Creative Fusion vs. Cultural Theft
Ok, so now the Korean Braised Goat and Dumplings issue has really gotten my, well, goat.
(BTW, if you're not interested in reading a rant, please don't read any further. I've really enjoyed the generally positive attitude of the Houston board, and would hate to be the one to spoil it!)
Having been an ABC (American Born Chinese) blessed with parents who took me traveling internationally as a child, I have had the opportunity to taste a lot of really interesting and unique foods. Fast forward to present day, and one of the really fun things about the new American cuisine of the 2010s has been watching chefs pay homage to dishes of different ethnic origin, and I think Houston has been a very interesting place to experience from that standpoint.
However, I find there has also been an evil twin in the vein of fake Chinese Iphones - the masquerading of a simple ethnic dish, dragged out of its street food/comfort food simpleness, dusted off, and gilded with a layer of fake gold spray paint, and sold for five times the value as something innovative and fresh to, and take advantage of an audience that by circumstance doesn't have the cultural background to stand-up, point, and declare that the emperor ISN'T WEARING ANY CLOTHES!
Case in point:
Gochujang - the red sauce that makes the spicy sweet base of the 'dumplings' dish is both a favorite of the novice to Korean cuisine in the form of a bottled store-bought sauce and the poetic creation of loving hands:
And which Korean college student doesn't dream of Dok (rice cakes) in various forms (in a clear beefy broth with dumplings, spicy and stir-fried with octopus, etc.) while cramming for finals - repurposed in this case as 'dumplings' - giving the impression that someone actually made these by hand, instead of just opening a plastic package of frozen.
Nice simple recipe here, and even the photo looks familiar:
So where does that leave us? I guess it would be like if I went to some remote part of Western China, opened a restaurant for the very rich, sliced up some Oscar Mayer hot dogs, made a pretty design with ketchup, and sold it as "Beef, pork, and Chicken offal force meat, kissed with smoke, touched by a summer tomato coulis on Wonder Bread Toast Points" for $20/plate for half a hot dog. You'd be pissed too if you saw your unwitting friends gulping it down and asking for more. Enraged, if you saw that it was #1 of 100 top best dishes in Xinjiang province.
Now, if on the other hand, the dish had been-
- Gochujang crawfish etoufee with Dok boki
- Fried oyster and kim chi po boy with sriracha mayo
- Pulled peking duck tacos with Asian slaw and duck skin cracklin', hoisin/oyster sauce mayo
- Rogan Josh pot pie (or Shepherd's pie
)- Biryani Omrice (omelette stuffed with biryani) topped with a tomato/garam masala reduction
Well, it might have sucked, but at least it would be something truly novel. But, I don't know, I might have to go home and experiment with this idea... :-)
There are beautifully humble fusion creations - I LOVE Kimchi fries served Poutine style with bulgogi and Sriracha mayo!
And there are exquisite, even lyrical, and inspiring dishes like the Stained Glass Sushi Masaharu Morimoto created:
I guess what I'd like to propose is that we lift up our heads from our ricebowls and declare on this thread Houston's excellent and the fake, the fanciful and the fantastic. Call-out the Emperor for his nudity, and declare the pauper's Asian-style crawfish as awesome!
What are your favorite Houston Fusion winners and losers?
(Edited to add a sauce to my biryani omrice idea)
You know, this may not be the busiest board in Chowhounds, but as exemplified by the two posts above, we certainly have our share of erudite thinkers and descriptive writers.
While reading Neo's post, I'm thinking; "TACO BELL!".
But after reading Jaymes' thoughtful reply, I would be way too embarrassed to post such a silly missive.
I get it, of course, but to be honest, it's possible that the cost and difficulty of sourcing those Oscar Mayer hotdogs and ketchup and Wonder Bread in "some remote part of Western China" would justify the $20.
I am too ignorant of the cuisines that you mention to be outraged of my own knowledge, so if I were in Western China, I'd probably be the dummy that was thrilled with my hotdog, ketchup and Wonder Bread, not knowing any better.
And frankly, although I can sure see your point, and agree with the basics of what you're saying, I have spent my entire life around various weird forms of "fusion cuisine."
I'm a military brat. Born in an Army Air Corps hospital, spent my entire life on various Air Force bases around the world. And if there's one thing young single men away from home are likely to do, it's date and marry a local girl. So all my life, my little military brat friends were eating various combinations of cuisines from all over the US (wherever their daddy came from) combined with Japanese, or Thai, or German, or Korean, or Filipino, or Taiwanese, or something. And taking it for school lunches. And feeding it to school friends like me that had come for a sleepover.
Walking through base housing around dinnertime inhaling the aromas that came from those kitchens was like walking through some sort of international food fair.
However, I really, really envy you your knowledge of Asian food. And in my heart, indeed I do lift up my head from my rice bowl (or, in my Western case, my plate), and share your outrage.
(PS - This really, really increases my determination to join you sometime for Chinese/Korean so I can learn what the hell you're talking about!)