Evolution of Fusion Cuisine

Though purists may criticize fusion food for compromising traditions there is little doubt that it is ubiquitous all over the globe. Fusion cuisine is not only becoming a rage in restaurant storefronts, but also in food trucks. It is noted that some classic foods are also joining the mix-and-match party. The popularity of this cuisine could be due to the freshness of ingredients, the unique uses of spices in Asian cuisine, or the creative introduction of new elements. Most fusion dishes incorporate familiar elements, which appeal to the human love of the familiar and the affection for comfort food.
 
Ashok Malkani views the Fusion food scenario and finds that joining together of different cultural influences remains a major part of the culinary scene today.
  
Fusion food is popular all over the globe. Cronut (a croissant-doughnut pastry), waffle taco, Pad Thai Pizza are only a few of the fusion food dishes popular abroad. Mention fusion food in India and the first thing that comes to mind is the Indi-Chinese. But that isn’t all. Have you ever tried Cheese and Jalapeno Stuffed Kachoris or Avocado Chicken Kebab or Idli Burger or Coffee Marinated Mutton Chops? Well these are just a few of the fusion food dishes dreamt up by our chefs.  

Fusion food is a deliberate combination of elements of two or more distinct cuisines to create something different and delectable. It transcends the conventional geographical and historical boundaries to come up with a unique gastronomical fare for today’s post modern world.  

Although the term “Fusion Food” is relatively new the concept has been around for centuries. If one takes a look down the culinary history, one finds that every nationality borrows food ideas, changing them in the process. Fusion cuisine, today, is distinct f r o m historical combinations of cuisines, such as those that occurred in the sixteenth century when foodstuffs f r o m the New and Old worlds mixed.

The popularity of Fusion Food 

So how popular is fusion food today, is it popular only in India and why do people prefer it are questions that nag one’s mind.
  
Rajesh Shetty, Executive Chef, GVK Lounge by Travel Food Services, at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Mumbai , Terminal 2, stressed, Fusion food has always been popular and will continue to trend in 2019. The practice of blending flavours, ingredients and cooking techniques f r o m different cuisines makes it very interesting and is not going to go away any time soon.
 
Fusion cuisine transcends conventional, geographical and historical boundaries. It is not only popular in India but across the globe. Cuisines f r o m South East Asia, South western United States, Mexico, Pacific Rim Cuisine, Italian, Thai, Mexican, French Cuisines etc. are all part of fusion cooking today.

People look out for new experiences and there is always a desire to try something different. Fusion food incorporates creativity as it starts with familiar food and then takes the dish to whole new place culturally and creatively. The ‘Taste Experience’ is the very reason people prefer fusion food and the best part is the amazing flavours that can be achieved.”

Gulshan Kumar, Executive Chef, The Orchid Hotel, Pune, reveals, “Fusion food is popular among all the Punites nowadays due to blend of Indian and International cuisine which, put together, gives them a mix of both the worlds. They are able to experience something new and, at the same time, stay connected with the traditions. 

It is a culture around the globe and lot of countries have adopted the same and incorporated their traditional cuisine with fusion food f r o m different parts of the world. Asian fusion restaurants, which combine the various cuisines of different Asian countries, have become popular in many parts of the United States and United Kingdom. Foods based on one culture, but prepared using ingredients and flavours inherent to another culture, are also considered forms of fusion cuisine. For instance, pizza made with cheddar and pepper jack cheese, salsa, refried beans or other common taco ingredients is often marketed as "Taco Pizza". This particular dish is a fusion of Italian and Mexican cuisines.

Despite the huge varieties of food conveniently available today, everyone craves something new and different. Though we all have our traditional favourites, when we dine out sometimes we want to try new flavours, experience new tastes and expand our taste buds! Fusion food allows you to enjoy your favourites with a twist.”

Jerson Fernandes, Executive Chef at Jeon, the 24 hour coffee shop at Hotel Sea Princess, Mumbai declares, “Fusion food is getting popular and gaining momentum, thanks to the many Indians who visit various countries overseas. They try the local cuisines of those countries, develop a taste for them and want to experience something similar here. A lot of guests expect and crave for fusion food today. 

There is no hard and fast rule for two or more cuisines to be married together. It is all a matter of one’s choice and likes. Fusion recipes have come into existence and created quite a stir in India with chefs constantly working hard to improvise and take fusion food to the next level.

