From baked Alaskan fries and kiwifruit to Scotch eggs, not all foods originate as advertised. Here are some classics that don’t look what they seem.
The Danes and the French call these delicately layered pastries wienerbrød (Vienna bread) and viennoiseries. They were introduced to Denmark by Austrian chefs in the 1850s and then took on various forms across Scandinavia, Britain and America. Synonymous with France, croissants were inspired by kipfel, an Austrian crescent-shaped biscuit that became popular in Paris in the 1840s when it was recreated using puff pastry.
Photo: Wolfgang Kaehler/Getty
This meat and vegetable dish cooked on a tray is not Mongolian and hardly grilled. If anything, the style is closer to Korean cooking techniques. It was invented by a Taiwanese restaurateur in the 1950s, then lost interest and became a popular comedian. It combines Chinese stir fry and teppanyaki barbecue; Taiwan was previously under Japanese rule. The name was a marketing ploy to add oomph.
You might think that the pineapple on pizza originated somewhere in the tropics, but no. It was – get this – a Greek immigrant in Canada who first put pineapple on pizza in 1962, inspired by American Chinese food that combines sweet and sour flavours. Hawaii had recently acquired a state and supplied the component. By the way, pineapple, carrots, and onions in french fries are a sure sign of fire in non-authentic Chinese cuisine.
Food fried in dough is not particularly Japanese and is found in many cuisines of the world. The first recipes came from medieval Arabic cookbooks and arrived in Nagasaki with Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. The word is derived from the Portuguese language meaning Lent because that was the time to eat fried fish. Tempura dough is made from different ingredients and fried in different oils in different regions of Japan.
Photo: Chris Hopkins
This Australian favorite has a complicated history. Crispy veal cutlets came from northern Italy to inspire the so-called Viennese veal steaks and were taken by Italian immigrants all over the world. However, the layers of cheese and tomatoes are a feature of the eggplant dish from Parma (or Parmigiana). However, meat parmigiana is an American invention of the 1950s, often accompanied by pasta rather than chips. I arrived in Australia soon after.
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These puffed pastries, stuffed with minced meat or spiced potatoes, are eaten as street food and a common entrance in Indian restaurants. However, it originated in Central Asia, first appeared in Arabic cookbooks and has a name derived from the Persian language. Variants appear in different shapes, sizes, and fills across Asia, East Africa, and the Middle East. The original samsa, which is almost always baked, is a wonderful hot snack in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
This rolled sponge topped with jam, cream, and sometimes fruit comes from Central Europe and is known as jelly roll in the USA, queen’s arm (or gypsy) in Latin America and rolled in most of Europe. Although considered old-fashioned elsewhere, it is popular thanks to British influence in Hong Kong, and is a staple in bakeries in cosmopolitan Chinatowns where cream is often stewed with strawberries, mangoes or coffee.
Chinese custard dumplings
Most of us know these crunchy, custard-filled pancakes from yum-cha restaurants. The Cantonese version appeared in southern China only in the 1920s, most likely under the influence of British pancakes. The larger, more caramelized Macau-style version, although inspired by Portuguese pastel de nata, was only created in the 1980s by a British businessman, though it has since spread across East Asia and in Chinese restaurants in Australia.
The American obsession with sauce gives the impression that it is as all-American as apple pie – which, by chance, originated in Europe. But ketchup is derived from Asian fish sauces and once contained ingredients such as walnuts, oysters, or anchovies. The word probably comes from either Malay or a southern Chinese dialect. Mushroom ketchup appeared in Britain in the eighteenth century and tomato sauce in the nineteenth century.
Cheesecake, which is not actually a cake, is also thought to be typically American but has been around in Europe since ancient Greek times, at least in baked form. However, the uncooked version originated in the USA. Buffs can take a world tour with their purple Filipino cheesecake, Japanese cheesecake or dense New York cheesecake. South Africans often include a happy dose of Amarola.
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