International Mash-ups: Fusion or Imperialism?


globeOn my stove bubbling away are a pot of spaghetti sauce and some pork simmering in a chile sauce. A little Italian, a little Mexican–all filtered through my white American palate and understanding of food. You see it all of the time–fusion food can either be amazing, like Korean tacos, or abysmal.  As I was scrolling through some food blogs this evening, I came across this: Aussie Burger: Portuguese Style. The beets and pineapple make it Australian (kinda weird, Aussies…), but Portuguese?  Sambal oelek is definitely not Portuguese. It’s Indonesian, according to the all knowing Wikipedia. It gets more interesting:


“Oelek is a Dutch spelling which in modern Indonesian spelling has become simply ulek; both have the same pronunciation. Ulek is Indonesian special stoneware derived from common village basalt stone kitchenware still ubiquitous in kitchens, particularly in Java. The Ulekan is a mortar shaped like a hybrid of a dinner and soup-plate with an old, cured bambooroot or stone pestle (ulek-ulek) employed in an ulek manner: a crushing and twisting motion (like using a screwdriver) for crushing lime leaves, chilies, peppers, shallots, peanuts, and other kinds of ingredients.”

So somehow the Dutch are involved?

I read Coconut and Lime’s explanation of how their burger is Portuguese, and it’s because the Portuguese don’t serve their burgers with buns.  The fried egg makes an appearance because that was a common adornment to Portuguese burgers.

A simple dish–ground beef and some condiments–made by an American, takes a trip to Australia via Portugal,  and then Denmark and Indonesia show up to the party.  (I haven’t even brought up the fact that a hamburger is from…where? Germany? I know its origins are contested…)

Is this common around the world? I mean, obviously, colonialism has shaped food around the world, which is why Vietnam’s cuisine is heavily French influenced.

I’d love some feedback. What are your experiences with fusion food? Culinary colonialism? Just throwing stuff together because it tastes good?

***Disclaimer: This is in no way a critique of Coconut and Lime’s food or blog. Their recipe just got me thinking. I love their blog and recipes–so please spend time on their site and enjoy!


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