Worlds of Flavor 2016: Cuisine Without Borders
From kimchi burgers to pasta with Katsu Bolognese, delicious food knows no culinary boundaries—and Kikkoman is part of the story.
It’s been called mashup cuisine, fusion and more, but to Andrew Hunter, Kikkoman Foodservice and Industrial Corporate Chef, some of today’s most exciting menu innovations are more about finding flavor, wherever it exists. That’s the essence of an approach to food that might be called Cuisine Without Borders.
“It’s all about using flavors from all over the world and transcending the traditional global culinary repertoire to create unique and personal food,” says Hunter.
For example, at the Culinary Institute of America 18th Annual Worlds of Flavor International Conference & Festival: Europe and the Americas, Hunter moderated a presentation given by chef Chris Jaeckle to present two Italian-Asian signature dishes: fazzoletti (handmade triangular noodles) bathed in a Bolognese sauce amped up with yuzu kosho (a Japanese chile-citrus salt) and Kikkoman Katsu Sauce; and a comforting dish of Polenta with Brown Butter Soy and maitake mushrooms.
The Japanese influence makes sense given Jaeckle’s background. As the executive chef and partner at New York City’s All’onda, Jaeckle has created a contemporary menu inspired by Venice, a city which has stood at the crossroads of East and West since long before the days of Marco Polo. And Jaeckle’s cooking experience spans the globe from contemporary American to Japanese to traditional Italian restaurants. In addition, he and his wife Cynthia Kueppers have also opened Uma Temakaria in New York, a fast-casual concept specializing in made-to-order sushi burritos, which combine ingredients as varied as green apple and miso balsamic, yellowfin tuna and marinated tofu.
To Andrew Hunter, this is the true spirit of being able to use flavor without the limitations of arbitrary borders, and it does take a degree of skill to produce a finished result that tastes as if it should have been created long before. “You can’t just throw different ingredients together without understanding the basic principles of flavor and cooking,” he explains. “On the other hand, you’re also not bound by arbitrary notions of what’s authentic or traditional. To me, this is what’s so exciting about the craft of building flavor.”
For instance, Chris Jaeckle’s Katsu Bolognese starts in a traditional way, with the creation of a battuto, a key Italian flavor step involving caramelizing onions, carrots and celery in pork fat and adding toasted spices and tomato paste. But as the recipe builds, it gets depth from the yuzu kosho and from the Kikkoman Katsu Sauce, a unique blend of apples, puréed onions, tomato paste, carrots and traditionally brewed Kikkoman Soy Sauce, which lends a tart, fruity flavor that brings out the best in meat-based dishes.
Likewise, the Brown Butter Soy that showcases the polenta takes light but flavorful beurre noisette to another level with the addition of Kikkoman Soy Sauce and minced ginger, as well as cream and capers with their brine.
It’s no accident that so many of today’s best cross-cultural recipes feature Asian ingredients and flavors, in particular Japanese, adds Hunter. “Asian cooking has always been focused on the interplay of the basic tastes of sweet, sour, salty, spicy or bitter, and umami. You see a balance of these flavors in Japanese sauces like Katsu, Teriyaki and Hoisin. And of course it was the Japanese who ‘discovered’ umami, that unique and mysterious fifth flavor that can be described as savory or deliciousness, so it’s no surprise that so many chefs would use these sauces to make their food more delicious by using the principles of umami.”