One world, one pantry, all that jazz
May 15, 2012 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I know it's a rule of cooking that ingredients that grow together taste good together: the same climate conditions give us the best tomatoes and the best basil. But are there any pairs (or trios, or whatever) of foods from really really disparate parts of the world that go shockingly well together?

This could be a spice plus a vegetable, a meat plus a fruit, a sauce plus ... I don't know. I know "fusion cuisine" attempts to find these kinds of pairings, but they often feel forced. Are there any flavor pairings that didn't originate together (geographically or culturally), but are now acknowledged to be so great that they're basically canon?
posted by firstbest to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is either exceptionally hard or exceptionally easy to answer, depending on the following: A lot of food comes from the New World, including practically all nightshade vegetables (chilies, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants), a bunch of other tubers, squashes, beans, and more and more. Does the general combining of these ingredients in Asian and European cuisine count?
posted by General Malaise at 12:09 PM on May 15, 2012


Response by poster: Hm, good point. I'd say yes, as long as they're truly specific pairs (like my tomato/basil example above).
posted by firstbest at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2012


My apologies: Eggplants are native to the Indian subcontinent.
posted by General Malaise at 12:10 PM on May 15, 2012


I know it's a rule of cooking that ingredients that grow together taste good together: the same climate conditions give us the best tomatoes and the best basil.

Basil is native to Europe but tomatoes are not. So what do you mean by "disparate parts of the world?" Physical distance or differences in growing conditions (e.g. soil and climate)?
posted by jedicus at 12:11 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Your example of tomatoes and basil is actually one. Tomatoes are a New World food and were actually thought to be poisonous when first brought back by early explorers. (They are related to the poisonous nightshade.) Basil, on the other hand, was known to the Romans. The same is true for other New World foods, such as chili peppers, corn, and potatoes.
posted by TedW at 12:12 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tomato and basil are actually one of the most perfect examples of your request - tomatoes are originally New World and were integrated into European cuisines over a period of ~200 years.
posted by batmonkey at 12:12 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Regardless of which definition you mean, I'd say milk and chocolate. The cacao tree is native to the deep tropical regions of the Americas, whereas cows originated in temperate climates in Eurasia.
posted by jedicus at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I came in here to say the above. Too many examples to list, but a great one is cocoa (from South America), sugar (from a plant that originated in India I think), and milk (I don't think native Americans cultivated milk).
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2012


Response by poster: I think I was conflating my ideas in my initial question. I meant: basil and tomatoes go incredibly well together, and people think of them as a classic pairing. But historically they're from totally different parts of the world (though they do grow in similar climates; not sure if that's relevant). So: are there other ingredient pairings that are like that?
posted by firstbest at 12:13 PM on May 15, 2012


I would question your premise. In Indian cooking for example, there are many many plants and vegetables now used very commonly in many dishes that did not grow in ancient India. The chilli (or chile) pepper for example, is a New World import and it's now used to flavor all manner of native Indian vegetables -- eggplant for example. Tamarind is native to India, but pairs beautifully with chilli peppers in a sauce.
posted by peacheater at 12:14 PM on May 15, 2012


Apples and cinnamon.
posted by Bardolph at 12:16 PM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


I think the more relevant interpretation is not about origins, but about growing climates. Tomatoes and basil can - and often are - grown together in the same climate, area, and season.

But what are some combinations in which one or more of the ingredients need to be stored/retrieved or shipped in?
posted by WasabiFlux at 12:16 PM on May 15, 2012


Okay, then, well, this is going to be an exceptionally long list. You can add chilies to tomato and basil, or one or the other. Think chilies in any Asian cuisine—they seem natural and ubiquitous. Pepper, from the Indian subcontinent, goes with everything in American cuisine practically. Cheese on your Mexican dishes. Hell, practically any spice used in European cuisine didn't come from there.
posted by General Malaise at 12:17 PM on May 15, 2012


Best answer: Tomatoes and okra (from Africa)- the acid in the tomatoes cuts the sliminess of the okra

Potatoes are from the New World as well, steak is definitely not, but now 'steak and potatoes' is shorthand for 'a basic filling meal'
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:17 PM on May 15, 2012


Best answer: Maple syrup and sweet potatoes
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:19 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Tahini and miso are an extremely common combination in basic vegan sauces and salad dressings.
posted by something something at 12:19 PM on May 15, 2012


Spam and rice
posted by lotus-eater at 12:21 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lots of spices meet the criteria. For example, pumpkin flavored with, among other things, cinnamon and nutmeg (as pie, pancakes, or what-have-you) is pretty much the only way that most Americans eat pumpkin. Pumpkin is a New World plant and those spices come from tropical Asia.

