Japanese, American, Breakfast:


Scrambled eggs, home fries and chashu pork in Culver City, LA (2010)

The more I learn about the cuisines of the world the more similarity I see between them. I used to think that things like Japanese cuisine and the cuisine of the American South, for instance, couldn’t be more different. It turns out that, in many ways, there is less distance between them (and every other cuisine) than meets the eye.

Part of the reason for this is that basic cooking techniques all over the world are relatively similar. Another reason is that cuisines are always evolving and this often stems from the introduction of new things brought in from far away lands. Not so long ago there were no tomatoes in Italy, no hot chilies in Sichuan Province. These things are now so traditional that it’s hard to believe there was ever a time that dishes made with them were, for lack of a better term… fusion.

People have always traveled and taken root in places far from their homeland and brought things with them that end up mixing with things already there, a perfectly natural progression. After enough time has passed no one even remembers what it was like before. Human evolution may be relatively difficult to watch in progress – but the evolution of world cuisines is something that is happening right before our eyes, and the planet sometimes even seems to spin in reverse.

Japan is eating Southern fried chicken at Christmas and loves good whiskey, while Kentucky is making soy sauce in Bourbon barrels. Hong Kong-style cafés are twisting Western cuisine to Asian tastes in much the same way American-Chinese restaurants twist Asian cuisine to Western tastes. Vietnamese from New Orleans are opening Cajun-Vietnamese joints in California, which makes perfect sense once you consider the role of seafood and the heavy French influence in both cuisines.

In my travels I’ve seen Filipino restaurants in Rome, Italian restaurants in Japan, Chinese restaurants in India, Indian restaurants in Paris and Korean-French bakeries in America serving Italian coffees. So this breakfast plate from the Tokyo 7-7 Coffee Shop in Culver City, California seems pretty normal. Yes, that’s the same braised pork (chashu or チャーシュー) found in a bowl of ramen with teriyaki sauce, scrambled eggs, fried potatoes and a cup of coffee.

If it was a pork chop with steak sauce would there even be a question?