Let’s Discuss the State of ‘Asian Fusion’ Just One More Time

Namu's gamja fries.
Namu’s gamja fries. Photo: Jen Siska/SF Weekly

Writing on Gilt Taste, local scribe John Birdsall (also of the East Bay Express) just dashed off a thousand words on the current state of that trend formerly known as Asian fusion which he’s now dubbing “The Next Generation of ‘Asian Fusion.’” The trouble is, we kind of think that term needs to die. Michael Bauer seemed oblivious to the new fusions Birdsall is talking about here (like Namu, Hapa Ramen, and Mission Chinese Food) when he wrote this blog post last year asking “what happened to fusion cuisine?”, though to be fair the latter two were brand new or not quite born. Kauffman quickly retorted, “We’re just not calling it ‘fusion’ because most of the chefs who cook it aren’t white,” noting Namu, Ame, and Hibiscus as examples.

Birdsall implies the same thing without explicitly saying it, and quotes Thy Tran of the Asian Culinary Forum saying, “You have chefs who are Asian American, born and raised here, and ate their parents’ food at home, but also ate lots of other Asian and non-Asian foods.” Furthermore, it’s not just white chefs playing around with lemongrass and wasabi anymore. “We’re now seeing food on menus with some context,” says Tran, meaning these Asian chefs are mashing cuisines up in slightly smarter, more organic ways.

Also, we would argue, that when chefs like Daniel Patterson or Joshua Skenes decide to throw a whiff of a so-called Asian ingredient into their food (which, granted, they wouldn’t often do) no one is going to call it “fusion” anymore because it isn’t — it’s just a chef using a by-now pretty well known ingredient.

We get the point Birdsall is making but we still wish we had another term to employ, given how many sharks got jumped during the rise and fall of Asian fusion as we knew it. New Asian, anyone?

The Next Generation of “Asian Fusion”
[Gilt Taste]
Related: Can Chefs Create Their Own Authenticity?
Kauffman to Bauer: ‘Fusion Was for White Guys’

Let’s Discuss the State of ‘Asian Fusion’ Just One More Time