Thursday, September 22, 2011

When White People Cook Asian Food (@ Peril Magazine)

"...But in practice, when white chefs try to do Asian food, there is often something missing. The balance of flavours is slightly out; it’s a bit like someone’s idea of what Asian food is, rather than actually being Asian food. The punchier aspects of Asian cuisine – garlic, chilli, fish sauce, shrimp paste, lime and so on – are muted, while the sugary elements are often too strong."

One of the reasons I haven't been posting quite as much on my blog recently is that I'm doing some guest blogging at Peril, which is an Asian-Australian online magazine. My first post - When White People Cook Asian Food - is up now; you can go check it out here.


  1. I expect it's the case that European (in terms of palette) chefs amp up the contrasting elements in Asian food to make it more interesting, and the unusual to them lack of separation of sweet and savoury elements is probably a big one, while there is less paucity of garlic and meaty and citrus flavors in Western cuisine (and most people just don't like chilli that much without being encultured towards it).

    I wouldn't really feel too bad about it. I'm sure there are certain people who would try some ill judged attempt to create a concept of "cuisine Orientalism", where White people should basically shut up and stop cooking to avoid tainting people's conceptions of Asian people again.

    ("What, you are implying our cuisine is sweet and lacking assertiveness! That implies we are sweet and lacking in assertiveness! Ah, I see your game - back to Said with his assertive, dominant masculine West and submissive feminine East! Racist!" which is obvious bloody nonsense.)

    It's good that people get stuck in and try to cook other cuisines, and if that means that a Chinaman's version of Beef Strogannof is tainted by his preconceptions of what a strogannof would taste like, that's perhaps unfortunate, but a reasonable sacrifice for interesting new Frenchman versions of stirfries and Japanese versions of baked goods.

  2. And to add another point, all food is "tainted" by our idea of what food X should taste like. It's called having creativity, intentionality and vision in cooking. This is a good thing.

  3. Also, there is "Asian food" really. A Japanese trying to cook South East Asian dishes probably will no more make a passable green curry than a White guy. Probably less.