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April 2, 2009

Cool fusion

OwlFusion.bmp

 

Owl Meat has been with us only sporadically the last couple of weeks because of internet connection woes. (We all feel your pain, Owlie.) So you can imagine my delight when I opened my inbox this morning and found a fantastic Funtastic Thursday waiting for me. Here's the Owl Man. EL

This week's topic was suggested by gal pal Christa.  In some recent culinary collaborations, she was startled and/or appalled by my lack of boundaries when it came to mixing ingredients and techniques from different countries. 

My recent discovery of the most awesome sandwich, the kielbasa on steamed and grilled Tandoori naan with Thai sriracha sauce is a good example.  It's all about the extra texture.  Don't even ask about the peanut butter, sesame and bacon sauce for cold noodles.  You know you want it. ...
 

Potato slices fried in raw sesame oil with grated ginger, white pepper, and mushroom soy sauce?  Why not!?  

Dutch cocoa with Chinese five-spice powder, a dollop of pumpkin puree, and a little coconut milk for brunchfest?  Hell, yeah. 

Cucumber slices marinated in rice vinegar with dashi, fleur de sel and saffron?  You betcha.  
 
This whole fusion thing has been going on in restaurants for a long time, and I wonder where it will end.  It reminds me of the Chinese-German restaurant – you leave feeling full but then an hour later you're hungry to take over the world again.  
 
Are there any fusion concepts that you really want to see?  Any that you are glad have come and gone.  I loved the (Purple) Orchid when it was still around.
 
Personally I love the spices of Indian food but am not thrilled with the overcooked vegetables and meat.   I love to make my own crazy variations of Indian spices and non-Indian ingredients.  Curried duck?  Yes.  Cheeseburger vindaloo?  Oh, yeah.  Roast pork curry?  Bring it.
 
It's a brave new beautiful world, groms and gromettes. Mix and match whatever you like.

(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:39 AM | | Comments (33)
        

Comments

Has anyone been to Alizee yet, where Spice Company used to be? I think they are still in the "soft opening" stage with a limited menu, but I understand that it is going to be fusion French/Japanese?

Nice theory of universal harmony but the reality you usually run into is some mongrel conglomeration of ingredients fighting it out on your taste buds with no consideration for regional cooperation and stability. It's all about finesse. The examples you provide sound enticing and (in your capable hands) would provide the perfect fare for a hot air balloon trip-around-the-world.

peanut butter, sesame and bacon sauce for cold noodles

Sounds delicious. I'd put a little aleppo pepper and a squirt of lime juice in there, maybe.

I don't like fusion food, but I do like things that taste good. To me, fusion food is what (mostly) bad chefs do to ingredients that haven't become mainstream enough to live in the average home kitchen.

I've never done kielbasa on naan, but I have done kielbasa wrapped in a flour tortilla. Tasty! It hadn't occurred to me to put sriracha sauce on it (I used mustard). I'll have to try that sometime.

I know this isn't terribly daring but I think gnocchi and brisket would rock together.

Sorry about your connection woes, Owl!

Ramble warning:

I have trouble considering pan-Asian "fusion", if only because so many mono-Asian cuisines are informed by their neighbors. Add to that, the number of places owned or operated by individuals of other backgrounds. It seems some of the best sushi joints around are often under Vietnamese, Thai or Korean flags. Not that that's a bad thing or somehow makes it less "authentic". Good fish is good fish.

My years in LA have taught me the joys of serious Asian fusion. Chino-Latino. Thai-talian. South American sushi. I like to imagine it's no small factor underlying the popularity of the Helmand; their food seems like a natural, organic intersection between Middle Eastern and Subcontinent flavors.

With the continued popularity and expansion of Asian restaurants in town, I imagine Baltimore's ready for it.

Doesn't brisket go with everything except for chocolate ice cream?

Cheeseburger vindaloo does sound kinda good. Or better yet, with that tikka masala sauce.

Cool fusion: link

My husband talked with someone who had been to Alizee. Short report: food was good, prices seemed high.

Now can anyone report on the new menu at the Carlyle?

a co-worker is going to Carlyle specifically to check out the menu this weekend. Will report her findings when I see her again - unfortunately not til Wed...

Well, since I am your Gal Pal does this mean we get to solve crimes together or I am I just stuck with covering you in marinara sauce?

These combo sound appalling and delicious all at the same time. Can't wait to try them. Had fun last night, we need to do that more often.

Levitating Laura Lee, you are right, some fusions might cause problems for a hot air balloon ride. You can't just combine anything; some flavor combinations work because they have been worked out over many years or centuries.

I sometimes do create some abominable stuff, but I eat all my mistakes. I have no problem adding curry to olive oil. For me spices are medicine too and if I want vindaloo then I probably need it. I use Penzey's spice almost exclusively. I was out of cinnamon and didn't want to place a Penzey order so I got McCormick cinnamon. It was disgusting. I thought that it was so basic that it couldn't be that different but it was. It was bitter, without nuance and complex aromatic notes. It also seemed to congeal in my cocoa. What's up with that? It turned into a gelatinous mess at the bottom.

I think that some people have the ability or have developed the ability to think in flavors. I'm lucky enough to be one of those people. I can construct a dish with spices and ingredients and have a pretty good idea of how it will taste. Some of that is craft, i.e., identifying a ingredient as umami and knowing from experience how that will change a dish.

I think there are recipe people and anti-recipe people. For me, I consider it a waste of time to follow someone else's recipe. It's just not a pleasant experience.

