The geo-political world is all about borders and boundaries. It’s always a question of what belongs to whom, where territory begins and ends, and which group holds the power over it.
The food world is different. It is a natural, living and generally friendly forum for exchange, integration, blending, melding and mingling. That’s what I love about it. And the result of all this culinary camaraderie is usually something good to eat.
I had a hands-on encounter with that just the other day at the West Side Market. Arriving hungry, I headed to Maha’s for a falafel. This Middle Eastern staple, made from ground and seasoned chickpeas that are formed into patties and fried, are served in a pita bread pouch stuffed with fresh and pickled vegetables. And sauce. Sauce is key. There’s a sesame based tahini version, or the red stuff that adds heat to the mix. The young woman behind the counter always asks if you want mild or hot when you place your order. Those that go for some burn get a liberal squeeze of Rooster sauce, so-called because the bird is the brand’s logo. The Thai equivalent of ketchup, its proper name is sricacha and the intense red juice is made from chile paste and vinegar. The marriage of Middle Eastern and Thai seems like a truly American mix and makes for a really tasty sandwich.
What other tasty cross-cultural dishes are worth a shout-out?