SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - For Spanish chef David Munoz, fusion cuisine doesn't mean throwing foods from different countries together. It's all about learning the technique.
Munoz's DiverXO restaurant in Madrid is often booked solid for months and his menu, marrying Asian and Spanish ingredients and cooking styles, with a touch of Peru or Morocco thrown in, has earned him several accolades, including best new chef of the year at 2008's Madrid Fusion International Gourmet Summit.
But Munoz, whose restaurant name bears tribute to one of his favorite Chinese condiments, XO sauce, worked at top-notch Spanish restaurants at home, as well as renowned Asian fusion eateries such as London's Nobu and Hakkasan, before making elements of each cuisine his own.
Signature dishes include back-to-front fried red prawn carpaccio -- very thinly sliced prawns cooked by spraying it with the juice of sauteed prawn heads -- and black cod with cider and Chinese honey accompanied by his version of "socarrat," the crunchy rice stuck to the bottom of the paella pan.
The 30-year-old chef, who was in Singapore recently at a global gourmet gathering, spoke to Reuters about his famous Spanish omelet dim sums and his passion for globalization:
Q: What inspired you to combine such diverse cuisines?
A: "I always wanted to try something different. After working in Madrid, my wife and I went to London 6 years ago and it was there that I learned about Asian food. In Spain, Chinese food is very commercial, and at Hakkasan, everything was extremely different. At first, I only did pastry, because the non-Chinese were not allowed to cook hot food, but I persuaded the head chef to let me cook. I learned so much, it gave me lots of ideas. Working at Nobu too, which combines Japanese and Peruvian elements, was also very interesting.
At the end of the day, I just love Asian food and a chef cooks what he loves."
Q: The flavors of Spanish and Asian food are very different. Is hard to meld them together?
A: "Food is food all over the world. Spanish food is very flavorful, Asian food is very flavorful. You just have to make an effort, and use your imagination, to combine them. It's not an easy match, but with creativity, it's possible and the results are fantastic."
Q: What are your favorite ingredients?
A: "I love chilies. There are so many different kinds from all over the world. They're also universal."
Q: What is your favorite food?
A: "I love dim sums and I love to make different fillings for them. I like to make Spanish Omelet dim sums, which are basically wonton skins filled with potatoes, onions and egg. I also do a rabbit dim sum with five spice."
Q: Your restaurant is very popular. Was it always like this?
A: "When I first started cooking like this, people were very surprised with the food, they didn't quite know what to make of it or what they were eating. But a few months after we opened in 2007, we became very busy, so I guess there are a lot of people out there who love diversity and enjoy different food and are willing to have fun with it."
Q: Any advice for aspiring chefs?
A: "If you want to cook fusion food, you have to understand the component cuisines very well. You have to learn. Only after you have mastered the cuisines can you make them your own."
Writing by Miral Fahmy; Editing by David Fox