What Kind of Cultural Mash-Up Eater Are You?

June 7, 2011

   Photo courtesy of Buniqa

Chew on this: chicken nuggets dipped in adobo sauce; sriracha spaghetti stir fry; jalapeño popper sushi. These are just a few of the foods we discovered when we asked Hyphen’s Facebook community to share their favorite Asian American mash-up recipes.

Which got us thinking about all of the ways and reasons why people create, celebrate, or simply stay fueled on Asian American mash-up foods.

Aided by extensive research and the best psychological tests available (translation: years of observing our friends and cousins, and taking a deep, long look at our own personal eating habits), we present to you a taxonomy of the most common types of Mash-Up Eaters. So what genus do you belong to? 

The Survival Gourmet

  • At home, you eat Asian food with a fork, though you find it more convenient to eat salad with chopsticks.
  • You’ve been dutifully switching over to the brown variety, but in your heart you know nothing compares to a plain ol' bowl of white rice.
  • You believe sriracha goes good on anything, seriously anything. Same goes for furikake seaweed flakes.
  • You’ll spend an hour cooking a meal, then wolf it down while standing over the sink.
  • The first time you ate a McDonald’s cheeseburger you thought it could do with some lettuce and soy sauce. After all, where's the crunch?
  • You’ve actually tried cooking recipes from the back of Campbell Soup cans, but figure out the dish would be tastier with some added bean sprouts or edamame.
  • A go-to meal is ramen with lunchmeat.
  • You’ve ordered a banh mi with cheese, and found it wasn’t so bad.

The Compulsive Non-Waster

Your parents taught you well, thus you’ve inherited the “waste not, want not” mentality. At restaurants, you clean everyone's plate merely out of principle, and cherish the gift of other people's leftovers. Nothing pains you more than to see your roommate toss out the carcass of a supermarket rotisserie chicken. You could’ve made some bomb-ass soup from those bones.

You’re known for compulsively opening the fridge to see what can be turned into fried rice. The half-eaten burrito and extra salsa from last night’s 2 a.m. feed? The pork chop, brussles sprouts and fingerling potatoes from earlier this week? Perfect. Your wok is always at the ready to turn those questionably fresh foods into something new and exciting. Just add any Asian brown sauce and voila! You’ve got dinner reincarnate, with enough leftover to take to work for lunch tomorrow. Questionable textures or flavor combos never faze the re-inventor in you, as long as money is saved and not one grain of rice wasted. In your religion, “leftovers begat leftovers.”

The Switcher-Outer

You don’t always plan ahead, but you’re a creative cooking type. To you, cooking is like solving a puzzle, or a DIY art project challenge. Out of necessity, you know how to substitute ingredients and make-do with what you’ve got in the pantry. Who really needs hoisin when barbeque sauce adds such a nice twang? You may be out of penne and bowties, but rice noodle shells are a more than sufficient base for your homemade bolognese sauce, which has carrots, peas and corn in it -- and an egg on top. 

You also like to update the Asian classics with healthier alternatives, like roasting instead of deep frying the eggplant, or opting to boil the wonton. One Hyphen fan suggested subbing in tofu for paneer to make saag tofu, while another subs it out to make mapo chickpeas. You even swap out your oven -- and are only slightly ashamed of the disturbing amount of raw food you cook in the microwave (veggies, eggs, fish), because to you the convenience and health benefits (less oil, more radiation) make it worth the while.

The Consummate Sharer

For you, variety is the true spice of life. When eating out, not matter what type of restaurant, you enforce family-style sharing and ensure the dishes ordered contain a balanced diversity of meats, just like any good Chinese banquet should. Yes, tapas are meant to be shared (chicken parm can be, too), how dare your fellow diners suggest otherwise! You'll never take the last piece of food on the platter even if you really want it (leave it to the Compulsive Non-Waster to pick it up, and relieve everyone from that collective stress). You believe flavors are always better when contrasted against others; you are completely baffled by non-mixing eaters who approach one element of the meal at a time.

When you cook, you encourage your roommates to eat your food both to affirm your own cooking talents, but also to bind them into an unspoken social contract which entitles you to eat the interesting things they cook, too.

At weddings, faced with a tough choice of beef or salmon, you're able to convince your table neighbor to team up, get one of each, and go splitzkies half-for-half. Maybe even find a third if there's a vegetarian option. Ultimately, your eating style is rooted in your deep-seated fear of missing out on life -- especially on something extra tasty.

The Sacrilege Chef

No recipe is sacred; you are the most extreme of mash-up cooks. Your mission in life is to create food that subverts traditions and expectations on the taste buds. Your mother shrieks in dismay as you pour garlic aioli over roast duck, and bake sweet taro in your apple pie (following McDonald’s example in China). With wicked glee and a flair for taste surprises, you wrap barbeque pork into tamales and carnitas into sushi hand rolls. You steal secret family recipes from ex-boyfriends and girlfriends, and then improve on them.

You’ll only eat ice cream and cupcakes with flavors like miso pear, mango ginger, or red bean chocolate. You put kimchi on grilled cheese not just because it tastes better, but because you can. You’re a visionary in the kitchen, a food mixologist, and an innovator of flavor. That American melting pot everyone talks about? It actually sits on the back burner of your stove -- you eat from it every day, and it's frickin' delicious.

Nicole Wong is a contributing editor at Hyphen, and a Compulsive Non-Waster.



Nicole Wong

Senior Editor

Nicole Wong is a senior editor for Hyphen living in San Francisco. By day, she's a media engagement strategist at Active Voice, tackling social issues through the creative use of film.



What a talent .... get her on the big newspapers
I have tried dumplings smothered in spaghetti sauce with left-over pasta! Voila fusion!