Sunday, November 15, 2009

Homage or Cultural Co-option?

One of the student groups at the law school had a Chili Face-off last week, all proceeds going to charity. Faculty members square off for "Hottest Professor" and staff compete for "Staff Hottie." I was asked to participate, and the student who asked me complained that they didn't have much variety in chili last year.

For some odd reason, it just popped into my head, I said, "I'll make Kung Pao Chili!" Of course, this dish doesn't exist, and I've certainly never made it before! But having committed myself, I had to figure out how to do it.

I got a great Kung Pao Chicken recipe from Zoe's and Maya's Chinese tutor, and went hunting online for a Chicken Chili recipe. I combined the two, and substituted all the Mexican-style chili spices with Asian spices. I thought it turned out good, and most of the students seemed to like it. I had a GREAT time making it, experimenting with Chinese Five-Spice and chili paste and lots and lots of fresh ginger and garlic, and Thai chilis.

Of course, it was complete sacrilege for Texan chili aficionados (Chicken?! Is this chili from New York City?!).

But my question is whether the chili was an homage to Chinese cooking, or cultural co-option?!


The Gang's Momma said...

It sounds like a fun event. But you really can't leave us hanging like that. Who won? Was their recipe a traditional take on the art of chili? Or did a dark horse fringe recipe take the award away? At the very least, you should post the recipe that you came up with for the contest! Creative chefs want to know :)

M3 said...

Sounds fun! I'm married to a Texan who freaks out that my family puts (gasp) beans in our chili. I shudder to think what would happen if I tried out some Kung Pao Chili on him (you KNOW I'm going to have to try it now). Anyhow, if you feel like sharing the recipe, I love to try it out.

Scott O said...

Wait, wait, wait.
You do a blog entry about creating a new dish and leave out the recipe? Don't leave us hangin' here.
Come on, try again.