I Grew Up Eating with Chopsticks. How About You? Part Two: Culture, Eating and Cooking in Your Mouth.

Continued from part one…

“Cooking in your mouth” is what you do in Asian meals, when you are constantly orchestrating the dining experience by choosing different combinations of foods and putting them in your mouth in different amounts and at different times.  Let’s go back to your mac and cheese and your hot dog.  After you put your ketchup/mustard over the top of your dog and you take that first bite, are you really curious after that to taste that next bite and then the one after that?  Why not?  It’s because after the first bite, you already know what your last bite will taste like.  It’s going to be just like your first.  After your first bite of mac and cheese, is there any surprise or delight in eating the next one or the last?  Not really because there’s going to be no contrast in flavor, texture, temperature after that first mouthful.

So what does this mean to me as a cook/chef or as a person who grew up experiencing two different food cultures?  When I try to come with a new burger special, I always try to incorporate some type of flavor, texture, color or temperature contrast in the burger.  We periodically serve The Blue Burger which has bacon jam, crumbled blue cheese mixed with ranch, baby arugula, and fried onion strings.  The bacon jam is cold, and because it’s prepared with apple cider vinegar and brown sugar, it has a flavor profile that includes, sweet, sour, salty, and smoky from the bacon.  The blue cheese has a funky bite that can also be rich and creamy which contrasts with the sweet and sour of the bacon jam.  While the bacon jam and blue cheese are cold when scooped onto the burger, the burger, bun and the crispy onion strings that go on top are hot.  The last component to go on the burger is the arugula and where every other component on this burger special has been cooked or manipulated in some way, the arugula is simply added to give a freshness, lightness, pepperiness and veggie type of crunch to the whole thing.  I tell my cooks not to put these ingredients on the burger evenly or perfectly so that with each bite, you don’t get an even amount of the combination of ingredients and flavors so that every bite will hopefully invite and entice the eater to take another bite.  

To my guests, these concepts and ideas are beyond their scope of thinking.  They come to eat and enjoy and it’s my job as Chef to consider all these philosophies when preparing meals.  For you, the dining public, my advice for having a more pleasurable dining experience is to look for contrast in your mouthfuls and your meals.  Resist the temptation to make your food uniform for the sake of convenience and take every opportunity to make each mouthful slightly different.  

Happy eating and I look forward to talking to you in another blog post.  Thanks for reading.

–Joe Bang Bang Burgers

I Grew Up Eating with Chopsticks. How About You? Part One: Eating Chinese and Eating American

Bang Bang Burgers opened in November in 2013 and my marketing strategy was so awful, we were rarely busy that first year, so I spent most of my time thinking about whether or not people were enjoying their food.  That curiosity then evolved into watching how people ate their food and then I eventually I came to some conclusions on how and why people eat the way they do.  

My family and I are originally from Taiwan.  The first time I was invited to dinner at my neighbor’s house and saw how they ate, I realized the way I ate dinner at home with my family was different.  They were eating hot dogs and tater tots for dinner.  Dinner at my home growing up included steamed white rice, a broth soup, stir fried vegetables, fish, and stewed meat or stir fried meat.  Looking back on those meals with 22 years of food service experience and culinary trained eyes, I’m going to attempt to point out key differences as well as the subtle affects these differences have on the dining experience.  

Why don’t we like baby food as adults?  Baby food is exactly same in texture, color, temperature, flavor, and mouth feel in every bite.  In other words, your first bite, last bite and every mouth full in between will taste exactly the same.  There’s no contrast which makes for a thoroughly uninteresting eating experience.  It’s like looking at a photo album with the same picture on every page or listening to music that has only one note repeated over and over.  No fun.  

So let’s look at a typical American meal:  mac and cheese, pizza, spaghetti and meat balls, meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  I’d argue that all these meals generally hit only one note.  After the first couple of bites, the palate is already used to the textures and flavors and there’s a limited amount of interesting flavors and contrasts.  Just like in life, contrast, the unexpected sparks further discovery and makes life interesting.  

So let’s look at a typical Asian meal.  Rice has a neutral flavor and is served hot.  So the first mouthful might be some vegetables or maybe a sip of some brothy soup.  Then maybe some rice and then something stir fried or something saucy or crispy or something steamed.  Each bite, each mouthful is different.  Each time you chew, you are mashing up different combinations of foods and extremes in contrast moving from bland rice to the other extreme of something stir fried and heavily seasoned with soy sauce, sugar, garlic and ginger.  Again, another mouthful and another new and interesting combination of food and flavors.

Happy eating and for part two of this post, please click here!

Culture, eating and cooking in your mouth. 

Thanks for reading.

–Joe Bang Bang Burgers