Keeping an open mind

I hate “Asian Fusion”. To me, it’s a 90′s supertrend, a la Wolfgang Puck in Beverly Hills, or Sushi Samba when it first made its debut. It’s what people were eating on my first visit to New York in college- when my fellow students went to Cabo, Tijuana, Lake Havasu, or Nola for Spring Break, my roommate and I decided to go to NYC.  And we ate, beyond our college pocket means, at Sushi Samba.

I said to a friend the other day-

I think I detest the people who like The Dave Matthews Band more than I dislike the band itself.

This is exactly the same way I feel about Asian Fusion. The name conjures associations of art deco restaurant furniture, bland ahi poke, and men with Paul Mitchell gel in their hair wearing bright paisley sport coats.

Because when I really think about it, the concept of Asian Fusion really is brilliant.

There are so many flavors in this part of the world I live in now. Some I’ve grown up with (five spice, curry, fermented soy), and some are completely new to me (fish sauce, Indonesian chili peppers, dried scallops and mussles). Lots of these flavors add a fishy element to dishes, some are fermented and quite tangy, and others add a welcomed spicy kick to a meal- and all make our traditional diets in America look so blah, bland, and boring.

I find it interesting when a cook can take these Asian flavors and add them to their repertoire of cooking. It’s genius to infuse pork chops with five spice and pour fish sauce over roasted vegetables. I’m not alone on this- there are korean tacos, banh mi restaurants, and entire chefs dedicated to the art of melding of Eastern flavors with Western culinary philosophies. Pork Belly seems to be everywhere in America, ginger is a staple at supermarkets, and soy products are finding their ways into mainstream meals.

Fads will come and go. 90′s era Asian Fusion is gone, thankfully, but the good stuff is here now, and I’m keeping an open mind about this new era of Asian Fusion. Of course, it helps when stuff like Black Sesame Ice Cream makes it onto my list.

Using David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop as a guide, I brought a little East-meets-West into my own kitchen. Unbelievably it was the first time my ice cream maker was plugged in here in China, but at least the 70-degree Fall weather is still accommodating to my own Asian Fusion experiments.

Black Sesame Ice Cream

adapted from David Lebovitz’s Kinako Ice Cream Recipe, p.42


  • 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
  • 3/4 cup (150g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (80g) black sesame seeds
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
  • 6 large egg yolks


  1. Toast sesame seeds in a nonstick skillet over medium heat, for 5-7 minutes. Grind in batches in a spice mill/coffee grinder.
  2. Whisk together milk, sugar, black sesame powder, and salt in a saucepan over medium meat until sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  3. In a separate bowl, lightly beat egg yolks until combined. Temper the milk mixture into the egg yolks, first pouring a tablespoon of milk into the eggs, then a little more, then more, until the egg yolks can be completely mixed with the milk without curdling from the heat.
  4. Add cream and set over medium heat. Stir constantly, making sure to carefully scrape the bottom of the saucepan with a heatproof spatula to minimize clumps. After about 15 minutes, the mixture should have thickened, so that a thin layer coats your spatula when lifting it out of the pan. Remove from heat, and allow to cool. Transfer to a glass container or heavy-duty plastic ziploc, and set in the fridge to cool completely. (Minimum 1 hour, best at least half a day)
  5. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.

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