This article will elaborate more on the most popular examples of such food, its benefits, and historical walkthrough of food fusion restaurants and food trucks. Then, I’ll cap things off with a fantastic exchange I had with Alessandro Inglima from The Ugly Mandoo, an Instagram channel run by a Korean wife and Italian husband dedicated to chronicling Korean-Italian food creations with helpful, story-driven recipes. They also have a YouTube channel!
Fusion Food Examples
Ingredient and Flavor Mash-Ups
Technique and Concept Mash-Ups
Appearance and Presentation Mash-Ups
New/Modern American Cuisine
How Does The World Benefit?
Promoting Cultural Diversity
Fast forward to the 21st century: global communication has reached its zenith, and representation from many food cultures is being seen at the dinner table. Such cultural celebration offers a chance to brave a journey of food outside of the comfort zone you may have grown used to. In this, food fusion acts as a stepping stone, which allows you to keep one foot in the land of familiarity and the other in the land of exotic difference.
Fusion food also shows us that cultural diversity is a cause for celebration and cooperation. If a new dish is pulled off right, it proves how the ideas from one’s own culture can be accentuated by those of another.
Increased Culinary Fluency
Artistic Freedom For Chefs
Considering this, there are still some criteria for success with experimental dishes. As I stated earlier, many people are only interested in trying fusion when about half the components are from their own culture. This means restaurants can only capitalize on fusion by blending enough familiarity with some exotic and unexpected, but still complementary feature. Furthermore, fusion or not, the consumer needs to be able to read the dish as clearly as a book, and to not be too disinterested over the one-note attempts at novelty.
How Can You Benefit?
Ultimate Flavor Enhancement
A Fusion Foods Walk Down Memory Lane
Researchers suggest that our recent appetite for fusion creations is a demonstration of our already insatiable hunger for experimentation with new elements in life. From this point of view, it would certainly seem that human beings were always destined to reach this stage in their food eating behavior. If food creation is a form of art, it should be no surprise that it’s undergone centuries of renovations and blending from multiple distinct traditions. “New” creations may in fact just be ancient creations brought to public awareness. Furthermore, with increasing globalization, it becomes harder to believe fusion foods is merely a trend that will die off someday. As a species, we are in it for the long haul; fusion foods will most likely undergo several miniature revolutions while each of us walks this planet, inching to a point that could only be described as a perfect homage to all the food cultures, a celebration of all its distinct varieties.
Introducing Korean-Italian Recipe Developing Duo, The Ugly Mandoo!
How long has the concept of fusion cuisine been on your minds? Is there a certain experience or type of fusion cuisine that gave you both the confidence and inspiration to experiment with new flavor combinations?
The idea of fusion between Korean and Italian cuisines is something that happened gradually and quite organically. Food is at the heart of both our cultures and it’s no surprise that we both love cooking. When we met, we ‘introduced’ each other to our national cuisines and so, when we then moved in together, it didn’t take long before we started mixing ingredients from the cupboard.
A lot of times we would ‘upset’ each other with combinations that would horrify the counterpart, but throughout the years, we started understanding those different flavours, understanding what Koreans and Italians are looking for in their food, and so our combinations started making more sense. Korean and Italian cuisines are very different, but we both enjoyed that difference, and were genuinely curious about new flavours.
I am aware that your blogs began during the Coronavirus pandemic, a global year-long event that created distrust between members of many cultures. What is the biggest message you are trying to impart to your audience during this challenging time? Have you considered that a potential benefit is the increasing acceptance of a multicultural approach to life? That through food, members of entirely different cultures can feel acknowledged and unite together to share stories and learn from each other?
We always thought we’d love to do a food-related project and the pandemic actually gave us the time to make it happen. Living in London, we knew well how multiculturalism gifts you with opportunities, and makes you continuously discover new things and persons around you. When we travel to each other’s countries, there’s a language barrier with our respective families and friends, and it’s amazing to see how food becomes a way to communicate and take care of each other. So, in a way, the pandemic allowed our food to describe what we were going through. With The Ugly Mandoo, we want to share our experience, talk about our cultures, similarities, and differences, and what we like and don’t like.
