Our post on what makes a restaurant authentic posed a question: does the authenticity of food matter to you? The responses so far indicate that no, as long as the food tastes good.
Bardia Ferdowski, an Iranian immigrant who opened a Cajun restaurant in Adams Morgan, was quoted in the original post as saying what matters the most is that “the food is good and comes from the heart.” Commenter rmpmcdermott agreed, writing:
“If you care enough about the food and the tradition and you study the culture and the reasons behind the food then you can make great food from any culture outside of your own. It’s all about respect to me. Respect for the culture. Respect for the ingredients. In fact I’ve had Italian food cooked by non-Italians who really cared about the food and it was way better than food I’ve had by Italians who clearly didn’t care.”
Houston Press food blog Eating Our Words weighed into the debate tweeting that “the concept of ‘authenticity’ is such a nebulous thing to define, much less capture.”
@ And often, it's those cross-pollinated, inauthentic dishes that end up standing the test of time & becoming their own cuisine.
Even the best efforts of old country-trained chefs may be thwarted; some dishes can never be replicated due to differences in available ingredients, writes commenter lacrisha jones: “I think the only way to get ‘authentic’ cuisine is to go to the place where it actually comes from. The water, soil, grass and air all make a food what it is, and those elements can’t be transported somewhere else.”
Josh / Flickr
Does it matter if the tomato sauce recipe was developed by an Italian?
Friday’s post “What Makes a Restaurant Authentic?“, in which I interviewed chefs hailing from countries other than the cuisine they prepare, held a particular resonance with me. I’m Iranian-American, and my family owns an Italian restaurant.
How in the world did that happen? Not much differently than it happened for the other restaurant proprietors I profiled: my father arrived in the U.S., put himself through school by working at Italian-owned restaurants and he paid attention to what worked and what didn’t. He developed his own sauce recipe and, taking a risk, opened his own restaurant.
Hungarians preparing Japanese dishes; Koreans serving Eastern European fare; Salvadorans making kabobs –a number of D.C. chefs and restaurant owners serve cuisine from countries far from their motherlands. Some to great acclaim.
But is the food authentic? Does it even matter?
“There are two kinds of music: Good music, and the other kind.” – Duke EllingtonWashingtonian food critic Todd Kliman answers with a Duke Ellington quote: “There are two kinds of music: good music, and the other kind.”
“Is it desirable [for food] to be authentic? It depends on who you ask,” Kliman says. “Some people say ‘Yes.’ Others say, ‘It doesn’t matter as long as the food is delicious.’”
Sister blog Multi-American‘s series on unsung ethnic food delicacies has left me thinking: Sure, D.C. may have plenty of the kitfo mentioned, but this is also the city where cultures and worlds collide. What about fusions?
Courtesy of Seannie Cameras/One Vision Productions
Try pork belly meat, sandwiched between two glazed doughnut buns.
Enter the pork belly doughnut, which will debut this weekend at U Street Music Hall. Pork belly is common fare in many Asian cuisines, and its popularity in the U.S. is growing. And doughnuts, well, Homer Simpson, stereotypical cops, Krispy Kreme – need I say more? These two treats were brought together by Toki Underground chef Erik Bruner-Yang, the same man behind the pho dog. U Street Music Hall owner Jesse Tittsworth recalls on his blog what he thought when Bruner-Yang first presented him with the pork belly doughnut:
“I already know this sounds like the most bizarre combination on the face of the planet, but I’m fairly certain I fell in love at first glance…. The pork was deliciously fatty, perfectly seasoned, tender and the saltiness was beyond amicable with the sweet, crisp outer shell of the grilled [doughnut].”
Alright D.C., the challenge is on: can you think of a more unusual, yet delicious, fusion than the pork belly doughnut? Let us know!