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May 9, 2013 04:59 AM

Cultural Appropriation: Is it a One Way Street?

As a kind of addendum to the 'race' question:

Is there a 'one-way street' of acceptable European versions of Third World cuisine, but not really the other way around?

In France I regularly see an Indian curry on an otherwise French menu. Like a "poisson indienne." So the French 'take' on Indian cuisine is widely acceptable.

But how about the other way around? A Latino or Indian 'take' on French cuisine. Let's say a bouef bourguignon on an Indian or Mexican menu? Would you order that?

Are other culture's cooking appropriated only in one direction? Like a Salvadoran-influenced French or Italian meal? If you tasted a coq au vin that had black beans in it, would you find that as acceptable as a curry made with a Bordeaux?

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  1. Oh, it definitely goes both ways, but it's easiest to find the adaptations if you go abroad.

    Taiwanese Italian is a good example - it involves spaghetti noodles, but it's approached the way you would fried rice. You pick your sauce (pesto, cream or tomato), and then there's a list of different combinations of ingredients (seafood, or bacon and mushrooms, or mixed vegetables etc) that get tossed with the noodles and sauce. It tends to come with a small bowl of cream of corn or pumpkin soup, and a choice of hot or cold tea or coffee (generally sweet).

    I've also had Takoyaki pizza and kimchi beef pizza (Japanese and Korean influence there).

    And of course, there's the MOS burger international specials. Often tasty, but rarely even vaguely related to the stated cuisine.

    1. I regularly visit northern France where, on menus of otherwise recognisable French dishes, you'll regularly see "Le Welsh". Apparently, the local Ch'ti version of the Welsh rarebit (or Welsh rabbit, to be more traditional).

      1. People can cook and serve whatever the hell they want. If it sounds appetizing, I'll try it. If not, then no. And so-called "cultural appropriation" doesn't even remotely come into the equation.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Perilagu Khan

          Of course people can serve whatever they want, ITA. But restaurants are a business and they will not continue to make food that goes unordered or that they think will not sell.

          For example, legion are Euro restaurants that will make an 'Asian Seafood Carpaccio,' or similar. A drizzle of soy and sesame oil artfully dressing the plate, mmmm.

          But if I go to an Asian restaurant, will I find the correlative "European Seafood Sashimi?" Perhaps with olive oil and a thyme emulsion....

          1. re: Steve

            In Sterling, VA, there's a restaurant called Mokomandy that serves Korean/cajun food, with lots of overlapping influences. They even serve poutine. Thaibox in Lorton does a similar thing, except with Thai and creole. I think at this point, it doesn't matter which direction the influence goes, as long as people keep coming back to eat it. There's plenty of Asian influenced fusion cuisine that just doesn't work for me, though. Like throwing chilis or cilantro on a burger. But I definitely love me some bulgogi cheesesteaks with extra kimchi.


            1. re: Steve

              But if I go to an Asian restaurant, will I find the correlative "European Seafood Sashimi?" Perhaps with olive oil and a thyme emulsion....

              This happens quite often, and often to disastrous results.

              If you have not come across this quasi-reverse "cultural appropriation" (as you call it), you need to get out more. And if you have gotten out more, consider yourself lucky.

              1. re: Steve

                <But if I go to an Asian restaurant, will I find the correlative "European Seafood Sashimi?" Perhaps with olive oil and a thyme emulsion....>

                Yes. definitely things like sashimi pizza.


                In fact, cream cheese (Philly rolls) sushi or California rolls are very much American.

            2. No problem.

              We get sushi. They get KFC.

              We get Cordon Bleu and Julia Child to translate. They get MacDonalds.

              We get pizza and Hagan. They get Subway.

              I like this form of trade inbalance.

              And I am sure I am not the only cook to use a white Bordeaux when making a chicken curry.

              7 Replies
              1. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                And then there's the very British invention of chicken tikka masala, which is now to be found in India. And the similarly very British balti, is also starting to appear on the sub-continent.


                1. re: Harters

                  Chicken tikka masala is nearly the same dish as butter chicken (murgh makhani), which is well-known in India.

                  1. re: Scrofula

                    Murgh makhani is also well known in Britain. You'll often see it on menus, along with the local chicken tikka masala.

                2. re: INDIANRIVERFL

                  "I am not the only cook to use a white Bordeaux when making a chicken curry."


                  But can you think of a dish that you prepare that is a French dish using a prominent Indian ingredient? You know, the other way around. Like making a coq au vin and adding a quarter cup of tamarind?

                  Honestly, I am wondering if this is done?

                  1. re: Steve

                    A light use of Indian spices occurs from time to time in French recipes. Unsurprising really, bearing in mind France's colonial involvement in India, until 1962.

                    And, staying on the sub-continent, vindaloo owes its name, etc, to the Portuguese colonisation of Goa (until to the de facto annexation by the Indian Army in 1962)

                    1. re: Harters

                      'vindaloo' - wine and garlic, though over time the wine turned sour.

                    2. re: Steve

                      Vadouvan is the French interpretation of Indian masala powder.

                  2. There is a whole genre of Western-influenced Japanese food called Yoshoku that includes Japanese interpretations of Salisbury steak, spaghetti, croquettes and curry. Pacific Rim cuisines include dishes from around the region, including America. India has its own version of Chinese food as does Peru. There are French pastries in Seoul and Portuguese egg tarts in China. In a world where the kimchi taco or takoyaki pizza are possible, there is a lot of culinary cross-fertilization going on.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: JungMann

                      Oh yeah - Japanese curry, which is basically a thick curry-spiced gravy used as the basis for a stew, or simply poured over whatever you're serving. With sticky rice, of course.

                      And Japanese meatloaf in tomato sauce, and the croquettes.

                      1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                        Sounds like that would go down well with some fine Scotch whisky from Suntory.