Speaking about its global popularity, I would say that wherever there is a set clientele which enjoys this type of food, the same has to be implemented. Fusion has now become common almost in every corner of the world. America, Mexico, Thailand, Italy and Middle eastern belt being the more common countries to do fusion as that is the need of the hour. They all use the common method of infusing flavours f r o m one cuisine with another and mixing ingredients to get the right flavours, textures and colours to that dish.

There are various reasons why people prefer fusion food. It may be because they have heard/ seen it before or even tried it elsewhere and might have loved it, hence would want to repeat the experience. It could also be because someone wants to try something new and experiment with flavours and hence would like to give it a shot. Basically, fusion food is preferred by most of them as there is a gastronomic marriage of two different cuisines, various flavours, textures and even ingredients. It simply breaks the monotony of eating the same authentic single cuisine food repeatedly.”

Rohan D'souza, Culinary Director of Silver Beach Hospitality, Mumbai opines, “In my personal opinion fusion food has become extremely popular world over during the last 12 years.  It has gained popularity f r o m 2006, when I used to work for UK with chefs there, whose menus were very fusion based. It was termed as modern European in the western world, modern Asian in iconic city’s in Asia and modern Australian down in the Pacific. It has become popular in India over the last 8 years or so.”

Rajendra Agnihotri, Executive Chef, The Empresa Hotel, Mumbai, states, “Humans’ expectation about food is familiarity, comfort in taste and concept. On the other hand they crave for variations, surprises and adventures. Fusion is a blend of both. So they prefer fusion food. Fusion is popular in many countries. Mexican & Italian ingredients mixed together makes for great fusion cuisine. Pastas are popular in Chinese sauce.”

Indo-Chinese, the only fusion in India? 

However, when one talks of fusion food in India the immediate reaction of one is “Oh, you are speaking about the Indo-Chinese cuisine?” There seems to be some con-fusion about this cuisine, because “fusion cuisine” is not just Indo-Chinese. It is much more. One of the most interesting developments associated with fusion cuisine is that no single culture, dominates. 

Rajesh iterates, “Chinese food is definitely one of the most popular cuisines that has always been adapted for fusion cuisine, but food f r o m Malaysia, Indonesia, Java, Japan are gaining Popularity. TexMex Cuisine is still popular with food f r o m south western United States and Mexico.  Eg: Taco pizza is basically a pizza with a taco topping such as refried beans, cheese, vegetables etc.”

Rajendra declares, “It is not only Chinese food which is adapted to suit Indian palate. Adaptations of Mexican food are: Chole tacos and Chicken tikka burritos while western adaptations are Mutton roganjosh burger and Gulab jamun cheese cake, to name a few.”

Jerson states, “Besides Indo-Chinese there is a variety of fusion cuisines like Indo-Texmex, Indo-Italian, Indo-Mexican, Indo-French or may be even two European cuisines like Italian-Mexican or even an American-French cuisine. There is no specific rule for two cuisines to be married together, if the flavours, textures and recipes fit in well resulting into a perfect dish, so be it. Manchurian pizzas, Texmex pastas, Blue cheese chicken tikka, Pesto paneer masala, Pasta masala makhni etc are few classic examples of these fusion dishes.”

Rohan adds, “Fusion food is an eclectic exciting mixture of flavours & ingredients coming together, for example a Thai spiced crab and prawn risotto is talking fusion here.” 

Gulshan queries, “Who doesn’t want to try new things? Asian fusion restaurants are popular for a reason, and it gives chefs freedom to be creative and have fun with the dishes that they serve. There is a joy in adding new flavours to old favourites. With fusion cuisine, the possibilities, dishes, tastes and textures are nearly endless. So fusion food experiment is not only limited to only Indianised Chinese delicacies. The Chefs love to experiment with Indianised Lebanese, Italian, Mexican  etc. For example you have Pita bread stuffed with dry mango, layered with salads made with Indian spices, chicken liver and Indian herbs.”  

Fusion, a Global Phenomenon

There is no doubt that fusing different cuisines together can be really successful and exciting, but so much more noticeable if you get it wrong! Fusion food, it may be mentioned, is a global phenomenon. In fact you will find two cuisines f r o m different countries being mixed with success.  

