Books

These Kimchi Patatas Bravas Are Proudly Inauthentic

Also in that camp: cookbook author Ravinder Bhogal's paneer-stuffed padron peppers, kimchi parathas, and miso-slicked banana cake.

by:
July 16, 2020
Photo by Kristin Perers

Which stories are being told, how, and by whom—these questions are very much on our minds as of late. Are there hard and fast rules to consider when overlaying the subjective (taste: liking, palatal) with objective (taste: “good,” “cultivated”)? When distinguishing appropriation from appreciation, assimilation from accommodation?

In Jikoni (Kishwali for “kitchen”), food writer, restaurateur, British chef, journalist, and stylist Ravinder Bhogal takes these rules, stuffs them with paneer, then tops them with kimchi.

A daughter of Indian immigrants, Bhogal found herself uprooted, at age 7, from her home in Nairobi. The resettlement to London left Bhogal feeling unsettled—an anxiety that she and her father found could only be assuaged by grazing. A handful of Bombay mix or fried cashews tossed in chili powder and black salt, crunched half-thinkingly or while padding back to bed—these familiar comforts in a discomfiting, unfamiliar setting brought, if not total ease, at least something close. This clinging to taste memories to remain tethered to our home selves is not unique to Bhogal and her parents, but an experience many immigrants share.

“We took the traditions of our ancestors and their regional home cooking and overlaid them with the reality of our new home and whatever its various food markets, delis, canteens and multicultural supermarkets had to offer on any given day,” Bhogal writes in the introduction. “This is what I suppose could be loosely termed ‘immigrant cuisine,’ proudly inauthentic recipes that span geography, ethnicity and history.”

In the book, you’ll find Bhogal’s—what Ottolenghi termed—“deliciously irreverent” mash-ups (to which she warns, “purists should avert [their] eyes”): paneer-stuffed padron peppers, kimchi-topped patatas bravas, a sticky banana cake sitting in a pool of miso butterscotch and Ovaltine kulfi. These recipes beg the question: Can any one culture claim ownership to the cheese-stuffed pepper or the caramelly, sticky cake? Or do these combinations of flavors naturally align and work themselves out independent of the home cook, their histories, and geographic location?

In equal weight, Jikoni features recipes like Indian-style khao suey, massaman pork and peanut curry, and kuku paka—dishes with muddied cultural origins that cannot be credited to Bhogal’s inventiveness, but to centuries of ocean trade routes, cross-cultural exchange, or more ominously, colonization.

The recipes found in Jikoni are borne of hybridization and syncretism, themselves documents of colonialism’s lasting effects, and how in-between communities, historically, make do. Bhogal’s book—for all its stunning photography and recipes—is not easily digestible; its existence is founded in hard-to-acknowledge parts of our collective history.

But it’s also just a collection of really tasty-sounding and -looking recipes by someone who knows her way around a jikoni.

What are some "proudly inauthentic" recipes your family cherishes?

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Jamaica
    Jamaica
  • Hope Carr
    Hope Carr
  • Coral Lee
    Coral Lee
Coral Lee is an Associate Editor at Food52. Before this, she cooked food solely for photos. Before that, she cooked food solely for customers. And before that, she shot lasers at frescoes in Herculaneum and taught yoga. When she's not writing about or making food, she's thinking about it. Her Heritage Radio Network show, "Meant to be Eaten," explores cross-cultural exchange as afforded by food. You can follow her on Instagram @meanttobeeaten.

3 Comments

Jamaica July 22, 2020
You ask for Our family recipes without offering one? How about the recipe for kimchi patatas bravas that your click bait title leads one to believe will be in your content?
Yeah, I get it, it’s a book review... but
most give a recipe or two to entice potential buyers. And your title (not to mention subtitle, NOT to mention being an article on food52) implies a recipe would be included.
 
Hope C. August 24, 2020
There are two of her recipes in side-by-side boxes towards the end of the article. The potatoes are on the left.
 
Author Comment
Coral L. August 24, 2020
Hi there! The recipe is linked at the bottom of the article. You can also find it here: https://food52.com/recipes/83420-kimchi-royals-recipe