More than ever, the food we eat is an expression of cultural globalization, a reflection of our diversity and interconnectivity.
Take tacos, for example. They aren’t just filled with the flavors of Mexico. These days, they are getting stuffed with the far-reaching flavors of Korea, Thailand, Hawaii and the Middle East. Our taste buds can experience the delicious intermingling of Cajun and Vietnamese cuisine when we bite into a blackened catfish banh mi, or peel crawfish that hold the aromatics of lemongrass. We’ve seen myriad ways that East can meet West in something as basic as a bowl of noodles.
We’ve broadened our horizons about the possibilities of cooking with quintessential Southern ingredients such as collards. Why should the staple vegetable of this region only get slow-simmered with fatback in a stockpot when it can feel some Italian amore, as in a collard green and ricotta fritter, or be given a Mexican makeover in a collard quesadilla?
I was reminded last fall of how thoroughly we’ve arrived at this new period of culinary experimentation and exploration when I read Chris Kimball’s “Milk Street Cookbook: The New Home Cooking,” a cookbook whose recipes cull techniques and flavors from countries throughout the world. In the introduction to the book, Kimball writes, “Ethnic cooking is dead. We are all simply making dinner.”
Indeed, proteins and produce, spices and sauces from around the world are at our ready disposal more than ever. We’re also better informed about time-honored cooking techniques and the methods of food preparation of people who live thousands of miles away. And, we can try those at home, expanding our culinary lexicon in the process.
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Sriracha, gochujang … these condiments aren’t foreign anymore. They are staples of our tables. And, if reaching for global flavors is how we cook at home, the same certainly is true at restaurants across the country, with chefs — and bartenders, too — taking a cross-cultural approach to food and drink.
In this Spring Dining Guide, we explore the global mashup movement here in Atlanta. We examine how restaurants are changing our expectations of what traditional dishes like tacos or fries or pizza or — yes, even collard greens — should be.
In total, we discuss more than 60 dining concepts in greater Atlanta that offer a satisfying taste of this new age of the melting pot. And the spots — which range from cheap street eats to food truck fare to fine dining establishments to fleeting pop-ups — are as diverse as the food they serve.
If ’80s fusion left a bad taste in your mouth, take heart: The new fusion revolution never has tasted so good.
<<Take a tour of Atlanta’s new fusion revolution:
Listen to AJC dining editor Ligaya Figueras on Apple Podcasts