If it’s made by a Korean, is it Korean food?


Hot on the heels of my discovery of chipotle-flavored Korean seaweed, I read this article on Gustavo Arellano and his take on the evolution of Mexican-American food. I was fascinated, even if he does hate on Rick Bayless. (How can anyone hate on Rick Bayless? When I first read one of his cookbooks, I thought, “He must be such a nice man.”)

He’s also the Mexican of “¡Ask a Mexican!“, which was the inspiration for a blog I like called, “Ask a Korean!

At the end, he says,

Here’s what I know. If it’s in a tortilla, it’s Mexican food. If it’s made by a Mexican, it’s Mexican food.

Do you agree?

(The photo is of a deep-fried and puffy sope, the only such sope I have ever seen, made by Yoshi, the Okinawan-Mexican chef at La Fogata in Salinas, California.)


5 Responses to “If it’s made by a Korean, is it Korean food?”

  1. Tasting Korea Says:

    “If it’s in a tortilla, it’s Mexican food. If it’s made by a Mexican, it’s Mexican food.”

    I disagree. The filling is a big part of the tortilla wrap, so if it’s not Mexican, then the wrap is fusion like in Kogi Bbq’s dishes.

    The dish is authentic if it is prepared using authentic ingredients in an authentic way for the most part, nothing to do with the chef’s ethnicity. A Japanese chef who stays true to the spirit of Mexican cuisine creates more authentic dishes than a Mexican chef who does fusion.

  2. baconbiscuit212 Says:

    I agree with Tasting Korea. I would say that it has more to do with the origins of the dish than it does the ethnic origins of the cook.

    However, it is true that all cooks are influenced by the food that they grew up eating. Palates are molded to have a taste for more spice, or less spice. More salt, or less salt. Sweet and savory together, or not. And that comes out in the food you cook.

    But I wouldn’t necessarily call that fusion food.

    Super interesting question though!

  3. Diane Says:

    Well said, baconbiscuit212.

    One of my favorite books about Korean food, Korean Cuisine: An Illustrated History, was lovingly written by Michael Pettid. From what I understand, he’s not ethnically Korean, but I am Korean-American and still found his book fun and illuminating.

  4. Grace Says:

    Thanks for all the great comments! I don’t agree with the statement either, but I do like the idea that just because a Korean cook might use non-Korean ingredients doesn’t a food non-Korean. It’s an interesting question about where authenticity comes from–is it some slavish attention to traditional details, is it genetic, or is it something more ineffable?

  5. Tasting Korea Says:

    Well, you might have seen this already, but I did address this question in a post I wrote, “What is Authentic Korean Cuisine?” http://tastingkorea.blogspot.com/2011/11/what-is-authentic-korean-cuisine.html

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