The word "fusion" gets a bad reputation in cooking, as people usually think of the wayward culinary mashups in the 80s and 90s, kind of like when you desperately tried to mush your anatomically incorrect Barbie and Ken dolls together in an attempt to make doll babies. Back then, in an effort to make their businesses stand out, chefs were bringing together cuisines and flavors for shock value, rather than creating a better dish. It was very much the opposite of "We Are the World."
But now, more and more chefs are refining those flavors and having much more success at putting the UN on your plate. At Le Mary Celeste in Paris, chef Haan Palcu-Chang makes quinoa terrine with chimichurri and hoisin sauce, oysters with nam jin, and deviled eggs with black fried rice. You can thank his Chinese and Romanian parents, as well as his upbringing in Toronto, for his ability to pair seemingly mismatched ingredients.
Before you try making your own kimchi gelato, pineapple Bolognese, or jerk chicken nigiri and possibly cause World War III by pissing off the respective nations that hold them dear, take it easy with Palcu-Chang's recipe for this roasted cauliflower salad and nuoc nam sauce. Pairing the deep, almost smoky flavor of roasted cauliflower with the bright, spicy taste of this Thai dressing creates an unlikely but excellent umami-packed combo.
So use this recipe as an entry point when trying to merge ingredients from the East and the West, North and the South. We're not saying these chefs are creating world peace, but every little nuoc nam-spiced bit helps.