Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nyonya + Korean = My [Successful] Fusion Experiment

I used to be a fusion snob.  I still am, but to a lesser extent.

What I don't like is fusion food created for the sake of being fusion, chefs who pride themselves on using different "ethnic" ingredients and making new food.  Over the last couple of years, I have started reading about fusion food created out of "necessity".

What I mean are food items created by immigrants trying to recreate dishes from their homeland.  Often, the immigrants craved food from their homeland, but needed to improvise due to limitations in ingredients.  Sometimes, the immigrants run restaurants, and try to appeal to the locals by incorporating their usual ingredients, spices and herbs.  For example, I find Caribbean Chinese food not only tasty, but also reflective of the Chinese immigrants' life on the Islands.

I find these food items not just rich in flavor, but also rich in cultural history.  And if they were created early enough, they would be considered "authentic" cuisine nowadays.  Early trading areas like Shanghai have long attracted traders from different regions since the early days.  What we now considered "authentic Shanghainese cuisine" (沪菜) really came from a fusion of different cuisines in the old days.

A long way to bring me to today's topic - Nyonya (娘惹) cuisine.  I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner yesterday when I stumbled upon a recipe for Nyonya Stewed Pork Ribs recipe.  It looked simple enough to make, so I head down to my local Asian supermarket T&T to gather some ingredients.  Unfortunately, they don't carry the taucheo used in the recipe.  The closest substitute I can find is Korean soybean paste.

Although I haven't tried the original version, the result from my little fusion experiment turned out pretty tasty.  The saltiness, sweetness, sourness and heat are "fused" together in harmony, just like the recipe describes.  To add to the level of fusion, I added some Korean rice cakes.  The resulting half Korean half Nyonya meal was very yummy!

So look up some random recipe, get some "close enough" ingredients, and enjoy your own fusion experiments!

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