Monday, July 5, 2010

Cultural Cuisine: Le Hotdog

One reason we all love to travel is checking out the fused combination of foods inspired by the various local populations. It’s hilarious that the Kentucky Fried Chicken in Tokyo serves popcorn chicken sushi, for example, and Argentina is known for its European-evolved pastries. In Lima, you’ll find chifa, the local fusion of Chinese and Peruvian foods, thanks to a substantial Asian population. The combinations are astounding and -- oftentimes -- outstanding.

A few weeks ago I visited Vancouver and was surprised to discover that Canada has one of the largest Japanese populations outside of Japan -- which means that Canada also has some pretty kickin’ sushi. But perhaps more interesting than the upmarket food is the local favorite hot dog stand, Japadog.

Japadog takes an originally German food that has migrated to America, and then adds a Japanese spin. Um, how’s that? Simple: The meats and buns are the ballpark standards, but the gaggle of toppings offer interesting Asian-style flavors, textures, and combinations. Take Japadog’s most popular item, the Spicy Terimayo. It’s a spicy dawg topped with teriyaki sauce and dried seaweed, two standard Japanese ingredients. We also tried the delicious Oroshi, a brat covered with grated radish, green onion, and a thick soy sauce. Perhaps our favorite, though, was the Edamame Dog, a brat slice diagonally and stuffed with steamed edamame. Looking for ketchup, mustard, onion, and relish? No way -- Instead, Japadog offers teriyaki, wasabi, plum, and soy sauces.

Houston’s Hispanic population has evolved the standard hot dog into the spicy Mexican hot dog, and Vancouver’s Japanese population has developed its own cultural collision -- which begs the question of how many other populations have done likewise. Is there an Italian hot dog topped with marinara? An Ethiopian hot dog wrapped in injera? A Korean hotdog covered with kimchi?

As odd as it sounds, has the unassuming hotdog become a blank canvas for global cuisine?