The concept of fusion food can be cringey, conjuring ’90s-era trends where East-meets-West flavors collided on the plate (wasabi mashed potatoes, anyone?). But for those of us living across cultures, culinary overlap is a natural expression of identity—and tastes just right.
Marinara-doused somyeon noodles. Meatballs seasoned with sesame oil and soy sauce. Pizza with kimchi on the side, always. If you’re a child of immigrants, like I am, these kinds of cross-cultural combinations might sound familiar. When I was growing up in New York City, I had access to a thrilling bounty of foods: charred lamb gyros, perfectly spiced Jamaican patties, and succulent pernil.
This exposure shaped my tastes—as did the traditional Korean cooking I enjoyed at home. My family blended Asian flavors into almost everything we ate; occasionally it felt like a concession (sometimes you just want a plain old Sloppy Joe like any other kid, you know?). But today that same impulse is practically a trend: I’ve spotted gochujang on chain restaurant menus and bulgogi taco kits at the supermarket. I didn’t appreciate back then how lucky I was to be swimming in so many culinary traditions at once. Now I do. For many of us, mixing cuisines is neither trend nor compromise; it’s a normal part of cooking in our multicultural kitchens.
So consider these recipes a love letter to my younger self, a melding of classic dishes and flavors from my childhood: Kalbi jjim is married with Jewish braised brisket, miso swirled into chocolate chip cookies. Not fusion, but not not fusion. It’s all familiar food, rooted in comfort and nostalgia—neither here nor there but seemingly, and now comfortably, everywhere.