Monday, May 3, 2010

What does Asian Fusion even mean?

I love stir-fry. It's possibly my favorite way to cook--you don't really need a recipe or even much of a plan, just a stocked refrigerator and some sort of sauce or marinade. When there's no food in the house and I have no idea what to cook, I tend to go to the store and stare at the sauces or marinades until something seems like a good idea, and I build from there--what meat makes sense with this? vegetables? Awesome. Dinner is planned. And, when I get home and start actually cooking, I always end up finding more little things to toss in. It's so much fun.

This dinner was inspired by my favorite restaurant (or, one of them): Fire and Ice. It has six locations over the country--two in Massachusetts, one in Rhode Island, one in New York and two in California. If you live near one, you should definitely try it out. They call it an improvisational grill. Every meal is completely personalized because you pretty much make it yourself. You get a table and order drinks, then you go up to the bars. At the bars, you grab a bowl and fill it with whatever you think sounds good--one bar has bunches of fresh vegetables and different kinds of noodles (from bowties to udon noodles), another has the raw meat (pretty much any kind you'd want). There's a hamburger bar, with bacon and sliced tomatoes and pieces of lettuce and anything else you'd put on a burger; there's also a salad bar (which I usually use as a vegetable bar part 2). You put everything into a bowl, pick a sauce, and bring it to this HUGE circular grill where they cook it right in front of you. Sometimes the chefs try to entertain the hordes of people standing around waiting for their food--it's great (but busy!) on weekends. Then you get to go back to your table. Your drinks are there, along with plain white rice and some tortillas, and you eat your creation. It's also all-you-can-eat, so if you want to try a few different things, you can make as many trips up as possible.

ANYWAY. I love that place. If you live near one, join their email list--they send out coupons with great deals sometimes, and you get free dinner on your birthday!

So when Mike and I went to make a stir fry a while back, I thought of Fire and Ice for inspiration. We got an orange ginger sauce/glaze, some chicken, three(?) red peppers, two onions, and a pound of green beans. By random luck, we found udon noodles in the grocery store--I learned to love Udon from Fire and Ice, so it seemed appropriate. And, honestly? I'm not sure I can write a recipe for a stir-fry, because I'm not sure I want other people following the recipe exactly--the whole point is to play around with it and add things that you think would be great.

I chopped up the vegetables while Mike chopped up the chicken and got it cooking. There were so many vegetables we had to use two huge frying pans, but that means it's HEALTHY! Yay! We mixed up the sauce in another bowl with some lime juice and soy sauce. I like to think it added to the flavor, but I didn't taste it without them, so I don't know--I just know it tasted good! When everything was almost done cooking I noticed we had a few mandarin oranges left. And I don't mean the canned ones in juice. I mean legit you-have-to-peel-this mandarin oranges. We saw them in the store and bought them once and haven't found them again (or if we see something that claims to be mandarin oranges, they usually look much bigger than what we got that time so we assume they're mislabeled clementines).

Once everything cooked and the vegetables had shrunken a bit, we condensed everything into one pan, making sure there was still some sauce in the other one, and fried the udon noodles for a few minutes until they were nice and soft.

Now...I think this is Asian Fusion food. (I'm not going to call it 'cuisine' even though I think that's what people usually say with 'Asian Fusion' because it seems pretentious to call a stir-fry that you cooked yourself cuisine.) I'm not entirely sure, though, because I don't really know what it means. I think it means something along the lines of "uses ingredients that remind you of things you might order at an Asian restaurant," which this definitely did--the orange ginger sauce seemed like a typical "Chinese" food ingredient, and I'm pretty sure Udon noodles are a Japanese invention (though I could be completely making that up) and, well, there was soy sauce. Oh! We also cooked (half of) it in a wok! That must count for something.

Believe it or not, we froze this and just ate the remains last night (with new Udon because we'd only bought enough for about three servings). It had never occurred to me to freeze stir fry before, but it was just as delicious the next time! We re-fried it in the pan again, and this time we added the little spice packets that came with the Udon noodles ("Oriental" flavor--even more Asian Fusion!) and some teriyaki sauce. (Side note--why does my spell check not know the word 'teriyaki' but suggests 'sukiyaki'?)

I'm not going to call this a recipe, because it's not. The most I'm hoping for is inspiration. Maybe you'll read this and one or two things will stick out at you and you'll think, wow, that sounds like it would be really good with this other thing. And maybe you'll try to recreate this exactly, but you'll have a hard time as I didn't include amounts for ANYTHING. Because I don't know. I just tossed some of one thing in, a dash of another, probably some cumin. The whole point was to have fun and eat something delicious, and it worked out perfectly.


  1. I love udon too. One of my favorite Japanese dishes is Nabeyaki Udon(but only order in a good Japanese restaurant). This Fire & Ice looks like a Mongolian Barbeque. Also, asian markets usually sell frozen udon noodles. I like the fat ones.:)

  2. You inspire me so much! Whenever I read your post I want to go cooking right away!
    If you would like...we could follow each other!
    I would love that :)
    Kisses and have a great one :)

  3. I am following you....Hope you would like to follow me too:)