Choose Authentic: The Case Against the “Fusion Food” Scam

These days, fusion food is all the rage. If you’re a so called “foodie” and are into your local food scene, you’ll know that fusion is often talked up as some ‘bold’ experiment from an ‘innovative’ chef looking to mix the best of both worlds. Do you love Korean food? How about Mexican food? Well, hang on to your dinner plates everyone because this Kor-Mex fusion will BLOW YOUR MIND. At least, that’s what they’d like you to think. The reality is very different. Is this even sushi anymore?

Fusion Food
“Miya’s Sushi: …an Americana sushi roll” by Mickeycomix is licensed by CC BY-SA 3.0

Before I continue on why I despise fusion food, we need to define what makes food “authentic.” “Authentic” food is synonymous with “traditional” food, or foods and dishes developed by certain countries, regions and/or ethnicities over many generations. In layman terms, it’s what your grandma would make. Despite claims to the contrary, authentic food is actually quite rare outside of their home countries or a foreign diaspora (think Mexican food in LA). The reason is very simple, different people like different flavors and while one or two may enjoy authentic Thai food for example, most non-Thai people will not be willing to make it a part of their regular food rotation on a consistent basis. It is just not a profitable business. I’ve seen this over and over in Korea with authentic Mexican restaurants (RIP Taco K) that go under because they just don’t hit the right audience, despite doing everything right.

Here are some authentic Central Mexican chilaquiles.

So what’s my problem with fusion food? Well, for starters, it is false advertisement. It is not bold nor innovative as its goal isn’t to be different. It’s main goal is to NOT offend. Fusion food takes the least imaginative and most recognizable foods of both cuisines and tries to smash them together regardless of whether they even go well together. Kor-Mex isn’t going to mix authentic Kamjatang soup with chamorro de res meat (man that sounds good). Nope, tacos and bulgogi is what you get. Thai-Kor isn’t going to be some green curry with, say, seollangtang meat. Nope, you’re getting pad thai and probably kimchi. Nay, definitely kimchi.

Korean Food - Kimchi Dumplings
Kimchi is awesome in dumplings, but keep it away from my tacos.

I know what you’re thinking, “Fusion food sucks and authentic food is bad for business, thanks for bumming me out Travel World Heritage!” Wait, don’t leave yet! I had a point, I swear. For these reasons, I wanted to encourage everyone that when you travel, choose authentic. I guess if that was my point, I should have put it in the title huh? In any case, when you go on a trip, make it a goal to “eat where the locals eat” in a matter of speaking. In the past, this was easier said than done because the moment you put a restaurant on the map through a publication like the Lonely Planet, it goes to crap. So how exactly do you find authentic food?

Guide Books – Where authentic food goes to die.

One trick I’ve tried is to scour the internet for local blogs. This blog, for example, I would hope is your go to for Korean travel. I mean, I have been here almost a decade after all. However, since food is what we are talking about, look no further than Zenkimchi’s Food blog. Another trick is to make local friends while you’re visiting and ask them to take you where THEY would eat. This can be a bit hard, but rewarding.  One less difficult option is a food tour. A Rome food tour for example could show you Rome’s food scene beyond the pizza on the corner you totally found while wandering around. Whatever your method may be, just remember one thing. Say “no” to fusion and say “yes please” to authentic food.


Bonus: Here are some authentic foods to look for in Korea!

Korean Food – The 30 Absolute BEST Dishes

Korean Food – The 30 Absolute BEST Dishes

Growing up in Los Angeles, Korean BBQ was somewhat of a staple. Beyond that, I didn’t have much knowledge of what Korean food had to offer until I moved here. Nearly six years later, I’ve become so obsessed with the cuisine that I really can’t go more than two weeks without one of these amazing meals or snacks. This is the ultimate countdown to the 30 best Korean dishes, so prepare yourself as it’s about to get yummy!

Read more

5 More Awesome Korean Food Main Dishes you MUST try pt.3

5 More Awesome Korean Food Main Dishes you MUST try pt.3

This list is OUTDATED! I’ve combined all Korean Food lists into this single post.

Korean food is just amazing, so it should be no surprise that we have reached a third Korean main dish list (list 1, list 2). With so many flavorful choices, don’t be surprised if this series reaches a pt. 25. Having lived in Korea for nearly four years, I have grown an intense fondness to the delightful choices  available to satisfy my palate.

Korean food is great, Korean food is yummy, yata yata yata… let’s get this ball rolling shall we?

5) Bibimbap / 비빔밥 / Mixed Rice

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5 More Fantastic Korean Street Foods and Side Dishes pt.2

5 More Fantastic Korean Street Foods and Side Dishes pt.2

This list is OUTDATED! I’ve combined all Korean Food lists into this single post.

It is hard to stress how amazing Korean food is. While I had some experience with it prior to visiting Korea, in reality, unless you live in a Koreatown, you can barely scratch the surface of what Korean food has to offer. This is my second post on Korean street foods and side dishes in an effort to convince you to visit South Korea not by appealing to your sense of adventure, but to your sense of taste. Make sure to also check out my South Korea Travel Guide for more SK information.

I love Korean food so much, that for this post, I will try a different approach. Instead of posting pictures, each item has a Youtube video of someone making the Korean street food or side dish.

1) Stir Fried Clear Noodles / Japchae / 잡채

Japchae is a thin, clear noodle side dish with mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and beef. What is special about this dish is Read more

5 More Awesome Korean Foods (Main Dishes) pt.2

5 More Awesome Korean Foods (Main Dishes) pt.2

This list is OUTDATED! I’ve combined all Korean Food lists into this single post.

Who doesn’t like food? One of the things I look forward to the most while traveling, besides visiting UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is the wonderful array of things I can eat in other countries. Korean food does not disappoint with a wide variety of dishes at very affordable prices [mostly]. If you missed my list of top 5 favorite Korean foods, main dishes and snacks/street foods, go here and here (respectively). Here are another 5 dishes to fill up your stomachs.

In no particular order:

1) Pork Belly (bacon) / Samgyeopsal / 삼겹살

Korean Food - Samgyeopsal
Credit: Wikimedia.org

Samgyeopsal is one of the most Read more