Thirty years ago, no one had ever heard of fusion cuisine—Peking duck never made it in a quesadilla and California rolls didn’t dominate the appetizer plate at every party.
‘Foreign’ ingredients such as soy sauce and ginger began to infiltrate the kitchens of North Americans only after chefs like Wolfgang Puck started mixing up flavours and traditions for delicious results. Puck started the trend by putting smoked salmon and caviar on pizzas at his L.A. restaurant Spago and then opened what is considered to be the first modern fusion restaurant, Chinios, in 1983. He fused the bold flavours of California’s Asian immigrants with his French technique and outstanding local products. Alas, Asian fusion was born.
It was the start of a worldwide Asian fusion trend that was feverishly adopted. Creating the best fusion food is more than just taking two cuisines and mashing them together. It’s a thoughtful approach that honours the best of both cuisines and creates a balance of flavours and textures. In the hands of amateurs trying to make money on a fad, fusion cuisine can become confusion cuisine.
Susur Lee, famed Asian fusion chef with restaurants in Toronto, New York and Washington, creates his signature dish—Sinagpore Slaw—with an imposing 19 ingredients, including salted apricot (ume) paste and fried taro. The Asian slaw recipe we’ve created for this issue is much less daunting, but is still a balance of sweet, salty and tangy. It can be served either with a meal of Asian-influenced food or a straight-up with barbecue meats.
Asian Spicy Slaw
After having this bright and slightly spicy slaw, traditional mayonnaise-laden coleslaw may be banished forever. It would also be delicious topped with shredded roast chicken for a simple one-dish meal. You can make the dressing and combine the spicy slaw ingredients well ahead of time, but if you want to keep the crunch of the Napa cabbage—which we think really adds a lot—don’t combine the two until just before serving.
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp grated lime rind
- 1/4 tsp Asian chili sauce
- 8 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (about 1 head)
- 1 cup julienned carrots
- 1 cup thinly sliced red pepper
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced green onion Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped coriander leaves
- 1/2 cup chopped roasted, salted peanuts
- Shredded or sliced roast chicken (optional)
- Combine dressing ingredients in a bowl and whisk to blend. Reserve.
- Combine cabbage, carrots, red pepper and green onion in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss to coat vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with coriander and peanuts just before serving and top with chicken, if using.