In some restaurants and cookbooks, there is a feeling that any ingredient goes with any other ingredient. That is definitely not the case. Fusion cooking introduces lots of room for error and can often result in culinary disasters.
In order to guide you when cooking, I suggest following this rule: ‘what grows together goes together’.
For example, Italian food relies heavily on ingredients such as olives, olive oil, tomatoes and anchovies. As such, these ingredients often complement each other beautifully and produce deliciously simply dishes. If one were to add a common Eastern ingredient like lemongrass to a traditional Italian dish, it would taste awful as the flavours simply do not blend and they are far from being natural partners.
Another example is a stir fry, traditionally an Asian dish. If one were to add olives or balsamic vinegar to it, it’s not likely to work as they add unwanted acidic flavours. Instead, it’s best to stick to soy sauce and sesame oil, ingredients best associated with the region.
This doesn’t mean that fusion is impossible. Peter Gordon and Anna Hansen are two great examples of fusion maestros, having taken ingredients like pomegranate molasses beyond the realms of Middle Eastern cuisines. However, they are few and far between!
If one looks at great chefs who have stood the test of time and what they cook, you are likely to find that they stick to the cuisine that they know best. They use local and seasonal ingredients that are treated with respect and cooked well. The result is delicious food with enduring recipes.
These ideas applies equally to home cooking. We find it’s best to master the basics and cook a few dishes well, rather than trying to wildly experiment. You will find that the food that you turn out will be delicious, reliable and enjoyed by all.