What do you see as the biggest positive changes that could be made to the world if fusion cuisine were significantly more popular?
World cuisines carry a lot of history, so fusion food could be a great key to get to know more about other cultures. With The Ugly Mandoo we create different kinds of videos, sometimes just a recipe, sometimes a more detailed story about what that recipe means to us. And we want to share our thoughts.
We live in an age in which ‘exclusivity’ has a strong appeal: an exclusive restaurant, an exclusive treatment, an exclusive event, they are supposed to make us feel important. But with our project, we love to focus instead on ‘inclusivity’, how through food you can explore realities you didn’t know before, and learn about the process and history that brought that dish on the table. For both Italians and Koreans, having a meal together is a very important way to socialize. To give you an example, when Koreans meet, instead of asking “how are you?”, they ask “have you eaten?”. And if you’ve not, you go eat something together. And it’s common for Italians to cook for their friends, too.
With the idea of fusion cuisine, once you get to know new ingredients and flavours, the best thing you can do is to experiment and get creative. It’s like a language and you’re learning new words. Then you start using those words as if they were yours. And then you have unlimited ingredients, that’s a chef’s dream!
Have there been any distinct flavor profiles with complementary ingredients that arose out of your Korean-Italian fusion combinations, that actually wouldn’t be found in either culture on its own?
Korean and Italian cuisines have very different flavours. Korean food can be spicy, raw, fermented, umami, while Italian food can be quite rich, variegated, with loads of carbs and olive oil, so some of the combinations that worked best only replace or add one ingredient. For example, we love a traditional Italian tomato sauce with the Korean Gochujang (inbound link), which is a fermented chilli paste that gives an almost smoked spicy taste to the tomatoes, and you can use in pasta, pizza or as a topping for meats. We often make Kimchi using Italian veggies like radicchio or puntarelle, which are quite more bitter than the traditional Napa cabbage.
To me, food trucks and fusion foods both symbolize freedom in cooking. In either case, one is not tied down by conformity and tradition. Have you ever found a relationship to fusion cuisine and food trucks, in terms of their influence, history, or what they represent?
Food has always changed and evolved historically. Recipes have always been evolving according to what’s available, or whether new ingredients are introduced from other countries. So, in a way, fusion can be considered a natural evolution of food culture.
Getting back to the concept of exclusivity vs inclusivity, fusion cuisine really is inclusive. You take different traditions, mix them, communicate, experiment, learn, and share. This inclusivity is also what food trucks represent but through their mobility and accessibility. Food is coming to you, and it’s available to everyone. That mobility builds up a feeling of wanting people to get involved; it’s a way of sharing.
What Alessandro and Nauen succeed at is not only the brilliance of their dishes with their multicultural but complementary, satisfying ingredients. I was also drawn to their content because with many of the recipes, there is an accompanied story, an experience that distinguishes one of their cultural identities. The Ugly Mandoo finds that those stories are worth sharing, and even accentuate the combination of flavors present. With the Coronavirus pandemic that surely everyone in the world has been affected by at this point, The Ugly Mandoo offered a stepping stone upon which we could peer into the traditions of our intercultural neighbors, and feel less divided ourselves.
The Ugly Mandoo is one of many insightful teachers in the 21st century. It teaches us that creativity, enthusiasm and socialization can be core parts of one’s experience in the kitchen, and not simply a rushed means to an end. These two are leaders, showing us how good staples from entirely different cultures can still blend together pleasantly to make one of the most sophisticated forms of modern art. Like myself, they have recognized that the state of food culture is constantly evolving, with fusion foods and food trucks being natural byproducts. You too, can use this information to get involved and experiment, or simply develop a newfound appreciation for everything involved with food mash-ups.