Why Fusion Sucks

I have some complicated, maybe irrational feelings about fusion cooking.

My first response is not to trust it. The worst restaurants in Evanston are these doglike, pandering places that label themselves Pan-Asian or Pan-World, that will give their customers practically anything they want however they want it. One place, opened recently, serves chicken drenched in sauces from all over the globe, kind of: Thai peanut, Italian Alfredo, Japanese teriyaki. Customers can choose one, or choose all. The philosophy is have it your way. The result is that nobody leaves happy.

With these trendy new places the word fusion is code for “We’re willing to make it if you’re willing to buy it.” And more often than not, “Please think we’re cool.” Naturally this is bad for the form. And despite the worldly, progressive sheen of the word, I think it masks a certain kind of fear. It’s the fear of serving food that’s simple, food that rejects gimmick, fear of saying to the precious customer, “our food is good enough the way it is.”

But… I know. I know it doesn’t always work this way. Some of the world’s greatest food comes from what are essentially fusion cultures, cooking that’s emerged out of centuries of invasions from foreign enemies with foreign tastes. Vietnamese food comes to mind with its French and Chinese. Mexican food comes to mind.

So when I say fusion sucks, I’m not saying culinary purity is the ideal. I’m saying that “fusion” doesn’t mean “good,” no matter what the bold restauranteurs in Evanston seem to think.

All of this to say I’m a little ashamed, but not really, to have put blue cheese and soy sauce together in the same recipe. I mean, it kind of makes sense if you think about it. They tingle the same taste buds, the ones that sing and dance at salty and ripe. But mostly I did it because I saw it on a menu and the part of me that’s not a food prig thought, huh. Interesting.

And it was! It is! Try it, if it follows your bliss.

– Angela

Spicy Asian Green Beans with Blue Cheese

– 1 lb French green beans (haricots verts if you’re fancy)
– 4-5 tablespoons crumbled blue cheese
– 1/4 cup really good soy sauce*
– 3-4 teaspoons hot chili oil
– 2 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
– 1-2 teaspoons Mae Ploy Sweet Chilli Sauce [sic], or similar
– Red pepper flakes, to taste

* A note on soy sauce: brand matters. I used Lee Kum Kee. It’s a Chinese brand that makes good products all around, but the premium sauce tastes better than the not-premium. You can use low sodium or whatever you like, just make sure you use a sauce that tastes solidly good, one you’d feel comfortable using as a condiment to, say, really fresh sushi.

Combine soy sauce, chili oil, vinegar, sweet chili sauce and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Blanch green beans in salted boiling water for no more than 2 minutes–2 minutes in boiling water for only the thickest French beans. Drain and dump immediately into an ice bath.

Don’t overcook the beans. Seriously. For this recipe a properly blanched bean should be vibrant green, should remain turgid when held upright and should snap when broken in half. Toss beans in soy mixture. Arrange beans on plate and sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese. This can be made in advance, but not too far in advance, please.

14 thoughts on “Why Fusion Sucks

  1. Right. says:

    So your entire rant about how “fusion” food sucks was just a prelude to your own, even worse random combination of random crap which you felt the need to photograph and beem so proudly over?

    This isn’t food and this isn’t food critique? Aside from masturbating your own ego, what, exactly, is this?

  2. SippitySup says:

    How I lucked upon this blog I don’t know. But I love the way you think. I love the way you say you hate something you so obviously have slightly more complicated reason. Because blue cheese and soy sez you use your taste bud and your mind in tandem.

  3. jbresland says:

    Congrats on your first troll, Angela. I’m pretty sure the Nielsen corporation measures online buzz using a troll-based algorithm, so you’re sure to get a bump, here.

  4. 5 Star Foodie says:

    I love fusion cooking as it allows for creativity and great combinations but of course it has to be done well. I like your addition of blue cheese in this recipe!

  5. Jesus on a Stick says:

    This is an argument for the auteur, or more precisely, the artist that knows the pleasure of oberservance of expression better than the observer. This is why you have amazing French chefs and the people that eat their food. Because if those people could cook on their own, let alone devise their own recipes, they wouldn’t need a chef, and especially not a French one – bastards all of them.

    Similar to the uselessness of critics, none of whom could make a film or create a film but can only poke holes in a film, they can not then be expected to piece-meal together a film based on various things of their liking, and somehow come to Schindler’s List. We don’t paint genius by numbers. No, SL has to be made for them, despite their inability to know that they even want it.

    Ergo, people are fucking stupid – they are a huge mistake – I never should have created them – and they’ll eat the chicken I make and like it or shut the fuck up and starve!

    The inane nature of a salad bar proves this. Have you ever seen a buffet plate, complete in various dumps of rancid crusty food, that you’d ever actualy pay for? No. You pay for a buffet based on seeing all that crap from a distance, and thinking whimsically – OH! I can eat shrimp AND waffles – but together, on a poorly washed plate, shrimp and waffles sitting next to each other look like the indulgence of Kim Jong Il after he’s become bored with kimchi. Fucking loony.

    In fact, fusion is moreover the retardation of ethnic achievement. The dish becomes neither Mexican or Italian, but a simmering plate of refried beans and pasta laced with the misguided dreams of an untalented ITT-tech dropout that was a bus driver before finally convincing his coke dealer that this whole restaurant idea was a good investment. That’s not powdered sugar on your pot roast, it’s Rico’s finest blow.

    BTW, tits and beer remain my best work. Tell me I’m wrong.

  6. Subpar Evanston Restaurants says:

    Does fusion suck, or do Koi and Lulu suck? I get your point, but I think Evanston biases your conclusions given the handful of crappy, crappy, crappy fasian restaurants.

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