Of Fusion Cuisine and Fusion Babies
Going by this definition, just about everything we cook or eat is fusion cuisine. Noodles came from China (yes, they did!), so technically, spaghetti is a fusion dish. The Seattle dining scene is heavily influenced by the Pacific Rim, and even if no one bats an eyelid at grassfed flank steak shellacked with Sriracha-hoisin glaze served with a side of parsnip puree, this dish screams fusion! And while it never occurred to me when I was growing up, I was raised on fusion food. Many traditional Singaporean favorites are an amalgamation of the cultures that simmer in that diverse melting pot of a society. As were the Indonesian dishes my mum put on the table day after day.
In the same way, you could say my son is a fusion baby: he was created through the union of two or more ethnic groups. I am Indonesian-Chinese and my husband, Pakistani-White American (forgive the generalization as my husband is adopted and unsure of his heritage).
So it’s not surprising he was the inspiration for this fusion dish I created for #LetsLunch, our monthly Twitter-inspired food bloggers potluck.
One weekday several months ago, I was exhausted after a whole day of Isaac-sitting and I didn’t really want to cook. I was fine eating leftovers but I didn’t think Isaac would appreciate the fiery Indian curry from several days ago so I rummaged around in the fridge and found leftover cooked pasta, frozen peas and tofu. Yay, I thought, my kid loves tofu and will eat it with anything. However, tofu and red sauce didn’t quite appeal so I decided to try an Asian-style pasta stirfry.
I cut the tofu into cubes and brushed them with oyster sauce before pan-frying them. Once they were done, I removed them from the pan then continued with the rest of the ingredients. When everything had been given a final toss in the pan, I was a little skeptical but once I tasted the dish, I was pleasantly surprised.
When I made the dish again, I wanted a crisper tofu so I tossed the cubes in olive oil and baked them. The result–light golden cubes with crusty edges that held up better in the pan. I also added some butter toward the end to give the dish richness and flavor, a tip I learned from a Vietnamese chef when I was gathering recipes for The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook. I thought, “why not?’ since Isaac’s pediatrician was always telling me to add olive oil and butter to his meals to fatten him up.
Tofu, pasta, and butter(!) may seem like an odd combo but this dish turned out very tasty and has been filed away in my “recipes to keep” folder. Plus, Isaac LOVES it! There we are, fusion cuisine for a fusion baby.
Our very own #LetsLunch-er Grace Hwang Lynch of HapaMama wrote a BlogHer article, highlighting that one in ten married couples have partners of different races. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, mixed-race marriages have increased by 28% in the past decade nationwide. Not surprisingly, more mixed-race (fusion!) babies are being born, according to this Washington Post article.
In the next century, perhaps fusion cuisine will be an obsolete term, humankind will be entirely mixed-race, and if Joss Whe
edon (sorry typo, thanks Mo!) is truly a soothsayer, we’ll all be space cowboys cursing in Cantonese on the frontier! (And if you didn’t get that “Firefly” reference, you really need to email me to fix that!)
Buttery Tofu, Pasta and Peas
This is an easy, no-fuss recipe perfect for a weeknight meal. You can bake the tofu the night before and refrigerate until needed, or utilize the baking time to cook the pasta and chop the garlic and onions. You’ll still have time to take a shower and feed the dogs! I like my tofu a little crisp but if you’re running short on time, pan-fry the tofu cubes for about 2 to 3 minutes on each side instead. You can also use store-bought fried tofu or baked tofu.
Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes active
Makes: 4 servings
14-ounce package firm or extra firm tofu, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 teaspoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon for cooking
8 ounces farfalle pasta, cooked according to package directions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
1-1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup frozen peas
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
In a large bowl, toss the tofu cubes with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and salt to taste. Spread them evenly in one layer on a baking sheet. Bake until golden and crispy along the edges, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
While the tofu is baking, cook the pasta according to package directions.
Once the tofu is done, swirl in the remaining oil into a large pot and heat over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Cook the garlic and onion until the onion turns translucent. Add the pasta, followed by the oyster sauce and soy sauce. Mix well to coat the pasta.
Add the frozen peas and the butter and toss until the peas are heated through and the butter has completely melted. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a glass of white wine or a sippy cup of milk (for you know who).
Don’t forget to check out the Let’s Lunchers’ creations below. And if you’d like to join Let’s Lunch, go to Twitter and post a message with the hashtag #LetsLunch.
Anastasia‘s Miso Salmon with Mango Salsa at In Foodie Fashion
Cathy‘s Bacon-Studded Polenta With Tomato Gravy at ShowFood Chef
Charissa‘s Gluten-Free Azuki Bean Bundt Cake at Zest Bakery
Cheryl‘s Goan Pork Curry Tacos at A Tiger in the Kitchen
Eleanor‘s Wok Picadillo at Wok Star
Ellise‘s Salty Lime Sablés (Margarita Cookies) at Cowgirl Chef
Emma‘s Kimchi Bulgogi Nachos at Dreaming of Pots And Pans
Felicia‘s Mexican-Lebanese Hummus at Burnt-Out Baker
Grace‘s Taiwanese Fried Chicken at HapaMama
Jill‘s Southern Pimento-Stuffed Knishes at Eating My Words
Joe‘s Grilled KimCheese Sandwich at Joe Yonan
Juliana‘s Fusion Chicken Casserole at Food, Fun & Life
Karen‘s Ukrainian-German Cabbage Rolls at GeoFooding
Leigh‘s Venezuelan-Italian Cachapas Con Queso at Leigh Nannini
Linda‘s Project Runway Pelau: Rice & Beans Trinidad-Style at Spicebox Travels
Linda‘s Edible Salad Totes at Free Range Cookies
Lisa‘s Sunday Night Jewish-Chinese Brisket at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Lucy‘s Coconut Rice Pudding with Mango at A Cook And Her Books
Maria‘s Spanish Shrimp with Bacon, Cheddar & Chive Grits at Maria’s Good Things
Nancie‘s Chili-Cheese Biscuits with Avocado Butter at Nancie McDermott
Patricia‘s Buttery Tofu, Pasta & Peas at The Asian Grandmother’s Cookbook
Patrick‘s Kimchi Jigae and British Mash at Patrick G. Lee
Rashda‘s Mango Cobbler at Hot Curries & Cold Beer
Renee‘s Asian-Spiced Quick Pickles at My Kitchen And I
Steff‘s Chicken Fried Steak at The Kitchen Trials
Vivian‘s Funky Fusion Linguini at Vivian Pei