Notably, allspice is commonly used to flavor pumpkin dishes, and it comes from the New World, but from the Caribbean and Mexico, whereas pumpkin is native to North America.
posted by jedicus at 12:21 PM on May 15, 2012


Touching on some other folks' comments about chiles etc., I enjoyed this article about the transmission of flavors from India to Mexico by way of Moorish Spain.
posted by spanishbombs at 12:22 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


On my interpretation, some ideas (unconfirmed because I'm on my phone):
  • Wild mushrooms and tomatoes
  • Salmon and mango salsa

posted by WasabiFlux at 12:22 PM on May 15, 2012


Peanuts (another new world food) and palm oil, in some African cuisines. Some AWESOME African cuisines!

Pineapple and ham.

Chocolate and coffee.

Strawberries/blueberries/raspberries (new world) with cream. Or, bananas (Africa) with cream.
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:27 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


celery, peanut butter, raisins
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 12:35 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I know it's a rule of cooking that ingredients that grow together taste good together: the same climate conditions give us the best tomatoes and the best basil.

This is not really some innate taste quality, but totally culturally determined, like most things related to taste. They grow well together, so a culture put them together, so people growing up in that culture have continued to treasure and celebrate the taste and promote them as "natural" partners. Really, they're cultural partners, and just about any two foods can become cultural partners.

A classic New England food is called "rye and injun bread." This means rye flour plus "indian meal" - cornmeal. The rye grass was an import from Europe along with early colonizers of North America. The indian meal corn genus was an import too, but several hundred years earlier, from South America.

It's a great combination and it sustained a couple generations of people trying to settle Euro-agrarian-style in places where wheat didn't grow. Rye and corn grew well together, but not in nature without human intervention. They're just great cultural partners.
posted by Miko at 12:54 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


You might find 1493 an interesting read- it lays out how much the New World changed Asia and Europe, and food is a major subject. I learned there were no honeybees in the New World until Europeans introduced them to pollinate their crops, and that native populations would see the bees as a portent of intruders.
posted by ambrosia at 1:03 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


2nd picture: Ostrich meat (Africa) with fried cassava (South America) sprinkled with parmesan cheese (Italy)
posted by Tom-B at 1:53 PM on May 15, 2012


JAPADOG!!!
posted by Tom-B at 1:59 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Chocolate (central America) and peppermint (England).
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:32 PM on May 15, 2012


Cigarettes and chocolate milk.
posted by KokuRyu at 2:41 PM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Best answer: Cauliflower and cocoa (seriously, try it). Or plenty of the other weird flavour pairings.
posted by doop at 2:59 PM on May 15, 2012


Best answer: Vodka (Russia) and cigarettes (Virginia).
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:42 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


(American) Baked beans and (Korean) Kimchee.

Put them in a stew together and they taste amazing.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 4:45 PM on May 15, 2012


Potatoes (Peru) and curry (India)
posted by elizeh at 8:10 PM on May 15, 2012


Pretty much any cocktail on the planet is going to have ingredients that originate from all over the world. Even the basic gin and tonic is an English spirit mixed with a fizzy beverage flavoured with a South American vine. A screwdriver is the juice of a fruit most likely to have originated in South East Asia mixed with a Russian spirit, and most tropical punch is a little trip round the world - South Asian oranges and lemons, pineapple and passionfruit from South America, mango from India, and booze from Russia or England or Cuba or Mexico or even Champagne, if you're feeling fancy.
posted by Jilder at 11:03 AM on May 16, 2012


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