In the past half-century and definitely in my generation global ingredients are more available. Food has become super cool! We're a curious generation and we'll mix and match different ingredients to see what new concoctions we can come up with. Now whether it's acceptable to our palate is another story, but we are willing to try. It's not about perfecting the prior generations amazing recipes. It's about putting our own stamp on it, adding more bold ingredients and trying to invent a dish based on an already strong foundation.
As society evolves it's become more common to come from interracial parents and with that comes the introduction to two different types of foods. My mom will cook an entire fish (bottom feeders not excluded) without letting one inch go to waste and incorporate a ton of fresh Asian vegetables. My dad loves casseroles, coconut cream pie and anything and everything fried in vegetable oil. I couldn't have come from two more different food worlds. My mom was always trying to incorporate American ingredients into her Vietnamese/Chinese dishes when she came to the states. Because she was married to my dad, (a Caucasian) she toned down, we'll call it Americanized, her Viet dishes that were normally cooked with heavy fish sauce. She learned to use American ingredients that were foreign to her. To me, fried rice isn't fried rice unless it includes sliced up hotdogs, which of course have been fried on both sides giving it that extra crunch. I don't think your going to find hotdog-fried rice on any Chinese restaurant menu.
Food has become an art form. The spices and ingredients have become color palates, the skillets and pans are blank canvases and the final product might as well be an edible Picasso. Combining two different food styles has become mainstream and definitely more acceptable and exciting.
My mom went through a phase of being fascinated with Mexican tacos. Asians have their own type of taco shells called Banh Trang Goi Xoi that are made from tapioca flour and resemble corn shells except they come in a variety of colors. We eat with our eyes and love colorful things! We would use these tapioca shells instead of Mexican corn tortilla shells as our base. We used ground beef but it was cooked with oyster sauce not traditional taco seasonings of cumin, paprika and chili powder. We kept the shredded lettuce but added cilantro and topped it off with tomatoes but added ketchup. OY! And burgers weren't just burgers with the traditional ketchup, mustard and relish combo, our burgers were topped with spicy kimchi and if it needed a bit more salt we busted out the Kikkoman bottle. And how about America's most beloved and popular dessert, the Apple Pie -- we couldn't just leave that alone now could we? We created the Durian pie (Durians popularity to Asians is comparable to apples popularity with Americans.)
There are so many unexplored food combinations that it just seems natural to want to mix one good dish with another for optimum flavor results. For example, we now have mac and cheese meatloaf balls, we use ramen to create hamburger buns, and pizza crust and a successful example is LA based entrepreneur and Chef Roy Choi's use of Korean and Mexican flavors, which inspired him to create the Korean taco. However, my foodie friends, there is a fine line between a Picasso and graffiti. I was eating at a restaurant in San Diego when my friend and I found a little spot in the Gaslamp district that specialized in flat breads with creative toppings. My sirloin flat bread literally came out with everything on it but the kitchen sink. I actually felt bad for only eating two bites (it drives me nuts to waste food), but the flavor profiles were so bland and it was too difficult to get past the three inches of arugula and crouton topping. I couldn't pick it up, I couldn't fork it and I sure wasn't going to try using my portable chopsticks. This was one mash up that should have stayed plated on ceramic not flat bread.
The possibilities to create edible masterpieces are endless. Do you have a favorite mash-up? Leave a comment or send a tweet. We'd love to hear your feedback.