Gulshan avers, “It is a culture around the globe and lot of countries have adopted the same and incorporated their traditional cuisine with fusion food f r o m different parts of the world. Asian fusion restaurants, which combine the various cuisines of different Asian countries, have become popular in many parts of the United States and United Kingdom. Foods based on one culture, but prepared using ingredients and flavours inherent to another culture, are also considered forms of fusion cuisine. For instance, pizza made with cheddar and pepper jack cheese, salsa, refried beans or other common taco ingredients is often marketed as "Taco Pizza". This particular dish is a fusion of Italian and Mexican cuisines.

When we talk of cuisines f r o m different countries being mixed together, it does get gelled together very well and people like to go for it. For instance Indian koftas is made up with creamy cheese sauce which is Italian style sauce. Another fusion instance is pasta with Indian gravies.”

Rajesh claims, “Fusion cuisine transcends conventional, geographical and historical boundaries. It is not only popular in India but across the globe. Cuisines f r o m South East Asia, South western United States, Mexico, Pacific Rim Cuisine, Italian, Thai, Mexican, French Cuisines etc. are all part of fusion cooking today.

Fusion is all about mixing ingredients f r o m different cultures and combining them together to deliver an elevated experience to the customers. Popular cuisines such as Thai, Italian and Mexican are often mixed together. Eg: Italian Nachos, Mexican Lasagna, Pizza Mexicana, Stuffed Shells with refried beans, Naanwich, Korean Bbq Taco etc.”

Rohan states, “Fusion food is about amalgamating flavours. Japanese, South American Spanish, Greek are some of the cuisines that are popular and fusing these together will produce interesting fare. I have been exploring Nordic regions and I am quite fascinated with Japanese infused Nordic flavours. It is unique and inspiring. Scandavia is known for subtle food but all that is changing with fusion flavours opening up the market. In India Fusion food is popular in main metros but it still has a long way to go in two-tier cities.”    
  
Jerson maintains, “Fusion has now become common in almost every corner of the world. America, Mexico, Thailand, Italy and Middle Eastern belt are more prone to do fusion. They all use the common method of infusing flavours f r o m one cuisine with another and mixing ingredients to get the right flavours, textures and colours to that dish. 

There is a trend to fuse dishes f r o m different countries. In today’s world, anything that looks and tastes great sells, irrespective of the cuisine it originates f r o m. So, mixing and matching of two international cuisines works well.”

Rajendra  asserts, “Fusion is popular in many countries. Mexican & Italian ingredients mixed together make for great fusion food. Pastas are popular in Chinese sauce.”

Preferred Group 

If one takes a look around one finds that most of the people visiting eating out places belong to the age group of 18-35. It is also a known fact that the younger generation is widely travelled and has tasted international cuisines, globally. So would they still prefer international cuisines with a desi twist? Which is the age group that goes in for fusion food?  

Rajesh avers, “Fusion cuisine has a younger audience, Thanks to the world of television and internet, they have become more knowledgeable and curious about different food and culture and more than willing to try fusion food. We, at GVK Lounge, Mumbai International Airport, believe that fusing different cuisine together can be really successful and exciting and today several guests visiting us like diverse, fresh and healthy socially conscious food that is high on taste, flavour and creativity.”

Rohan declares, “Fusion food, it is found, is preferred by the younger audience but if it is done right all age groups would love it. It’s all about how you put the elements together.”
   
Jerson, however, contends, “To be honest, one cannot pinpoint any age group which prefers fusion food. I have personally witnessed a 65 yr old gentleman enjoying the same fusion meal as a 7 yr old. Precisely speaking, I would say that fusion food is more common amongst people who love to experiment and try out new flavours and dishes, irrespective of their age.

Though the young generation has travelled a great deal and consumed different cuisines in their own countries there is a yearning among people to try something new. Thus fusion food has become popular all over the globe.”  
 
Rajendra declares, “All age groups prefer fusion food, but it is more popular f r o m the age group of 15 yrs to 35 yrs. Even those who have travelled around the globe prefer fusion food as it gives them the delight of the original with a twist.”

Gulshan states, “The urbane travellers coming to Orchid hotel Pune are in the age group of 18-40; and though they have tasted cuisines in their original format they want something new to satiate their taste buds. Thus fusion food is quite popular among them. They consider themselves as foodies and are crazy about instagram ready-food posts.”   

