Food in general is inkling towards higher quality—we see restaurants such as Chipotle, with its emphasis on responsible sourcing of its ingredients. The fast-casual restaurant is seen as a turn away from fast food, where food choices were more strictly defined (and potentially less healthy) in the name of expediency.
But even as restaurants explore how to improve the food staples that we’ve always known, like made-to-order fast casual pizza, restaurants have also been trying to overturn the food that we’ve always known, via different combinations.
In July 2013, ramen burgers experienced a dramatic upsurge in interest on Google, due to enormous lines in New York City for a taste of the burger when it first came out . Now, the ramen burger has a permanent home in Los Angeles’ Koreatown and New York City.
Fusion food has always been around wherever two cultures mix—much of American cuisine is fusion food, with regional cuisines reflecting the diverse mix of immigrants that have gone through that particular region.
However, fusion food no longer becomes slowly entrenched in a region’s cuisine, one restaurant at a time. Like the ramen burger, fusion food now benefits from a combination of immediate hype and nationwide publicity. The ramen burger became an event, with people lining up hours before the stand in New York City was set to open. The national media reported on a couple hundred people (at most) lining up in one neighborhood in New York City. Around the country, people saw the ramen burger and wanted to try it for themselves, and furthermore, people in business saw the opportunity to profit; restaurants created their own burgers with ramen patties.
It is interesting to contemplate how food trends are more likely to not only spread quickly, but also nationwide. Would the ramen burger have been exclusively a New York City novelty, had the idea sprouted in the 1980s? Would the kimchi taco have remained in SoCal, instead of spawning imitators around the country ?
Will we see regional cuisines evolve in the same way that we did in decades before? I am not trying to be hysterical and predict a monotonous, nationwide cuisine of fusion food. But I wonder how regions will claim their food in an age of social media and online discussion of food, and what implications that has for people’s own identities when they speak of food.