This is an event recap of Gourmet Intersections: Asian-Latino Food Crossings (July 24, 2013). To view more photos, click here. The music playlist is also available here.
Recap by guest blogger Pat Tanumihardja
When you think of Asian-Latino fusion cuisine, Korean bulgogi beef tacos—the darling of the food truck world—will likely cross your mind.
However, Gourmet Intersections: Asian-Latino Food Crossings, a panel held recently at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, revealed that Asian and Latino food cultures have a much longer and richer history of intersection.
White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford kicked off the all-star panel, highlighting the Manila-Acapulco trade that started in 1565. The Manila Galleon transported ingredients such as avocados, peanuts, guavas, tomatoes, and chilies to the Philippines. In return, tamarind, sugar cane, mangoes, and coconut arrived in Mexico. The result? Dishes like fish escabeche, empanaditas, and adobo, just to name a few. As Ms. Comerford so aptly put it, “We (Asian and Latino cuisines) found each other. We embellish each other. We make each other better.”
Next, “Iron Chef America” judge and author Trevor Corson set our preconceptions about “Japanese” sushi straight. Mr. Corson clarified that the nigiri sushi (raw fish over seasoned rice)—a dish so popular in the U.S. today—is actually Peruvian-inspired. Nigiri is a variation of ceviche, raw fish marinated in lemon or lime juice. In fact, the original Japanese sushi comprises of fermented fish over rice.
Then, Pati Jinich, host of the PBS show Pati’s Mexican Table, pointed out that Asian and Latino cuisines have a lot in common. Both cultures love to dip food in sauces. And, they love to “wrap things up,” which is evident in tacos as well as Peking duck (crispy duck skin tucked into a wrapper with vegetables and sauce). Ms. Jinich also compared Mexican chipotle chilies and Japanese bonito flakes (katsuobushi). To make chipotle, jalapeños are dried, smoked, and marinated in tomatoes and vinegar. Bonito flakes are made from filleted skipjack tuna that has been smoked, dried and fermented, then shaved into flakes. Both ingredients are equally complex to produce!
No doubt, the Asian-Latino culinary combo is a very successful one. But what makes a successful fusion dish? Panel moderator and cookbook author Anupy Singla had excellent advice, “Know what’s inside your box before working outside it.”
More about our guest blogger:
Born to Indonesian parents and raised in Singapore, food writer and cookbook author Pat Tanumihardja is no stranger to fusion cuisine. One of her favorite fusion dishes is mee rebus, a dish made with Chinese egg noodles and smothered in a well-spiced Malay-style sweet potato gravy. Pat’s book, “The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook—Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens” was released in paperback in 2012, and she blogs at http://theasiangrandmotherscookbook.com.