Raising Adventurous Eaters: A Lesson from Fusion Food


Fusion has become passé in foodie circles – but I’d argue that you should hang on to this idea at your dinner table. Fusing foods is one of the best ways to get kids to try new foods.

How did fusion fall out of foodie favor? Overuse, says a recent story in the Wall Street Journal who broached the subject asking, “So why is the ‘F’ word such a taboo in today’s kitchen?” The article points out the term ‘fusion’ for food was swiped from the music world. When composers merge different kinds of sounds – like jazz and classical or hip-hop and, say, opera – they call it fusion. These days we take the idea of mixing different kinds of foods for granted, but it was a new idea back in the 1980s when a chef in Florida coined the term.

Today, chefs are shunning fusion and prefer new terms like ‘globally inspired,’ ‘modern,’ or the current fav, ‘mash-ups.’ It’s still the same idea – mixing ideas from one food genre and mixing it with another. (Yup, the wildly popular Korean tacos, a staple of the foodie truck world, put fusion foods on the map a few years ago.)

While the foodie world may be snubbing fusion, it’s the perfect way to convince picky eaters to tap into their adventurous side.

Pair a familiar food with a new one to entice your kids to taste new dishes. We’ve fallen into this habit at our house. I belong to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) where I’m getting new-to-me ingredients on a regular basis. This week, for example, I had ramps in my bag.  How to use these long, green leaves that seem like the perfect combination of green onions and garlic? I chopped them up and sautéed them with chicken as a filling for tacos. And I chopped them up and mixed them with shredded lettuce in sandwiches.

Fuse new + familiar = willing eaters!

We found that we’re not the only ones still enjoying fusion foods. When we were traveling recently in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Santa Monica, California, we looked for unusual restaurants to try out. The most memorable – and the tastiest – happened to be fusion mash-up restaurants.

Take Komex in Las Vegas. This unassuming restaurant that’s tucked into a mini-mall has some of the freshest, spiciest food you’ll have in Vegas (no need to go down to the Strip with your kiddos). The name says it all: Korean foods infused with Mexican flavor. Korean bulgogi (marinated meat) beef is tucked into grilled corn tortillas and topped with cabbage slaw and melted cheese to make tacos. I had the fusion torta, which had all the makings of a traditional Mexican sandwich with a yeasty roll smeared with mayo, but filled with bulgogi beef, then slices of tomato, avocado, and shredded lettuce. My daughter had the fusion flautas – bulgogi meat (her choice was chicken) rolled with cheese in flour tortillas and then fried.

KoMex, Las Vegas

KoMex Torta

KoMex Salsa

KoMex Flautas




Fuse Jamaican seasoning and sauces with Mexican food and you have Santa Monica’s local favorite – Cha Cha Chicken. The enchilada plate included grilled chicken rolled in corn tortillas and then doused with jerk sauce (a mix of scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, brown sugar, and plenty of garlic). My youngest, who is just learning to appreciate Caribbean flavors, opted for the coconut fried chicken and was persuaded to dip it into the jerk sauce that came to the side. The fried plantains were an instant favorite, especially when I pointed out the plantains are like firmer, less sweet bananas. They liked bananasm so why not plantains?

Cha Cha Chicken, Santa Monica, California

Cha Cha Chicken - Jamaican jerk enchiladas

Cha Cha Chicken, Santa Monica, California

Cha Cha Chicken



Judging by the long lines and packed tables at both Komex and Cha Cha Chicken, fusion food isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Now what foods can you fuse at your house to guide your kids toward expanding their palates?


Kristen J. Gough is the Global Cuisines & Kids Editor for Wandering Educators. She shares her family's adventurous food experiences--and recipes--at MyKidsEatSquid.com.

All photos courtesy and copyright Kristen J. Gough


Note: this article was originally published in 2014 and updated in 2017




Comments (1)

  • Terry at Overni...

    8 years 9 months ago

    Who cares what The Wall Street Journal says? Your idea of fusing the familiar with the exotic is genius in helping kids develop wide-ranging tastes. Its not bad for adults, either.

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