What do ramen burgers, sushi burritos and barbecue nachos all have in common? They're all fusion foods — food pairings using foods from different regions and creating new culinary traditions. The pairings can use non-traditional ingredients in new ways or fuse the cuisines of two very different regions. Borrowing cooking ideas and styles from other cultures has been going on for centuries, but the most interesting fusion foods pair completely different elements in creative, fresh ways.
Fusion dishes don't fit into any single category. Chefs can capitalize on ingredients from different regions or use new cooking methods for the fusion dish. If you're looking for ways to spice up your menu, here are some interesting fusion foods that are winners.
You might think these cuisines are as far apart as you can get — an ocean apart, to be exact. However, both Mexican and Chinese dishes use fresh peppers and onions and make great use of condiments and sauces. According to NPR, there has been an Asian influence in Mexico for centuries. Both cuisines center around meat and vegetables dunked in as much flavor and sauce as possible (and possibly something to wrap it in). Traditional Chinese dumplings or egg rolls can easily go from a savory flavor to a spicy, Mexican-inspired treat when made with the addition of chilies and enchilada sauce — you don't even need to swap out the chicken or shrimp. Bon Appétit offers some Mexican-Chinese condiment recipes to use with your next fusion dish.
The unifying elements in these two cuisines are the spiciness of the ingredients. Both rely on red and green chilies, peppercorns and heavy spices. Manchow hot-and-sour soup, a delicious chicken soup made from a base of garlic, soy sauce and ginger, is a perfect example of Indo-Chinese cooking, as Food Republic outlines. It can be prepared vegetarian by using different vegetables in place of the chicken, and is typically thickened with cornstarch and topped with chopped scallions. The ease of preparation makes it a clear winner for food carts and food trucks.
Latin American and Italian fusion stands out on the plate because both cuisines have such recognizable traditional dishes. Both work with vegetables, cheese and carbs, but in different forms and with different seasonings. They also both use fresh herbs, whether it's cilantro or oregano. What's a pizza if you swap the sauce for salsa and the Parmesan for sour cream? It's a plate of deconstructed nachos, like this offering from Food & Wine with a whole-wheat crust and a sauce made with a black bean-chili puree, topped with Jack cheese, tomatoes and olives.
This inventive fusion style pairs spiced meats and flavorful vegetables, using a wide variety of traditional marinades and sauces. The spicy Korean-style beef presents an entirely new flavor profile to put in your burrito or taco. Both cuisines work with spicy and sour flavors — try bulgogi beef tacos, made by marinating the beef in sesame oil, garlic, ginger and matsutake mushrooms for one unique Mexi-Korean dish. Shredded pork tacos made by slow cooking pork shoulder in a spicy Korean gochujang chili sauce is another.
Fusion cooking borrows different elements of each cuisine, whether it's a traditional cooking method or a main ingredient, and turns it into something new. There are new combinations of fusion foods being created every day in restaurants, but it is more than just mixing elements. It takes artful chefs to bring out the best of different cuisines and to make dishes their customers will rave about. Try some new combos in your kitchen (or on your plate) today!
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