Mash-ups 

Fusion cuisine morphed f r o m an 80’s culinary innovation to a menu standard where ingredients mixed together. But consumers have slowly grown weary of fusion and their heads have turned to experimenting with exotic cuisines f r o m their travels or those seen on food TV. The result has been global mash-up. Re-popularised most notably by the Cronut, global mash-ups reflect the consumer’s quest for bold flavours in healthy applications, permissive indulgence, adventurous palates and handheld convenience. In addition to merging ingredients f r o m two different cuisines, global mash-up can also refer to applying one cuisine’s cooking technique to another’s traditional dish.

Mash-ups is the new in food. Fusion is far too delicate a phrase to describe some of the wild food mash-ups that have been dreamt up by some of the chefs. But what exactly are mash-ups? 
 
Rajesh reveals, “Mash-up dishes is basically two different food concepts that have been combined. The most well-known that everyone remembers is the Cronut basically a cross between a donut and a croissant. This was one of the hottest trends in America in 2013.There are many other peculiar combinations such as the Taco Pizza, Waffle Taco, Ramen Burger, and Donut Burger that are really popular with the younger generation. Fusion Influence is gaining main stream acceptance and will continue to grow.

Rohan declares, “Well, I keep writing over 150 recipes a year. Recent mash-up dishes include a classic chicken liver pate with Asian spices which is French and Vietnamese fusion. One of the popular mash-ups is Grilled scallops on blue cheese cauliflower purée with Japanese miso cream foam. A Fijian ceviche of tropical island flavours such as coriander, coconut milk & pineapple juice are some of the others.” 

Jerson explains, “Mash-up dishes are those dishes where you mix and match two different dishes to get a third dish all together like a burger served between two pizzas together to give you a burgerizza. Popular mash-up dishes in Sea Princess Hotel would include a Burgerizza or a sandwizza, Nachos crusted mac n cheese fries, Poutine taco and a glazed doughnut pie. Age group, which commonly orders these items, ranges f r o m 10 to 25.”

Gulshan cites some of the mash-up dishes as “Coconut donut shake, mango stuffed dim sums, chapati sandwich et cetera.” He adds, “Colonisation, immigration, and trade have all created fusion by force and circumstance, long before high-minded chefs got involved. We’re all familiar with this type of gastronomic cross-breeding in the U.S.—Italian-American, American-Chinese, and Tex-Mex fare all have different stories to tell, but each is rooted in the process of culture-clash and assimilation.” 

Future of Fusion Food

Fusion cuisine combines ingredients and cooking techniques f r o m several cultures, creating a seamless and fresh dish. But what about the future? What other concoctions are the chefs going to dream up to continue with the success story of fusion food? Or are we going to go back to the dishes that we grew up with?    

Rajesh asserts, “Fusion food in India, and globally, is there to stay as Indian and Asian food uses a lot of unique spices and fresh herbs and ingredients that could be a game changer in the world of fusion cuisine. Fusion Cuisine gives the opportunity for chefs to create and experiment new combination of flavours, texture and presentation. It also gives them opportunity to introduce their own signature element to the dish.”

Jerson claims, “As long as you have people who love food and are willing to experiment, the future of fusion food in India and around the globe seems to be quite bright and fusion food will flourish even better in the years to come.”

Rajendra too is of a similar view. He states, “Future for fusion in India, and abroad, is very bright. The concept has been accepted and will be more popular in future.”

Gulshan says, “People today travel all over India in search of authentic Indian food and it has become a huge trend for those who have always wanted it with much more awareness and availability.” 

Rohan does not believe that fusion is going to be a favourite for long. He avers, “It’s not going to have a long shelf life and will not be a trend for long.”  

Summing up, one may state that mankind is blessed with a trait for creativity and progressive thinking which enables them to conceptualise and combine revolutionary ideas. Blending two or more culinary traditions f r o m different regions and countries to create innovative dishes has gained popularity worldwide.

Today some of the most widely practiced examples of fusion food combine European and Asian foods. The wildly divergent culinary characteristics of these two cultures, having centuries of cooking traditions, can provide an astonishing array of fusion dishes. 

Instead of thinking and discussing too much about it, let us just lap it up! 
 

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