'I can't stand the word "fusion," no only because it is dated, but also because it implies a kind of culinary racism, suggesting that foods from Eastern cultures are so radically different that they need to be artificially introduced or "fused" with Western cuisines to give them legitimacy.'
- Edward Lee, 'Smoke & Pickles - Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen'
In the words of Edward Lee... a-freaking-men. I'm not too sure why I feel so greatly about when Eastern foods are seen as some 'exotic trend' but there's been countless of times where it's felt a little 'oh god, why? why must you do this?! I know you can do better than this you beautiful human!'. My favourite occasion being the time I accidentally (*note I said, accidentally) walked into a vegan chocolate bar in Melbourne and having one of the enthusiastic staff members trying to sell me a 'turmeric latte' like it had never been thought of before. Wrong. So wrong Melbourne front of house chick! Maybe go to talk some Indian and Sri Lankan mothers maybe? But please, I really hope you don't talk to them wide-eyed stating, 'oh your culture... oh! oh! its so exotic!'
It's a feeling I share with other hospitality staff (who come from immigrant backgrounds or brought up in different culture/s) about how ingredients/cultures are sometimes used in the hospitality industry as some sort of 'wow' factor. And it's made me feel a whole lot more driven to learn cultures, always note that these ideas are certainly not mine, and finally... they are not 'exotic'! They been on earth, right here, longer than #cleaneating, and before they did shit 'for the gram/snap/tweet'.
Thoughts of whether to be a chef for long are still in pondering stages (mainly because crish dreams of having 5 career pathways all at once, because apparently, this is doable). But, whilst I'm here, I really do want to nerd about different cultures and techniques that I guess are different to the usual French/Italian traditions of food (the two cuisines that are heavily taught in culinary school).
This dish I've played with below is a combination of inspirations and readings I've found along the way.
- Edward Lee's southern style of fried chicken, where chicken is brined over a prolonged time with dried spices/powders and buttermilk. His current work is heavily inspired by the techniques and flavours from the Southern style cuisines in USA.
- Uri Scheft's (Israeli baker who co-owns Breads Bakery (NYC) and owns Lehamin Bakery in Tel Aviv) recipe for a Green Z'hug. Z'hug is, as quoted by Chef Scheft - ' a Yemenite hot sauce that Israelis have adopted wholeheartedly. Z'hug is usually used to cut the intensity or richness of foods which can be based on red chillies (red z'hug) or green chillies (green z'hug).
- Using the ideas of chef Selin Kiazim's (Oklava) of Urfa chilli mayonnaise and sumac dressing to create my own sumac aioli (p.s this lady's cookbook is AMAZING!)
- A bottle of 'rose harissa' I found on a quick spice store grocery run before heading down to living in Tasmania. Rose Harissa is a version of harissa (a type of North African hot sauce) where rose water or rose petals are added. Personally, I feel like the addition of rose harissa 'sweetens/softens' the fiery kick harissa lets off!
So with all these readings and newly found information of different techniques and flavours, I made this dish that I feel would make my best friend Cookie proud (a lover of fried chicken and spice). It's Southern style fried chicken coated in a rose harissa and honey glaze, with a herb salad dressed in green z'hug, and some sumac aioli. Ah yes, it was zesty, spicy, crunchy and crispy! (Question for you to think about in your lunch break and drive yourself to madness: how would you differentiate 'crispy' and 'crunchy'?)
Taking ideas from cultures I learn from to create something thats inspired from their knowledge and years of traditions. Exotic? Hm, no and hope not to be tagged with that word, ever. Wanting to make sure that others know these are never soley my own ideas nor are they 'new'? absolutely-freaking-yes.
Lee, E, 2013, Smoke and pickles: recipes and stories from a new southern kitchen, Artisan, New York.
Kiazim, S,2017, Oklava: recipes from a Turkish-Cypriot kitchen, Mitchell Beazley, London.
Scheft, U, 2016, Breaking breads, Artisan, New York.