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May 30, 2012 11:59 PM

"Cuisines mastered as acquired tastes"

Interesting NYT article. Some (not new) observations too about the USAmerican palate.

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  1. I'm glad you put that up. I enjoyed that piece when I read it and found it reminiscent of the ongoing "authenticity" discussions that crop up here. I especially got a kick out of Ricker getting extra information out of Thai chefs who don't believe he can actually do it.

    1. I had no idea there was such a thing as Food Studies. If I had known, I would have moved to NY to get that degree instead of my boring English degree ; )

      It's a bit of a shame that Ricker has to take the shrimp paste out of his recipes. For me, the shrimp paste is the flavor that makes Thai, Malaysian etc. food so delicious!

      12 Replies
      1. re: chefhound

        Yes, isn't it? But as Ricker says in the article, dishes with it are likely to be sent back by the "average" USAmerican diner.

        Then, there's the bit about the early years of Lotus of Siam in LV when Saipin Chutima would "cry day and night" (according to her daughter) because folks were complaining that the dishes they were served were "not Thai" (because they were authentic non-Pad Thai dishes!!)... or Roberto Santibañez (of Fonda) sighing about folks insisting on getting rice and beans with their Mexican food or having his hand-made tortillas being blown off by those same folks...etc etc.

        1. re: chefhound

          Not really that unusual. You'd see something similar if eating "authentic" European food with Asians. For example, I've known some who just can't stand authentic risotto because it is very contrary to what they expect in rice.

            1. re: huiray

              That's the reason that I've been given whenever I ask why a restaurant no longer has anchovies in their caesar salad dressing - that it gets sent back by 'normal' Americans. Well, then, offer it as an option for those of us who LIKE flavor, please!

              1. re: GreenDragon

                Did the original Caesar salad have anchovies?

                Regardless of whether they were part of the original, there apparently was a time when they were a popular part of the salad. This may also have the time when anchovies, may be just a bit of rinsed and mashed paste, was a common addition to salad dressings and other dishes, at least among fans of 'fine dining'. I think they have fallen out of fashion across the board, at least in the USA.

                The 1997 edition of Joy of Cooking has fewer references to anchovies than the previous ones (3 v 11 recipes).

                1. re: paulj

                  Evidently the original did not, if Caesar Cardini is, in fact, the originator. However, some of his own caesar dressing brands now has anchovies in it. I grew up believing this was one of the defining ingredients - guess I was partially wrong.

              2. re: huiray

                That is quite an interesting article. Although my heritage is Chinese, I've grown up in Canada. So I'm used to both the rare meats and salads as well as the slimy, chewy tendons and chicken feet. I never considered how foreign these ordinary western textures and flavours would be to a person from China. I'm impressed with Yu Bo's intrepid sampling of western cuisine.

                1. re: chefhound

                  Having lived with several generations of Chinese it's always interesting to see how we all interpret various cuisines in our own unique way.

            2. re: chefhound

              Who has shrimp paste in their pantry? How do you contain the smell? :)

              The smell that I like from that area is pandan. Even the artificial green coloring smells good.

              1. re: paulj

                Shrimp paste comes in a tightly sealable little jar. And I keep it in the fridge. No smell, until I open it.

                1. re: sbp

                  Love the stuff. Doesn't smell in my fridge, either.

                2. re: paulj

                  I have a jar of Chinese-style shrimp paste in the fridge, blocks of Indonesian/Malaysian shrimp paste in the freezer and a jar of roasted shrimp paste from either Thailand or Philipines in the fridge too. It makes everything better.

              2. That article is not about the American palate — it's about the American foodie palate, which is only a small subset.

                5 Replies
                1. re: GH1618

                  ".That article is not about the American palate — it's about the American foodie palate, which is only a small subset."
                  Somehow that strikes me as incompatible with Ricker's comments about having to taking shrimp paste out of his dishes because otherwise it would tend to be sent back; or diners sending back Saipin Chutima's dishes because they were "not Thai dishes"; or folks not recognizing or appreciating in the least Santibañez's hand-made tortillas.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    It's about both. The one mention of foodies: "Eventually, the nationally known critic Jonathan Gold wrote them a glowing review, and the foodies started showing up."

                    Foodies may accept these things sooner than other Americans, but they still need some enticing, and even adaptation.

                    For what it's worth, The Splendid Table has done a couple of things on Pok Pok
                    in 2009,
                    and this year as part of the key-3 series
                    He did call his restaurant '... thai restaurant' so not everyone would order Padthai.
                    They talk about the fermented, funky flavors that are typical of Thai food, and which are hard for the American palate to take. Most of those don't appear on his menu.

                    1. re: paulj

                      To add on to your nice post:
                      Here're are his menus in Portland and NYC for Pok Pok:

                      On all three menus, dried shrimp is listed for two dishes; fish sauce for several; but no dish is listed as having shrimp paste.

                      To his credit, he also lists the origin of many of the dishes and attributes them, including one learned from a friend's father in Thailand and one from his daytime cook Ike.

                      1. re: huiray

                        I missed a 'not' in talking about the name - is is not 'xxx Thai restaurant', but Pok Pok Whiskey Soda Lounge. Pok pok is the sound made when making green papaya salad. The rest alludes to a Thai drinking style, BYOY whiskey with bar food.

                        Speaking of foreign food interpreters, David Thompson's books on Thai food (including one focusing on street food) have been topics of several threads.

                        One of the earliest and best known Indian cookbook authors did not grow up cooking Indian food. She lived in a wealthy extended family, and did not have to cook until she went abroad for college. Then she had to write home asking from recipes like those she grew up eating.
                        Madhur Jaffrey-Climbing the Mango Trees

                        1. re: paulj

                          Ah yes...

                          Regarding "Pok Pok": that also refers to the mortar & pestle itself;
                          or also to this:

                          Andy Ricker's Thai food is good but the hubbub from his arrival first in Portland and then in NYC was what raised eyebrows in some quarters. Even the first paragraph of the NYT article referred to that - "..."game changer" rippled through the blogosphere..."; "...writers and diners heaped praise on the chef's new restaurants..." etc. This distortion from the press and social media was indeed the point of the objections of the protagonists (including the author of this NYT article) in the article referred to in another CH thread: .


                    "Bayless was honored "for his important work in the promotion and dissemination of cultural expressions of our country internationally recognized, as is the national cuisine in general and Mexican cuisine in particular.""