A dozen essential flavorings from the mysterious East that Western chefs have made their own
It's a world-class culinary merger: East and West, ancient and innovative. Dubbed Fusion, or Cal-Asia, or Pacific Rim, it's the trendiest cuisine on the restaurant scene, with freewheeling chefs giving it a spin of their own. The results: bold, vibrant dishes born of Eastern ingredients and Western styling.
For such a hot new trend, the Pacific Rim blend has an ingrained heritage.
As long as Westerners have been traveling to the East ― and Asian immigrants have been coming to the West ― the two culinary worlds have mingled here. By the 1930s, chow mein was a popular West Coast standard, and it was among the first recipes Sunset published. Since then, once-exotic dishes such as sushi, pad Thai, Vietnamese pho, and ginger crab have become familiar favorites. Flavorings like soy sauce have been converted to household staples.
By now we're being seduced by an extensive new spectrum of seasonings that are increasingly available. The selection in Asian markets ― Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese ― and even in well-stocked supermarkets is bewildering.
Which of these seasoning ingredients belong in your pantry? And which adapt best to contemporary cross-cultural cooking?
We posed these questions to more than a dozen notable chefs who are shaping the personality of Pacific Rim dishes, including European-trained Wolfgang Puck (Spago in Beverly Hills and Chinois in Santa Monica), Rick Yoder (Wild Ginger in Seattle), and Roy Yamaguchi (Roy's Restaurant in Honolulu).