What is Fusion Cuisine?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Fusion cuisine blends the culinary traditions of two or more nations to create innovative and sometimes quite interesting dishes. It tends to be more common in culturally diverse and metropolitan areas, where there is a wider audience for such food. Some common examples include Pacific Rim cuisine and Tex-Mex food. Critics of the practice sometimes call it “confusion cuisine,” arguing that chefs rely on novelty to carry the food, rather than flavor, texture, and presentation.

Barbecued chicken pizza exemplifies a fusion of Italian and American Southwest cuisines.
Barbecued chicken pizza exemplifies a fusion of Italian and American Southwest cuisines.

The roots of fusion cuisine are probably ancient, since humans have been exchanging culinary heritage for centuries, but the concept became popularized in the 1970s. Several French chefs began to offer foods that combined traditional French food with Asian cuisine, especially foods from Vietnam and China. The concept quickly spread to other major European cities, along with the American coasts.

A Tex-Mex dish.
A Tex-Mex dish.

Some of the most well known examples combine European and Asian foods. These cultures have wildly divergent culinary traditions, and combining the centuries of cooking tradition of both continents can sometimes result in astonishing dishes. Vietnamese spring rolls might be found on the menu of a French restaurant, while a wasabi reduction sauce might be used on a pot roast. Sometimes these experiments are wildly successful, while in other cases they are less delightful.

In fusion cuisine, a French restaurant might offer Vietnamese spring rolls.
In fusion cuisine, a French restaurant might offer Vietnamese spring rolls.

Other cooks focus on simply combining the culinary traditions of two or more Asian nations. This type of cuisine was probably also inspired by natural occurrences, as people from different countries exchanged recipes and ideas. Pan-Asian fusion cuisine tends to be less difficult to pull off well, since many Asian countries share common threads in terms of ingredients and seasonings.

Chefs who specialize in creating fusion cuisine need to consider which combinations will be appealing to diners.
Chefs who specialize in creating fusion cuisine need to consider which combinations will be appealing to diners.

Good fusion cuisine combines ingredients and cooking techniques from several cultures in a way which pulls together well, creating a seamless and fresh dish. Confusion cuisine, on the other hand, throws ingredients together like confetti, and sometimes causes an inevitable clash. Cooks who want to experiment should research their ingredients carefully and think about how flavor and textures will combine for the diners. While novelty is certainly commendable, restraint is also important, especially for people who are just beginning to explore the culinary traditions of other places.

Fusion cuisine may add thick or sweet sauces to traditional Asian dishes.
Fusion cuisine may add thick or sweet sauces to traditional Asian dishes.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon106691

i believe as a young culinary student that fusion will be the future of the culinary world. because of the melting pot that is the us of a, it is not weird to see other country's fusing with the American cuisine so that Americans can easy there way in to new flavors and texture as well as new ingredients.

astor

@anon76126 - I lived in London for awhile and I noticed that there was definitely a presence of certain kinds of fusion cuisine. Indian food has become a household item there it seems, and I can't tell you how many times I enjoyed delicious curry fries and other odd combinations. While this particular mixture doesn't really qualify as "high" fusion cuisine, it was still a pretty interesting fusion of different flavors. Perhaps the UK will develop its own unique styles of fusion cuisine in coming years.

GrassyKnoll

I've noticed a high potential for fusion cuisine to clash. When it is done well however, fusion cuisine truly can be excellent and innovative. I went to this place in San Francisco that combined Vietnamese and Cuban food. The dishes were quite simply amazing. The tropical aspects of Cuban cuisine mixed surprisingly seamlessly with noodle-based dishes of Vietnamese food and made for a wonderful dining experience.

anon76126

Why hasn't fusion cuisine taken off in the UK? It's interesting how the whole concept of fusion cuisine was created back in the 1970s. Never knew about that good stuff! -- Cuz

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