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COOK•EAT: Asia

Sushi, Kimchi, Chow Mein & Burger

Sushi from Japan, Kimchi from Korea, Chow Mein from China are representing Asia foods, reflecting from respective food cultures, nurtured under a strong influence from China. Chow Mein is an outcome of cooking with vegetable oil under high heat in a wok. Anything can be added: plants, and land or aquatic animal foods. It can be seasoned or flavored by salt or sauces from soy, grains, fish, often hot or sour. At a fast Chinese food chain restaurant, Chow Mein is one of two items (another, fried rice) to complete a meal. Chow Mein can be served with a little bit more chicken, pork, beef or even shrimp like a house special for lunch or dinner itself. These ingredients for Chow Mein or fried rice, except for noodles or rice, can be minced to pack into a dumpling just like ravioli. A dumpling is another popular Asian food, sold frozen at retail stores but Chow Mein is hard to find except for Yakisoba, a Japanese version of Chow Mein, at Costco.

Kimchi is fermented pickles of Nappa cabbage, daikon and often other vegetables with garlic and hot pepper. For authentic ones for rich families, tiny shrimps, squid or even raw beef can be added. People would notice it when served at a next table by its smell. It is a must for Korean people to eat meals as you see it among small plate dishes in the middle of the table at a Korean restaurant. Without Kimchi, a Korean meal is almost handicapped. A legend tells a Korean team had lost a world soccer game without it. One thing you must know, of an aftereffect the following morning. Your breath. I personally try to refrain from eating it before a dentist appointment or an important business meeting. Eating together may be okay at a date dinner table because both will smell the same. This used to be a joke for fun among foreign students in the past but it may be a little bit offensive nowadays? 

Sushi also plays a role to eat cooked rice along with seafood or vegetables. It is a complete meal to supply animal protein, carbohydrate and vegetable. Sushi is unique among Asian foods, though, in term of eating something “raw,” though people near the ocean eat seafood uncooked right after being caught. At inland locations, foods are prepared by cooking by heat to minimize food safety issues in tropical or sub-tropical climates which may cause food spoilage, poisoning or simply stomachache or diarrhea easily. Sushi started for preserving fish, not for eating rice. Instead of fermentation, though, vinegar was later added for an acidic condition. Hygiene is a must when making sushi, not only with uncooked fish, but also kitchen goods like a knife, chopsticks, chopping board, or kitchen cloth. Everything must be absolutely clean, free from pathogens. You notice sushi chefs wash their hands frequently when making sushi. Disposable plastic gloves are an option or required in some municipalities.

These represent food cultures in our market of Chinese, Korean and Japanese foods. Though, they are often served together in an Asian section at buffets. It is delightful to eat authentic dishes at respective Asian restaurants, but eating all of these together is also enjoyable for tasting all Asian tastes at one shot. Is it against authenticity or tradition? A buffet, remember to not eat too much.

These Asian foods can be blended into our burger food culture. A chunk of Kimchi can be added to burger vegetables. A Kimchi hot liquid can be mixed in mayo for a Kimchi flavor sauce for a burger. Good it is! A medium-rare Ahi tuna in a submarine or sandwich bread with tartar sauce. A fish burger in a semi-sushi style! Burger with Chow Mein on the side! A good congeniality! More for fusing the Asians into the western, or vice versa. West eats west and east at the same time. Not bad!?

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