic control school, we were able to get excellent scratch Cajun and Creole then. The "Cajun" places I've been to in the last few years are more like "cookie cutter" Cajun with a couple of traditional token dishes on the menu and all the rest is chunks of gator or chicken or whatever dipped in a spiced up batter and deep fried, chucked on a plate with fries and served as Cajun cooking. For me Cajun cooking is at its best when you have it at a Cajun friend's house! You can't get better than that!

                                                                    Unfortunately, it's been a few years -- too many -- since I've had really good Chinese food. I don't know if I'm just ordering all of the wrong things or what the problem is, but for the last several years everything I order, no matter what the Chinese restaurant's specialties are, is oily and fat laden. Or maybe it's just me. So I do most of my own Chinese cooking. Hey, no parking problems. Nothing wrong with that!

                                                                    Possibly the best Chinese I've ever had in my life was back when I was a college kid still living at home, and some of my dad's Japanese business associates would invite our whole family out to dinner at George Joe's San Diego restaurant. No menu! They would call ahead two or three days in advance (one time a week!) and order everything ahead of time. Consequently we had no idea what the names of most of the dishes were, but one I remember particularly was pieces of seafood bundled in chicken skin, then cooked and blended with exotic vegetables and an incredible sauce. Abalone as tender as scrambled eggs! Whole fish that looked like they were about to swim right off the platter and that danced all over your taste buds. Incredible food. I don't know if that kind and quality of food even exists in the world today.

                                                                    So a big part of my problem with food is that my sense of taste and smell are the most accurate memories I have, I have eaten some of the best food in the world on several continents, and as a result, I don't seem to be able to match the memories. Well, at least I do have the memories. But they are also a handicap. For example, the very best quality sushi grade tuna in the world today would have been second or third quality sushi grade tuna fifty or sixty years ago. And I CAN taste the difference. So that's really taken an edge off sashimi and sushi for me. But hey, there is still some great tomago around...!!!

                                                                    Maybe I'm a dinosaur and just haven't looked in the mirror lately so I'm totally unaware of my problem. Ya think? '-)

                                                                    1. re: Caroline1

                                                                      if so then the world needs more dinosaurs.

                                                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                                                          aww shucks (looking down and digging shoe into the ground.)

                                                                          So can we agree that fusion dishes should generally not completely supplant the original but the original not preclude the evolution of something new?

                                                                          gosh...maybe arguing evolution with a dinosaur isn't such a wise move....hummm

                                                                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                            Yeah, I think there should be room for both. And if all fusion chefs were as skilled and talent laden as Masaharu Morimoto, what a wonderful world that would be! But alas, that is not the case. But let me also quickly point out that Morimoto is a true master of classic kaiseki cuisine. As the saying goes, you have to know the rules before you can break them. But I seem to be a minority in not wanting to forego the originals that fusion fuses. I would like to have it all, but if I can only have one or the other, I will keep the old traditonal long loved magical flavors of great classic ethnic cuisines. And maybe occasionally do a little fusion of my own when no one is looking? '-)

                                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                              Oh! I just re-read your profile page and see that we also agree on merlot! LOL! Great minds and all that jazz....

                                                                              1. re: Caroline1

                                                                                and that being said, i have had a good, very good in fact merlot from time to time. but usually not. and yes, the rules must be understood and studied in order to understand how to manipulate them. Never forget that dinosaurs evolve into birds and take flight.

                                                                              2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                hey if one accepts evolution (and I do) it did indeed give us birds out of dinos. and they're quite cool. I like birds. even ones I don't care to eat.

                                                                                the fusion moniker anymore means flash and PR (but in 1992 it was fun - oh Oritalia...), these days casual season based mash-up (thought not process) is interesting, yeah there's still a spin going on in there, but a different and less pretentious conceit IMHO.

                                                                                oh just ignore me, but at some point it did come to seem like high-end stoner food as in just contrast for contrast sake. true blending of cultures (and who does that better than islands and port cities?) I feel is different. and agree the world is too complex to try to simplify it.

                                                                                but I still never really got my palate around mofongo...

                                                                    2. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                      Haven't been to the joint in some time, but IIRC the menu leans toward what you describe as "more modern island food." Heck, I'd be willing to give the place another shot.

                                                                2. What about Hawaiian? Fairly popular in the US.

                                                                  It would make sense that island cuisine was not so well known, since an island by definition is physically separated from other land masses and would likely develop a somewhat unique culture.