COVID-19 Lock Down Cooking Fun: Cross-Culture Mash-ups

I got this idea after reading a Toronto Star column spotlighting the winners of a ‘COVID-19 Home Cooking Creations’ recipe challenge. It all started with an Italian-Indian crossover that resulted in an Asian-themed Ravioli – featuring golden, Curry-flavoured Pasta wrappers!

French Onion Soup - © Safeway.com

Classic French Onion Soup: Imagine it with the traditional Spices and
flavours of a Hot and Sour, Wanton or even Egg-Drop Soup…

My little grey cells started doing a Tango when I read about that one, and I knew I had to start clicking around for more cross-cultural recipe inspirations. I didn’t have to look far…

Start by imaging combos that shouldn’t work…

In the same Star feature I found an interesting Baked Apple recipe that owed its contest victory to an innovation I heartily approve of: Substitute Trail Mix for the usual gooey stuffing. That’s an absolutely brilliant shortcut for making this old school Western Dessert – and the cook who created it admitted she had used Trail Mix because she didn’t have all the ingredients her traditional recipe called for.

Then I saw a chance to really change it up: Substitute sweet Asian Flavours for traditional Western ones. How about substituting a traditional Gulab Jamun (‘Indian Doughnuts’) Syrup for the usual Sugar Syrup? How about whipping up a batch of the same iconic Cardamon and Rosewater Syrup for your next Pancake breakfast? You can extract the superbly simple recipe for the syrup from any Gulab Jamun recipe you care to Google up…

Then, into my mind jumped the notion that one of my favourite spicy Southeast Asian flavours – Satay Sauce – could be substituted into any number of Western dishes to ratchet them up one or more notches. How about Satay Scalloped Potatoes (with lots of Slivered Onions!)? How about Satay Tuna and Noodles? Just add Satay Spices to a traditional Béchamel (White) Sauce, and top the casserole with Chopped Fresh Cilantro just before serving.

How would they make French Onion Soup in …?

Italians might add a punch of Red Chili Flakes and substitute the traditional Cheese-smothered Baguette with Tortellini or Cheesy Gnocchi.

A Tex-Mex version might contain Chopped Fresh Jalapeños and Black Beans, with simple Nachos on the side (Corn Chips topped with Melted Jack Cheese and Chopped Cilantro).

A Chinese style ‘French’ Onion Soup might employ the traditional Spices and flavourings of a Hot and Sour, Wanton or even Egg-Drop soup, topped with Crispy Vermacelli Noodles and Chopped Scallions.

Sloppy Giuseppis!

How easy would it be to cook up a mess of classic Tex-Mex Chili, but with Italian Spices and Chick Peas instead of Chilis and Beans? Garnished with Shredded Mozzarella, Grated Parmesan and Chopped Basil?

How about serving it in a Hamburger Bun or a Kaiser: Bingo! Sloppy Giuseppis!

Harken back to our Satay Sauce, and imagine a Turkey Chili with Lentils. You could substitute Cocktail Shrimp or Chicken Chunks (or scrambled Ground Chicken or Turkey) for the Beef.

No! Really? Global Poutines?

I can think of at least half a dozen major non-North-American cuisines that could be tapped to concoct some really great ‘alternate’ versions of Poutine. For example, use Marinara instead of Gravy and cubed Mozzarella instead of Cheddar Curds.

They love Potatoes in India! How about a Curry Sauce Version topped with Fried Paneer Cheese?

Use Enchilada Sauce with Shredded Cheddar or Jack Cheese on top, and garnish with Chopped fresh Jalapeños?

I think you can now see clearly where we’re going with this cross-cultural mash-up concept!

Last words…

The foregoing are just my own ideas about how to get a start on mixing and matching usually incompatible regional cuisines. I’ll bet that, the more you think about it, the more great ideas you’ll get for changing up your lock down menus!

~ Maggie J.

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