By Kristen Hayashi, Summer 2013 intern
This blog is part of the Gourmet Intersections program of Intersections as American Life: the Smithsonian Asian-Latino Festival 2013.
Asian-inspired tacos are the epitome of the recent Asian-Latino fusion food phenomenon, yet the intermixing of these two pan-ethnic cultural cuisines turns out to have a much longer history than one might expect. For over a century, cultural diversity due to immigration and migration of individuals across the United States has created the opportunity for the fusion of gastronomic traditions.
In the 1890’s, Japanese immigrants established roots in Pueblo, Colorado, to work on the railroad and nearby farms. They longed for comfort foods from their homeland, but distance from the Pacific coast made it nearly impossible for them to obtain seaweed and other Japanese staples. Out of necessity, they began experimenting with locally grown vegetables to replicate the taste and texture of the seaweed they typically ate with rice. The hot green chile—a mainstay in Pueblo due to the growing Mexican population—when combined with soy sauce produced an acceptable substitute to the seaweed they grew up eating in Japan. They called the innovation karami, which means “beautiful heat” in Japanese. While karami remained a local specialty that was eaten mostly with rice by the Japanese community in Pueblo, it has recently found a new niche as a Japanese inspired salsa eaten with tortilla chips.
Author and journalist Gil Asakawa explores the story of “Karami” in a recent article that he wrote for his weekly blog, “Nikkei View.” For the full article, click here: http://www.nikkeiview.com/blog/2013/04/karami-japanese-salsa/