There are few food words that hold a worse connotation than Asian Fusion. Asian fusion evokes images of diners lounging on Chinoiserie red banquettes, while nibbling on Chinese chicken salads and desserts artfully garnished with chocolate sauce drawings. But maybe it’s time to put this prejudice behind us because a new tide of Asian Fusion cuisine seems to be upon us and frankly, it’s exciting. Case in point: Los Angeles’ famed Kogi Bbq Trucks. In fact, you might say that chef Roy Choi and his Kogi Bbq trucks are largely responsible for this Asian fusion 2.0, particularly the mash-up of Latin and Asian cooking by way of Korean tacos.
Their Korean tacos have launched hundreds of imitators across the country, including the Kimchi Taco Trucks and Korilla BBQ trucks on the other side of the country. Kimchi Taco hit New York’s city streets just a few months ago and often draw block-long lines at lunchtime. Foodies stalk their twitter feed to locate where they can get their fix of kim-cheesesteak (pictured below) and kimchi arancini (fried rice balls stuffed with cheese, kimchi pickling juice and red pepper paste). Korilla BBQ Truck (pronounced Koreeya) roams the city streets, dishing out bulgogi tacos and the “B.K.F.R. Burrito” a bacon, kimchi and fried rice monster-bundle, wrapped in a flour tortilla.
Riding high on his success on Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars, Angelo Sosa recently debuted his unique version of Asian fusion at midtown’s Social Eatz. The successor to his highly regarded, but shuttered too soon sandwich shop, Xie Xie, Social Eatz offers ramped-up versions of both American and Asian classics, like the burger and bibimbap. He combines the two dishes into one bibimbap-topped burger, which reveals itself as a juicy, crunchy, salty, and refreshing explosion of flavors and textures. The menu also features a bulgogi burger (pictured above), with a beautifully charred patty, layered with cucumber kimchee and spicy mayo, served a soft bun. The buckwheat noodle salad with ponzu sauce comes with an unusual “candied wasabi” and the yuzu cream puffs are really cream puffs in name only. Really, they’re one-of-a-kind doughnut holes, fried and stuffed with a punchy yuzu cream.
With hamburgers and tacos getting the fusion treatment, hot dogs aren’t left far behind. Asiadog has a mobile truck as well as a brick-and-mortar shop on the Lower East Side, where they inject an Asian touch into the classic American frank. The hot dogs here come in beef, veggie, and chicken varieties with loads of topping combinations. Order the “Vinh” and you get a banh mi-style dog topped with pate, aioli and pickled vegetables. The “Ginny” is crowned with kimchi and nori flakes. For a true spin on an American flavor gone wild, try the “Mash “with both sweet and spicy ketchup, jalapeno mustard and crushed potato chips crunchy, spicy, sweet and savory all on one bun.
While Asian fusion has yet to move to the upper echelons of the food chain, it’s heading there as chefs find inspired and innovative ways to fuse the two food worlds. And kimchi, which was once an obscure Korean dish only available in Korean delis and restaurants, has now become a prominent item on non-Korean menus and gourmet groceries. Likwise, yuzu is becoming more mainstream, surfacing in cocktails and inventive dishes around the city. We just hope this new brand of Asian fusion sticks around for a while.
RG Writer: Lauren Bloomberg