Food has been my go-to channel for understanding the world: its cultures, its beliefs, and values. As with many young people growing up in Asia, with the age-old mindset that the grass is always greener on the other side, I began my culinary journey believing that European or Western cuisine is, in general, superior to our Asian counterpart. Perhaps it is the large amount of media that I watched when growing up that romanticises them (Jamie Oliver- the Naked Chef, was an inspiration!) or perhaps it is the effect of growing up in a country where her culture and cuisine are in its infancy that we look down on our own and envy the centuries-old Western culture and food.
Therefore, the first few recipes that I seek to replicate are mostly European classics. However, as I began exploring more cuisines through travels and research, instead of differences, I keep finding similarities across cuisines.
"What cuisine do you normally cook?"
Ever since I ventured into the private chef business and share with those whom I met, the first question I would often get would be "What cuisine do you normally cook?" Interestingly enough, it's a question that I find difficulty in answering. While most of our signature dishes are of European origin, it is by no means the only cuisines that we cook. It is just simply because I had a headstart in European cuisine and hence, these dishes are the ones replicated and perfected earlier. So in this blog post, I hope to define and share with you my cuisine statement.
a style or method of cooking, especially as characteristic of a particular country, region, or establishment.
First of all, what is a cuisine? A quick google search defines cuisine as a style or method of cooking, especially as characteristic of a particular country, region, or establishment. It is a complex derivative of culture, history, the way of living, values and most importantly, in my opinion, ingredients available to the society at a given period of time.
Spanish cuisine would never have been the same without the Moorish occupation. In less than 100 years of occupation, the Moors brought rice, saffron, and even almonds into Spain and forever transformed its cuisine. The quintessential Spanish dish, Paella, would be simply impossible without this new influx of ingredients available to them. Likewise, Southern cuisine would not have evolved the way it did without the slave trade which brought their spices and rice from western Africa over to the States. Without these new ingredients, Shrimp Gumbo would not have existed. Recently, I watched an episode of Ugly Delicious where Vietnamese immigrants in the states, with their new found arsenal of new ingredients, fused Vietnamese ingredients together with readily available cajun ingredients to form a new cuisine- Viet-Cajun.
Cuisine is not static.
Therefore, at any time in history, cuisine is not static. It is constantly evolving with the new ingredients available to chefs as they find creative and delicious ways to make sense of their newfound paint colours in their canvas. To me, what immediately defines a cuisine is inherently the typical ingredients that are being used together and not so much of the style of cooking: Think 5 spice blend of fennel, star anise, cloves, cinnamon and Szechuan peppers that instantly remind you of Chinese cuisine; wasabi, soy sauce and seaweed to Japanese cuisine; and lime, lemongrass and coconut milk to Thai cuisine.
One may argue that cooking style/technique also defines a cuisine. But I believe it does not define the cuisine as much as ingredients do. Cooking style and techniques are fundamentally rooted in science which is universal. You can find evidence of similar cooking styles being used across the world which differs only from the ingredients used. Here are some examples:
Dumplings, filling stuffed into some kind of dough shell.
- Wanton (Chinese)
- Tortellini/Ravioli (Italian)
- Pierogi (Polish)
- Roti (Indian)
- Jian Bing (Chinese)
- Corn (Masa) Tortillas (Mexican)
Meat on sticks
- Kebabs (Turkish)
- Yakitori (Japanese)
- Satay (Malaysian)
If you can think of any more combinations, feel free to leave it in the comments below. :)
Hence, my main argument: what defines a cuisine is mainly due to the ingredients available to you today. In today's globalised world, especially in Singapore, almost all ingredients from around the world are available to us; and hidden in million of ingredients of the world lie secret connections that have yet to be discovered.
Hidden in the million of ingredients lies secret connections that have yet to be discovered.
So what is The Mixtape Chef's cuisine? Our cuisine is Global Classics. It is my mission to unravel ingredient connections that will be tasty when substituted or added to classic recipes. We began our journey replicating classics as authentically as we could, our next adventure will be to define these classics in a global context.
Our Cuisine is Global Classics - The Mixtape Chef
Hope you enjoyed this blog post. If you did, please feel free to share with your friends, follow our social media pages and if you are feeling hungry, come over for a meal at The Mixtape Chef for our Global Classic cuisine.