Fusing Asian Cook • Eat (Final)
Good things end, regretfully. This is my last story of the series of sake, Japanese foods and the Asian food culture I have written over the last five years. My great pleasure as well as challenge has been to share the bicultural views of Japan-Asia and America with the mainstream food people here. In particular taste, flavor, appetite, habits, preference or food characters are hard to convey even among ourselves, and even harder to those who have different cultural backgrounds. Here my mission to connect the West with the East comes to an end anyway. Hope you got some ideas or hints for something creative in cooking or joyful in eating.
For the finale I would like to share my experience of the latest trip to Italia where I have witnessed mingling of the West and the East food cultures. My trip started eating carbonara pasta with vino rosso at a cozy ristorante near the Colosseum in Rome. It was the start of indulging in pasta or pizza and wine, red or white, as well as my search for the East in Italy for the next 10 days. My knowledge tells me that pasta, noodles specifically, arrived from China through the Silk Road to Italy. In Pompeii, there were many ruins of bread ovens and hearths to keep soup warm in earthen pots. Noodles were not common prior to the blast of Mt. Vesuvius? By the way, in the East noodles were made by cutting into strips, while many in the West were made by extruding or rounding around sticks. And, olive oil, a Mediterranean region product, was used also for lighting at night? Guess what, I made a request for hot sauce for a pasta dish for my curiosity. No, no, I was not given a Tabasco or jalapeno sauce. Olive oil with peperoncino was swiftly brought to me. It can be made at home. The varietal choices of meat products and cheeses, ah! I, a hotdog eater, was jealous of Italians. Though tomatoes originated not from Italy but the new world, without tomato and olive oil, no Italian foods would exist today. A tomato treat, Bologna sauce I enjoyed for lunch at a cobblestone street ristorante on the way to Venice. Even in this wine country, craft beers are new and trendy so I tasted a PSYcH IPA.
My curiosity of the East culinary presence in Italy was partly fulfilled by encountering Asian-Chinese restaurants in Rome, Pompeii, Florence and Venice, some even with a sign of sushi. In the heart of Florence my wife and I ventured into a contemporary seafood eatery serving sashimi-grade fish. Though, we enjoyed Italian-style seafood dishes instead. In Burano Island outside Venice, a real Italian fishing village and seafood place, however, no sign of sushi was seen. Of the noodles again, rice Vermicelli noodles, my wife enjoyed Ramen for a snack at an Asian restaurant in Rome. Furthermore, a new noodle connection between the two worlds, instant cup noodles this time, was discovered at many food stores. An interesting West meets East “Suppli,” a fried rice ball, was found in a cafeteria near Vatican City. It was a tomato sauced rice, balled with a strip of cheese, and fried. Different shaped ones were also spotted at highway truck stop delis. Fried rice balls could be presented in many flavors, ingredients and shapes, which can be new quick bites in rice-eating in Japan and Asia. Giapponese has not noticed it? My East-West encounter ended with sushi at a carousel Kaiten restaurant at Heathrow Airport, London, as an extra, when I needed to go out for re-check-in. Thus “West meets or eats East” was interestingly found in today’s Italy. Besides, I have seen the world where people, food, drinks and many things are mingling all together, with some polarization. Our dear co-travelers and great travel director “T” made this trip fantastico, unforgettable eternally. In final, my appreciation goes to Mike Fryer, Sr. Editor/Publisher and Bob Barnes, Editorial Director, for such a unique chance for the readers in Las Vegas, SoCal and beyond. Good-bye, Adios, Arrivederci, Zaijan, Au Revoir, Auf Wiedersehen and Sayonara!