Fusion cookery is great. It can make global eats accessible to novices, turning something initially unpalatable to timid taste buds into something irresistible. It can be a gateway to bigger and better things. Fusion can also suck. It can water down amazing foodways. When I moved to Dallas, I set out to find examples of the many unfused cuisines to which I'd previously become addicted or wanted to try. I discovered delectable Ethiopian eats and a bounty of other nourishing ethnic foods. Yet I also found a few unfortunate omissions. Below is a list of cuisines I'd like to see take root within Dallas city limits.
Uyghur Central Asia is a font of delectable, simple meals. But one of the cuisines from the region outshines the others, namely Uyghur. The Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim, Central Asian population. Most live in Xinjiang, China's northwest province, along the Silk Road. Uyghur food is heavy on the lamb and hand-pulled noodles called lagman, which comes in two forms: fried, closely resembling stir fry, or in a spicy soup. Kebabs, mostly lamb, are as popular in Uyghur cuisine as the handy food is in many Muslim majority countries. However, Uyghur kebabs skew toward the offal. Moty, dumplings the size of a human heart, are also a standard on the Uyghur menu. The one constant in a Uyghur meal is plov, or rice pilaf, featuring a variety of bony meats.
Indonesian Rijsttafel, the Dutch word for rice table, is a feast that showcases all that Indonesia has to offer the hungry, curious eater. Simply put, rijsttafel is an endless array of tapas-like dishes (though usually around 40) centered around various preparations of rice, such as fried rice or Indonesian yellow rice. Some popular dishes to accompany the rice include babi kecap (pork belly braised in sweet soy sauce), bebek betutu (duck roasted in banana leaves), spring rolls, satays and curries that range from sweet to asphyxiating.
Filipino The Philippine Islands are a site where many culinary traditions collided -- the best vittles come from such places. At first blush, Filipino cuisine could easily be mistaken for Spanish or some form of Latin American, but that's to be expected. The Philipines were once a terrority of the Spanish empire. Two exemplary foods are lechon (roast pork) and chorizo. But the Filipino pantry includes versions of soy and fish sauce (toyo and patis, respectively). The archipelago even has its own flora. Take the Flipino lime, kalamansi, for example. This cuisine should have caught on long ago.
Peruvian Two words, folks: Guinea pig. Seriously, though, Chris Meesey profiled Peruvian celebuchef Gaston Acurio for City of Ate earlier this year. Acurio made no bones about spreading the gospel of Peruvian food, a diverse cuisine, with elements of Japanese, Chinese and Italian cuisines, via his T'anta brand, specialty market akin to Dean & Deluca in New York. Acurio's planned (since 2008) Dallas T'anta shop has yet to be actualized. Enough with the pisco. How about some anticuchos (marinated, spicy beef hearts) or cuy (the aforementioned guinea pig)?
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Wherever American Airlines flies, so the colloquialism goes, there you will find Puerto Ricans. And, wouldn't you know it, American's hub is across the Metroplex. Why Puerto Ricans haven't jumped at the chance to open restaurants dedicated to all the tropical and completely unhealthy dishes from the Shining Star of the Caribbean is befuddling. There are suburban restaurants that have Puerto Rican dishes available. However their menus also offer items from countries across Latin America, such as Cuba. What is needed within the Dallas city limits is an authentic lechoneria. Dallas needs a place where whole pigs are roasted on spits, where chuchifritos, pastelillos, guienitos, fritters of all kind, and rice with green pigeon peas are plentiful.