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latin and southeast-asian  

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 
Chef Bayless,

whole family is a big fan and love your show on public access televisions here in chicago. haven't had a chance to visit the restaurant but looking forward to an opportunity soon...

one of the things I have noticed about latin cuisine and culture is that a lot of cooking, spicing, dishes, textures have a whole bunch of similarities with south-east asian cuisine (I am from India). I mean coming from back home, one of the foods that we most identify with - is latin food.

in your culinary adventures and research, have you found any link between them (they seem like long lost siblings that have grown apart but held to a lot of similarities). also, based on your background, any fusion ideas that might have originated in your restaurants or recipes.

Thanking you in advance.

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post #2 of 5
You're not the first to note the similarities between Souteast Asian and Mexican cooking. It's all owed to the Manila galleons. You see, Manila was the gathering place for goods from all over Asia. And those galleons were the primary facilitators for getting good from Asia to Europe. The goods travelled by sea to Acapulco, overland from Acapulco to Veracruz, then by sea to Europe--a long trip, but the only viable one for almost three centuries. During that time, there was a lot of cultural and culinary interchange between the those two parts of the world. Chiles and tomatoes were two prominent ingredients that went from Mexico to SE Asia, but spices like cinnamon, black pepper and cloves came Mexico's way. Those are just the tip of the ice berg. Aesthetic appreciation and cooking methods were also exchanged, leading to a shared appreciation for complex spicing and the use of spice pastes (and toasted aromatics) in cuisines on both sides of the Pacific. Though we stay pretty much true to Mexican flavors and techniques, occasionally we work sparkles from other cuisines. Like the "fruit soup" that's on the menu right now in Topolobampo: it's flavored with kaffir lime leaves, which taste similar to lemon grass, which is Southeast Asian but has been used in Mexico for hundreds of years--as an medicinal tea, rather than a culinary herb.
post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 
thank you, the spice route and exchange of base ingredients part was really informative.

I must say that you are a great inspiration for a lot of people from south-east asia to try the *real* mexican cooking as opposed to that you get in chain restaurants.
post #4 of 5
I've always thought Mexican cuisine had a lot of the same style as Italy. Not that they influenced each other or tasted the same but how they handled the same kinds of food issues in similar ways. The focus on beans and starch, pasta for italy and tortilla for Mexico.

I think of a casserole of enchiladas as the same style of solution as a lasagne for example.

Salsa to tomato sauce as a broad comparison and some similar uses.

And the oregano of course! ;)

No one ever agrees with me on this though.

Phil
post #5 of 5
Well, Phil, I don't think you're that far off, but my reasoning is just a little bit different. Both cuisines have a strong connection to the soil and how to nourish and sustain the body and soul with what you can grow and produce. And then, of course, there is the whole role that food, tradition and family plan in both cultures.

For me the similarities between Mexican and Italian isn't some much the tastes or the structure of the meals/specific dishes as much as it is the intangibles that are the underpinnings and/or foundations upon which each cuisine was established and flourished.
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