Let’s Stop Calling Asian-Latinx Cuisine ‘Fusion’

Eduardo Nakatani is a Japanese-Mexican chef from Mexico City. His grandfather Yoshigei Nakatani was the Japanese visionary and entrepreneur, who in the 1950s, created what is today one of the most ubiquitous and beloved Mexican snack foods: the Japanese peanut. At the time of Nakatani’s grandfather’s migration to Mexico, there were little to no Japanese products. This scarcity was the mother of invention, driving Yoshigei to create a kind of pseudo-soy sauce: a mix of piloncillo (raw sugar), guajillo chile, salt, and caramel colouring he used to season the peanuts. The sauce went superbly well with his version of sashimi: thin-sliced deli ham. A self-described “terrible student,” Edo Nakatani grew up working at the family’s Nipon Japanese peanut factory. After having a transcendent experience eating larb for the first time in Los Angeles in the 1980s, he decided to pursue cooking as a vocation. He trained in classical French technique and didn’t consider cooking professionally until he was hired to work at an East-meets-West restaurant concept called MP Café Bistrot by Mexican celebrity chef Mónica Patiño. Rather than taking a purist’s approach to Asian cuisines, Nakatani developed a line of Mexican chile-based salsas (Salsas Iki) that speak to how he grew up eating Japanese food at home—with a little extra kick. Nakatani’s column in the Mexico City-based magazine Hoja Santa, titled “Bombas de unami” (Umami bombs), embraces all of the ways in which different Asian cuisines have made their way into Mexican dishes and vice versa. In his recipe for a Thai soft shell crab omelet burrito, Nakatani writes: “All cuisine is mestizaje. As in all other disciplines, there is no authenticity in cooking, or perhaps the only authenticity is its miscellaneous nature. Everything belongs to all of us.”


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