Cheeseburger Vindaloo used to be my street name when I was in a breakdancing crew in Baden-Baden. Break it down!

Sie sind gedient worden!

Crime solving and break dancing go hand in hand Gal Pal Kiki. Don't worry about the mess.

A life without stains is not a life worth living.
– Astronaut Jones

"For me, I consider it a waste of time to follow someone else's recipe. It's just not a pleasant experience."

Is this why you aren't a good baker? I know this is the reason I can't seem to bake.

http://twitter.com/christabarnes

I guess one of my points is that all the great Indian spices and techniques are never used for beef or pork, except at OMG's House of Unholy Combinations. Ask about the grilled pandapotamus.

Welcome back Owl!

While not as adventurous as yourself, I use recipes as a starting point and add/subtract items as I feel like.

Ms Kiki/Christa,
If you are going to restrict access to your twitter feed, then maybe you ought not post the link to it in your entries.

Could this be Bourbon Girl?

Levitating Laura Lee, you are right, some fusions might cause problems for a hot air balloon ride. You can't just combine anything; some flavor combinations work because they have been worked out over many years or centuries.

I sometimes do create some abominable stuff, but I eat all my mistakes. I have no problem adding curry to olive oil. For me spices are medicine too and if I want vindaloo then I probably need it. I use Penzey's spice almost exclusively. I was out of cinnamon and didn't want to place a Penzey order so I got McCormick cinnamon. It was disgusting. I thought that it was so basic that it couldn't be that different but it was. It was bitter, without nuance and complex aromatic notes. It also seemed to congeal in my cocoa. What's up with that? It turned into a gelatinous mess at the bottom.

I think that some people have the ability or have developed the ability to think in flavors. I'm lucky enough to be one of those people. I can construct a dish with spices and ingredients and have a pretty good idea of how it will taste. Some of that is craft, i.e., identifying a ingredient as umami and knowing from experience how that will change a dish.

I think there are recipe people and anti-recipe people. For me, I consider it a waste of time to follow someone else's recipe. It's just not a pleasant experience.

Oops, I forgot to add that GP Kiki. I'm a terrible baker. Even though I know that amounts need to be precise I still feel the need to improvise. Remember the Great Spongecake Disaster of 2004? The horror. The horror,

I add curry powder, and chili powder for that matter, to olive oil.

At the risk of being pelted, Penzey's is that much better than McCormick's or (cough) the store brand? (cough)

(strapping on the helmet and hunkering down in the bunker)

Penzeys spices are just lovely.

I can follow a recipe exactly, but I'd rather read a few recipes and use them as a jumping off point.Occasionally, I come up with something edible. I've been making a vaguely Japanesish cole slaw lately that I quite like. No one would touch the refried Fritos but me, though.

I can think in flavors, although likely not as well as Mr. Owl.

I do like reading other people's recipes. I can usually read a recipe and envision the resulting flavor in my head. Sometimes I get surprised, though.

I think I may be a chemist at heart because I love baking. I love that if you follow the recipe exactly, your cake will come out exactly like the recipe says it will. But, I've improvised with baking and have had mixed results. When I made pound cake with butterscotch chips, I found that the chips all go to bottom of the cake and form a butterscotch crust that is just delicous (but not the expected result). I found that when you throw canned fruit into a cake it ruins it. And, I've found that cheese cakes are unbelievably easy and will accept any choclate chips, nuts, berry, etc. (but use every pot and pan in the house).

Anyway, Owl, essentially I think I agree with you that you can't really improvise to much and bake - but you can a little bit.

One can improvise a lot more with (yeast) breads than with cakes.

Yes Penzey's really is THAT much better. Did you not read about Cinnamon Hell? I didn't realize how much better until recently. Plus they are much much fresher and you can get them in little jars half the size of the standard small McCormick bottles.

Well, Mr. Owl Meat....your very powerful endorsement got me in trouble again.....I had never heard of Pensey's but because you recommended it I went to the site and ordered some stuff. Really, thanks for the information. Again, the only blog you will ever need.

There is a bricks and mortar Penzey's in Rockville. I haven't been to that particular one, but the stores I've visited have been great fun. They have jars for sniffing. This makes the differences between the cinnamons (they carry at least 3 kinds) really obvious.

You can spend hours just sniffing, and the clerks will be happy to either help or let you be.

I've never been to a real Penzey's store. I might lose my mind. They also have the nicest customer service. I somehow believe that the mail order products are fresher, but that's just a belief.

In my own kitchen, I like to think that recipes (excluding most baking) are a jumping-off point -- a springboard for improvisation and experimentation. Recipes provide the basis of ideas and inspiration, moreso than instructions.

Flavor profiles and combinations, inspiration for ingredients, emphasis on techniques or methods -- that's what I read from recipes.

Favorite fusion from the days when my kids were small -- Mexican Moo Shoo. Depending on what veggies we had around, the flavor would wander from East to West and back. Key learning: add a little hot sauce to your hoisin!

I am a Penzey's fan, ordering from them about three times a year. I did a side by side between their black pepper corns and some from McCormick's, and the difference was noticeable.

I have ordered exotics from Adriana's Caravan and Kalustyan's in the past, but wasn't entirely happy with what I got.

I have just a mere teaspoon of Litehouse freeze dried basil, and am desperate to find more of it. I can order it from their website, but three jars of it ($12) cost $15 to ship!

The problem with Kalyustan's and random Asian markets is that most of their stuff is as stale as Larry King's pop culture references ("That Angie Dickinson has got some gams! How about that Lena Horn, she's hotter than the engine block of a Studs Bearcat!)

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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