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Fake Thai Food

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The cucumber that was one of the 6 garnishes for the Thai app was sliced on a mandolin and lightly (dare I say expertly?) marinated in Mirin with toasted sesame seeds.

I wonder, with people like Robert Dahni and others around in the industry, why it is still cool to throw a bunch of Asian ingredients together and call it a Thai dish. Can't we stick with "Asian" or is that not exotic enough. It bothers me because at places like the Cheesecake Factory in less cosmopolitan parts of the country, it may be someone's only experience with "Thai" food. Yet what is being presented is not, in fact , Thai food at all. Thai food does not (traditionally) use Mirin, for example. And what is "Thai Chicken", there are hundreds (if not thousands) of ways to cook chicken in the Thai tradition. The worst offenders, besides chain restaurants, are recipes in newspaper food sections and magazines, even the Washington Post. Telltale signs are recipes that include ginger (Thai cooking uses ginger, but not in the way that you think, and not very often), and sesame oil.

OTOH, Thai food is a "fusion" food and Thai cooks are quick to adopt new techniques and ingredients ( e.g. satay, custard, stir frying, condensed milk, actually the list is endless). Plus, Thai people did this to American food before we did it to them. Witness, American Fried Rice. (Here's how to make it... yum?). They also do terrible things to pizza. I just needed to rant, please forgive me, and eat anything you want and call it whatever you like. Everybody does it.

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To me, this kind of ethnic-labeling and liberal use of select cuisines isn't just endemic in chain restaurants.

Have you ever noticed it's kind of hard to get "real" Thai food at "real" Thai restaurants. And I never seem to get authentic Szechuan food when I order carryout from Szechuan Delight. Just as seemingly many "ethnic" restaurants "dumb down" their standard fare in order to appeal to a larger target audience (who are specifically looking for that "ethnic" food), so too do larger restaurants who are trying to provide variety of cuisine "styles" to a general audience.

And this phenomena is not isolated to menu dishes that call themselves "Thai" or "Japanese" or "Mexican". It pervades into restaurants that sell you Snapper, or Fatty Tuna, or Alba truffles, or Kobe Beef, or Beluga caviar. If I had time, I could link an article from the last year of restaurants (and wholesalers, and retailers) saying they are selling these very things, when in fact, they are not.

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