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.
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.
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.
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.
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.