Saturday 27 October 2018

I love, you hate

First of all, let’s start off with saying I love food. Traveling anywhere in the world and eating everything traditional is my way of discovering cultural heritage and my biggest source of inspiration. But not everyone is willing to try anything, and most people can be pretty set in their ways with food. Everyone is different when it comes to taste and the farther you travel, the more different the food can get. What is weird and unthinkable to some, is delicious classic comfort food for others, and these individual preferences are hard to let go, being engrained since birth by every single meal.

To generalize an entire planet of people based on each country’s preferences would be unfair but, more often than not, tends to be in many ways true. Not every country grows up eating a diverse selection of ethnic foods like Australians and Canadians, who naturally have a more open-minded approach to flavor developed from being a migrant country and total lack of almost any traditional food of their own. European countries like France, Italy and Spain, with a strong proud culinary heritage, are easily crippled and physically pained with spicy foods, whereas the people of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia barely notice the heat. Most of Indonesia, for example, hates foods that are sour and the use of vinegars and citrus is minimal, while in the Philippines the opposite is true, where pure white vinegar is literally used as a dipping sauce and adored. Western countries consume large amounts of dairy items like milk, yoghurt and cheese, yet China looks at dairy as the enemy and cheese with absolute disgust. Asians, in general, find western food boring and tasteless, heavy on salt and often too creamy and rich, while westerners often find South East Asian food too sweet and overwhelmed by spices, losing the true flavor of ingredients. In Western food, chicken tastes like chicken and a lot of effort is put into making that happen like with a good roast chicken, while in Indonesia you would never even know it is chicken as the use of numerous vegetables and spices smashes the food with flavors. 

So, with that being said, what do you cook when you are trying to feed people from all over the world their best meal yet? This is the unique challenge we face in Cuca. Yesterday, for example, we had people from Belgium, Denmark, Mexico, Japan, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom and Korea. So, how do we do it? What is good for everyone? How to make everyone happy when a dish can’t be too spicy, too salty, too sour, too sweet, too common, too unusual, too much of anything while still being totally packed with flavor yet remaining balanced and delicious? That, my friend, is the secret of Cuca.