By Navneet Alang
Fusion cooking! Is there anything more symbolic of the melty melding of cultures than, er, melty melded food?
Wait, that didn’t sound appetizing at all. Nonetheless! The mix of cuisines is both tasty and metaphorical. Oh hey, speaking of which…
A Grilled Chedda’, Made a Bit Betta’:
The grilled cheese has always been about one thing: cheese and bread, um… grilled. Fried. Oh, you get what I mean. Anyway, the point is that those who try and gussy it up with sliced apples and red onion, or spinach walnut pesto and sundried tomatoes seem to miss the point.
To wit, the cheese in this sandwich is like… oh, I dunno, the autonomous, sovereign individual of post-Enlightenment Western philosophy – it stands alone, as the ground and basis of all that stems from it. (What, you thought I was joking when I said these sandwiches were going to be metaphors too?)
Still, when you’re accustomed to a bit of heat in your food – you know, “spicy masala!” and all that shit – the only thing lacking from the venerable snack is a bit of zip. That, my friends, is where the ole’ Alang family chutney comes in. It, like families in the culture from which it came, is about the multiplicity of elements being more important than any single component, each ingredient being sustained in relation to the others. You think green chillies just run off and get married without thinking of their relation to the other… ingredients? I, uh, may have pushed this metaphor too far.
Erm… so! How do you make this magical, delicious “symbol of the differening epistemological constructions of the self” sandwich? Well, you start by never calling it that; then you follow these instructions:
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 10-12 small green chillies (sometimes called bird’s eye chillies)
- 1 cup (packed) of mint leaves
- Juice and zest of 1 lime
- ¾ teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Optional: raisins, coconut, dates, onion, cashews, olive oil, pixie dust
- dilute with yoghurt to make a great dipping sauce.
Dudes, it’s chutney. You need instruction manual for zis ‘ting? Oh fine!
- Put it in a blender and whiz it up until it’s the consistency you want. There. Happy now?
Note: those who insist on calling this ‘chutney relish’ shall have a cup of iced ‘chai tea’ dumped unceremoniously over their head.
As for the grilled cheese:
- I recommend rather simple bread, a mixture of butter and olive oil in the pan, and good ole’ reliable sharp, aged cheddar – the older and sharper the better. Spoon the chutney over the cheese and grill grill grill.
There you go: a sandwich that combines all the individualist stability of autonomous entities like bread and cheese with the always-already multiple nature of the chutney – and is fan-fucking-tastically delicious. No, seriously. I live for this thing.
Nav’s Ban Me Banh Mi:
In a way, the Banh Mi, a Spadina staple ($2 bucks for lunch, yo!), is already the epitome of fusion sandwich. Like many parts of modern Vietnamese food, the blend of french pate and toppings like daikon and cilantro is a mixture that was a result of colonialism (did you know another staple, Pho, is likely an adaptation of the French pot au feu?).
But being the risk-taking metaphorical meat man I am (I’m just asking for it describing myself that way), Nav’s Ban Me Banh Mi – the threatened banning, of course, being the possible ostracism that stems from challenging the strict authenticity of a cuisine – takes things one step further. Rather than French liver pate, my version substitutes for liver pate the stable, stodgy, old-world delicacies of prosciutto or Serrano ham and brie cheese – in large part because I’m just that fucking indulgent. But because the Europe, staid and traditional, still needs the spark of the new to inject its wealth with a steady supply of labou– um, flavour — this rich base is topped with the bright spark of a mix of toppings from across the world.
- A, um, long bread roll. That makes sense, right? Like, not round. ‘Long’.
- Prosciutto or Serrano ham
- Brie cheese, cut into thick slices
- Daikon radish (optional)
- Julienned carrots
- Pickled red onions (i.e. simply put into a vinegar brine)
- Sliced pickled jalapenos or other chillies
- Roughly chopped cilantro
- Sriracha sauce
- Dijon mustard
- Mayonnaise (optional)
- Really? I mean, really? Oh goddamit.
- Slice the roll, preferably not all the way through.
- Spread mustard and/or mayonnaise on the inside.
- Layer the ham and cheese, making sure you’ll get some creamy brie in each bite.
- Layer the crispy veggie toppings in the same way.
- Squirt sriracha randomly over all of it so as to get a spiciness that waxes, then wanes, sometimes presenting just a hint of fiery red promise, at others a veritably orgiastic burst of chilli heat. What? I take my sandwiches seriously, people.
Put it together on a good quality roll and decadent mix of richness and spicy sharpness will send the.. um… balance sheet of your globalized workforce toward the profit of deliciousness? Man, I suck at this.
The Mayo Sandwich:
One slice of white laid sexily atop one slice of brown, stuck together with a gloopy white substanc—Oh God, metaphor out of control! Mayday! Mayday!