[FOUNTAIN]Join cultures by fusing food

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[FOUNTAIN]Join cultures by fusing food

Aoyama, Omotesando and Daikanyama are streets in Tokyo that attract young people. On those streets are frequently seen restaurants with signs advertising "stateless" or "multinational" food. In those restaurants, you can enjoy "fusion" foods, which have also been introduced in Korea recently. "Fusion" food is a combination of domestic and foreign recipes.

Depending on the imagination of the chef, fusion can lead to a wide selection of dishes. So-called multinational food and stateless food might be other names for fusion without any definite meaning. But, in my view, the former name means the physical mixing of recipes of various countries, while the latter means a chemical combination that surpasses cultures.

There are few countries that have more pride in their traditional food than Japan. The Japanese consider food as an essential part of their national character and an expression of what it is to be Japanese.

But there are many Japanese chefs who went to France or China to compete with the chefs in those countries and to learn from them, in an effort to create a new food culture. This has led to a cross pollination of cultures that has culminated in a legion of Japanese chefs with a global outlook. One of those chefs is Hirohisa Koyama, 53, the third head of "Seryu," a Japanese restaurant in Dokushima city, succeeding his father and grandfather.

When he studied in Paris, Mr. Koyama became friends with two masters of French cuisine, Joel Robuchon and Alain Ducasse. Mr. Koyama unveiled his creations at "Spoon," a fusion restaurant opened by Mr. Ducasse in Paris. Mr. Koyama's creations were combinations of Japanese and Western menus, based on his understanding of French cuisine.

After returning to Japan, Mr. Koyama opened a fusion restaurant named "Basara" in Akasaka, Tokyo, where he introduced Western cuisine with a Japanese menu.

Successful fusion dishes require a thorough understanding of domestic cuisine and an open mind to foreign food cultures. An understanding of domestic food requires the love of tradition and the effort to deliver that tradition to others in the most beautiful form.

Korea has a short history of fusion food. Koreans have not been pleased with the mixture of domestic and foreign cultures. But some Korean chefs are trying fusion with the intention of developing a new type of Korean cuisine and introducing a lively part of Korean culture to the people of the world.

Choi Yeong-suk, who operates the Korean restaurant "Uraeok" in New York and Los Angeles, is endeavoring to transform and globalize Korean cuisine. Ms. Choi is providing the fusion of domestic and Western cuisine in Seoul with chefs from Latin America.

Blending domestic and foreign cultures leads to fusion. Fusion requires an open mind.

The writer is a JoongAng Ilbo editorial writer

by Kil Jeong-woo

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