- Let’s go out for Asian food!
- Sure. The usual choice?
What’s your usual choice when it comes to Asian food? By usual, I mean convenient, not favorite.
Very often many people I know group Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese under the same roof as Chinese’s step-brothers or sisters, while Korean and Japanese are in another. They don’t think Indian belong to Asian cuisine at all. And the rest barely exists.
I remembered the first time I suggested my Russian friend back in Boston to grab some Malaysian food. Mouth widely opened, he said: “What?!? Malaysian is another type of food? Isn’t it the same as Thai or Vietnamese?”
NO. NO. NO.
When you live in diverse cities like London, New York, San Francisco, the above scene doesn’t happen very often, but once in a while, you see similar image mirroring that eerie effect. Choices are abundant. Google any kind of food you fancy to eat and you will surely find one. At the same time, you also see many fusion restaurants. And when it comes to fusion, you don’t hear American fusion, African fusion, or European fusion very often. It’s always Asian fusion.
This is where the battle begins.
You find it hard to differentiate one from another. Rice and noodle, spring onion and bean sprout, herb and spice, fish sauce and soy sauce, kimchi and tofu. You are bewildered and you end up associating one dish to ten countries in Asia. So you go to Asian fusion (or Chinese) places for the rest of your life, and you never get out of this battle.
I’m not suggesting you should never visit an Asian fusion restaurant. But for a start, you don’t jump into the ocean before learning how to swim in the pool. You don’t want to visit a fusion restaurant with menu that makes you dizzy and a myriad of choices I guarantee you have no idea what they are, and finally you give up ordering the easiest and most familiar dishes.
Put some work in learning about a nation’s food. Your nation’s food is like your mum’s food. You surely don’t want to mix your mum’s food with others’. You take pride in your mum’s cooking. So do others. Respect that.
We are global citizens. Everyday we experience a sense of togetherness and constant mix of cultures, and at the same time, we stand strong for your own identities. Acknowledge others’ identity. By doing so, you acknowledge yours and encourage others to do the same. We are very lucky to be able to reach the world with just the tip of our tongues. Think about it in terms of food, you might find yourself having croissant for breakfast, burrito for lunch, and sushi for dinner. Voila, you’ve already covered three continents within the course of a day.
Fix your mindset. Fix the way you experience food, not only Asian food but any kind. Start with one country. Do your research. Pick a restaurant. Ask for advice. Try different dishes (not Pad Thai every time you visit a Thai restaurant). Repeat the process. Soon enough you will know exactly what to look forward to when you order Korean seafood hotpot or bubble tea with mango poppings.
We should see Asian cuisines as a close group of friends, in which each and every one has distinctive traits and characters, yet they are in harmony. They don’t fight against each other. They don’t compete. They nurture the others, and by doing so, they nurture their own identities.
So perhaps the battle between Asian cuisines is nothing but the battle created in your mind.
Fix that, my friend.
And oh next time let’s meet for some Ethiopian food.