Sunday, April 16, 2006

asian fusion

KEN ORINGER'S SHISO BUBBLE TEA


"They're putting ginger and wasabi in everything these days!" lamented my friend Ping today. "And everywhere I go, there's mango on my fish."

He's right. Fusion is the food fad that won't go away. But I like mango. And I really like ginger. Fusion for the sake of fashion annoys me, but it sometimes turns out pleasant results.

I attended A Spoonful of Ginger two weeks ago, a food tasting benefit for the Joslin Diabetes Center. Given the cause - research for the Asian American Diabetes Initiative - the participating chefs, who included Ming Tsai, Jasper White, and Joanne Chang, made conscious efforts to give their dishes an Asian flair.

Joanne Chang piped ginger cream into her profiteroles. Ming Tsai topped his conch ceviche seafood bisque with crispy wonton strips.

But it was Ken Oringer (of Clio restaurant, Boston) who truly took fusion to another level with his Shiso Bubble Tea. His conception was a creative, unforced, and terrifically yummy combination of Japanese and Taiwanese ingredients - shiso-blended green tea floating atop a layer of sweet milk, suspended with tapioca pearls. He served his tea in tall shot glasses with oversized bubble tea straws. (Shiso is that jagged-edged herb that often garnishes a plate of good sushi.)

My take - fusion is worthwhile to the extent that it opens new possibilities for creating innovative and better foods. While I would have liked Joanne's cream puffs just as much filled with traditional whipped cream, and Ming Tsai's soup served with a piece of fresh, crusty bread, my Shiso Bubble Tea experience could not have been re-created in any other way.

(What I really cannot appreciate are dishes like Foie Gras Shiitake Shumai, which I once ordered at Ming Tsai's Blue Ginger. Sure, it's good. Of course it's good. But is it excitingly different from traditional shumai made with pork? Not really. Is the flavor of the foie gras completely transformed by the presence of the mushrooms? No. Is it $16 good? Really can't say...)

JOANNE CHANG'S GINGER CREAM-FILLED
CREAM PUFFS DIPPED IN CHOCOLATE

7 comments:

Law Student # 96981349825 said...

as i become older, i'm becoming simpler. or maybe more staunch in my inability to mix flavors. my biggest beef is mixing fruits and savories. i just *can't* have mango with my fish, or chicken, or beef, for that matter.

Julie said...

I agree that sometimes fusion works and sometimes it feels forced but eating your way through that event and deciding what worked and what didn't work sounds like fun.

fooDcrazEE said...

know how fusion came about ? chuckle.

its a proven fact that as we get older we prefer simple meal. I know i do as law student did too.

vanessa said...

i honestly will take anything with ginger in it. i had a ginger gimlet the other night, better than the traditional stuff. don't know necessarily if i'd call it "fusion." Just a resounding "improvement." :)

wheresmymind said...

I love Clio...I'm not surprised that Oringer was super creative :)

shaz said...

I agree with you bout fusion for fusion sake. Its just trying to different for different sake. It doesnt make you a better cook. A good chef is able to bring out sublime distinct flavours from the ingredients. if its overpowers, it has failed. I recently went to a new opened modern chinese restaurant in singapore. I think the chef has a good idea of what fusion is. i blogged bout it 2 weeks back.

Ivonne said...

Genevieve,

I agree with you completely. Fusion is fine if you're stretching the limits of pairings that work well. But when you're just throwing weird things together, it helps no one least of all the food!