Asian Fusion confusion?

Years ago, Asian restaurant menus were specific. Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, etc. Thru the years the Chinese introduced Japanese sushi bars and cuisine into their premises. Then came all the other variations/combinations on multi-national Asian cuisines fused into one menu. Not that its bad all the time, but it does get confusing. Not knowing exactly what you are eating. Should the diner care? What do you think?

Do you have any specific examples of places that do this you are thinking about?


I think the pan-Asian menu you see is done for a broader audience ($$$). I don’t care really because I don’t really eat at those places but I get why they exist ($$$).

Slightly related a lot of non-Shanghainese Chinese restaurants add in xiaolongbaos to the menu. I see Northern places in SGV and Cantonese places in SF put XLB’s on the menu. It’s a money grab too imo because it’s what’s popular (they see the lines at Din Tai Fung).

You also see Asian-American chefs adding pan-Asian influences to western dishes, fine dining, and fusion.

I guess it’s all about the $$$


Also I think there is some hyper regionality going on. You have a restaurant like Golden Delight with Vietnamese/ Chinese dishes when there are many Chinese people who live near the border and who do enjoy and regularly eat Vietnamese dishes.

Similarly with the history of settlement (forced or not), Japanese Dishes in Korean places. More Japanese places having items like KimChee fried rice because in Japan it’s fairly popular.


I imagine this is region-specific, since I can’t think of a Chinese place in Los Angeles that has Japanese food on the menu. I think a good number of sushi places in LA are owned and operated by Korean people, though.

I remember the first time my dad said he could order XLB at dim sum, my reaction was, “WTF?!?!?!?!”


That definitely wasn’t a option during dim sum in the 90’s SGV I grew up eating in.

Asian fusion and pan-Asian restaurants have been around for a long time. In the 70s it was Chinese restaurant, Japanese restaurant, Thai restaurant, I don’t recall people saying “Asian” until the 80s.

I remember the small town I went to college in (not Westwood, shocker of shockers) had two pan-Asian restaurants, a nominally Thai restaurant that also had sushi and some Korean dishes and a more generic one that mostly existed to sell drinks to underage students until they got busted. There was also an Indian restaurant that was maybe actually legitimately good?

Many (even most?) of the ‘commodity sushi’ (super spicy dragon roll with garlic mayo and eel sauce) places I’ve encountered in LA, SF, and even out here in Sacramento, seem to be owned by Korean families. Many include a couple of offshoot dishes (bi bim bop, gochujang chicken wings, etc) that speak directly to it.

When I lived and worked in Marin county many years ago, there was a place in San Rafael called Yu Shang’s (still there as far as I know). It was half cheap American-Chinese (sweet 'n sour, fried rice, etc) and half full on cheap sushi bar. It’s the only time I’ve seen what could have been two totally different restaurants conjoined that way.

Somehow, the food from either side was, while not spectacular, better than one would expect given the type of place and the prices. It was a regular lunch stop for our crew.

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When a sushi place has soju on the menu, I figure the owners are Korean.

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That’s the first thing that popped into my head. I don’t order them except at Shanghainese places.

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it’s a complicated question. i don’t love that some restaurant owners cater to and promote a perception that all asians are the same. but they’re just trying to make a living.

Isn’t ultimately the most important question if a dish tastes good or not (and not if it is “authentic” or “fusion”) ?

One Chinese restaurant I knew made a good living selling half-price sushi at their sushi bar along with a full Chinese menu. The owning couple were mixed: wife was Chinese, husband Japanese.

it might be more accurate to describe them as vietnamese in terms of emigration but ethnically chinese - the vietnamese who settle in the SGV are typically ethnic chinese vs the vietnamese who have settled in OC. as a consequence the menus of southern vietnamese places in the SGV tend to have a cantonese or maybe chiu-chow influence.

this is somewhat of a non sequitur, but there was an interesting article in eater about how cambodians have dominated the donut industry in the southland. according to the article, 80% of the donut places in LA are run by ethnic cambodians. in some cases, they’re second generation while more recent immigrants are being encouraged to open their own donut shops. but this might be the only real exception of asian ethnicities not offering cuisine of their ethnic homeland.

as for the OP’s observation, like the other responses, i don’t see that many pan-asian restaurants either, with the possible exception of the noodle world/planet/galaxy/universe/what have you chain - no wait, there was a thai place in eagle rock on colorado blvd that offered sushi for a while before they went out of business. but the one example eventually provided by the OP actually reflected the ethnicities of the owners, so it seems to me the initial premise was actually invalid.even so, it should be (or was) noted that some places offering japanese cuisine aren’t or weren’t owned by japanese, nor are all sushi chefs japanese here in LA. also, laotians tend to brand their cuisine as thai figuring that there would be little demand for such an obscure regional cuisine, to our great loss IMO.

but if anything, pan-asian would have been more realistic to expect decades ago when america was much more white bread and anything asian would be considered exotic - and still likely tailored to be appealing to the typical western palate.

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There are many mixed Asian (Asian Fusion) restaurants in greater New York. One of the longstanding innovators in the concept is celebrity chef Ming Tsai up in Boston. My point is, the Asian world is quite large, we would all agree, and the individual national/regional/local food cultures often get lost in the process. Hence, Asian confusion…

I think I started seeing pan-Asian restaurants in the 80s. I believe there are lots of them around in places where there aren’t a wide variety of restaurants. E.g. the Pan Asia Cafe in Indiana, PA:


Years ago, it was dining terms like ‘Continental’, ‘European’, whatever they meant, that stirred up culinary confusion. Few seemed to mind the specifics back then…

Decades ago, “all orientals looked alike” and the Asian population, except for a few places like NY, LA and SF was so small and the representation of any particular ethnic nationality was even smaller such that individual restaurants might combine cuisines, mostly Chinese and Japanese. You still see combined Chinese/Japanese restaurants in some locales but the explosion in the Asian American population has obviated the need for this type of restaurant in many parts of the US. Asian fusion is a completely separate issue,