News / USA

Melting Pot Cooks Up New American Cuisine

Street vendors experiment with fusion food

Kimchi fried rice
Kimchi fried rice

Multimedia

Audio
Deena Prichep

You can find street food carts In most major American cities, where vendors sell meals from mobile vehicles.

Many end up cooking the foods of their childhood - whether it's new immigrants selling their native cuisine or entrepreneurs dipping back into grandmother's recipes.

But throughout the United States, a new breed of food cart is emerging. These mobile restaurants sell fusion food, bringing together several different ethnic dishes and ingredients to create a new American cuisine - like a Korean taco.

“It’s wrapped in a corn tortilla, Mexican. We have a spicy pork, which is very Korean,” says Kamala Saxton, who owns Marination Mobile, a food truck in Seattle, Washington. “We have put our own homemade pickled jalapenos, which is Korean or Hawaiian. And so there are a number of different ethnicities in one serving of the spicy pork taco.”

The Korean taco might be a new taste for a lot of diners. But Saxton feels like it’s a natural combination, especially given where she comes from.

Korean tofu taco
Korean tofu taco

“I’m Korean, Hawaiian, Filipino and Spanish," she says. "And given that, you have someone in your family that knows how to cook one of those ethnic dishes.”

But fusion doesn’t just happen for vendors with Saxton’s diverse culinary background. Historian Jane Ziegelman, who writes about New York street food, says that even in places which don't have multi-ethnic families, street carts have always been a place where people come together and find out what their neighbors eat.

“You had Irish kids eating Jewish pickles. You had Italian immigrants eating Jewish potato pancakes," says Ziegelman. "You had all kinds of people drinking seltzer, which was, in fact a street food. So people were eating each others’ food all the time.”

This exchange fueled the evolution of the street food itself. According to Ziegelman, knishes, egg rolls and hot dogs all underwent the same American transformation.

Street food menu featuring Japanese hotdogs
Street food menu featuring Japanese hotdogs

“Foods brought over by immigrants grew in size," she says. "This is like something that happens to a lot of foods once they come to the United States. They get bigger and they get blander.”

They also get portable. Ziegelman notes that the hot dog moved from a plate to a bun and the bagel became a vehicle for an on-the-go meal of smoked salmon and cream cheese.

In Portland, Oregon, Megan Walhood fuses this American grab-and-go attitude with the food of her European family. She and her fiancée Jeremy Daniels own a truck called Viking Soul Food.

“The sort of foundation product we serve is lefse, this Norwegian potato flatbread, and I grew up eating that every year at Christmastime," says Walhood. "And then it was Jeremy who kind of had the idea to start using it like a tortilla or a crepe, and just stuffing it with all manner of different things.”

Viking Soul Food’s most popular lefse is the meatball wrap, a recipe which comes from Walhood’s grandmother. It’s topped with pickled cabbage and a sauce of melted Scandinavian cheese. This wrap variety would never be seen in Norway, but Daniels and Walhood believe it appeals to the tastes of people of all backgrounds.

Viking Soul Food's lefse wraps, made with Norwegian potato flatbread
Viking Soul Food's lefse wraps, made with Norwegian potato flatbread

“People see pork and beef meatballs," says  Daniels, "and then they see cheese sauce, and they don’t look anything further.”

Others agree that fusing the familiar with the exotic helps people approach cart food.

“There’s something very familiar to eating a taco," says Kamala Saxton of Marination Mobile. "If you’ve never had Korean food, or if you’ve never had Hawaiian food, fair bet that you have had a taco.”

As a historian, Ziegelman appreciates how food cart fusion has evolved. But for customers, it's how the food tastes that keeps them coming back for more.

“I have had a Korean taco. It’s really, really good," says Ziegelman. "It’s really interesting the way these foods, which never grew up together and have no particular reason to harmonize, harmonize in this really gorgeous way.”

And if you don’t fancy Korean tacos, you might want to give Marination Mobile's kimchi quesadilla a try.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More