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Q&A

Why don't North American coastal restaurants cook seafood in more styles?

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In 2017, my family and I travelled to Maritime provinces in Canada, then Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts to view fall foliage. We noticed that all restaurants there cooked seafood in just two ways — steamed or fried. Examples — besides lobster rolls, they _plain _steamed lobster — they didn't even put garlic, ginger, or spring onion!. They steamed or fried clams.

Why don't at least try to cook seafood in more styles? I know these New England restaurants aren't run by Asians, and they don't have woks — just ignore any styles using woks. But look at the Hong Kong restaurant menus below — they offer to cook lobster and clams so many other styles. Definitely they can put some garlic, ginger, spring onion or White Wine when they steam seafood!

Before the pandemic, I had meals at Summer Palace

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and Rosewood Hong Kong.

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Full disclosure — I don't affiliate or advertise them — I just screen shot their menus as evidence.

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Why doesn't the restaurant you show the menu for offer hamburgers with french fries and catchup? That's the symmetrical question to yours, with the same obvious answer. Olin Lathrop‭ 3 months ago

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This is largely a cultural and economical thing.

For the cultural part: Cuisine varies strongly around the globe. What one nation considers a fine dinner, another considers to be not eatable or enjoyable. If you look at your presented dishes, it clearly says "live" in front of each dish. For me, this means that the fish, crab and so on is still alive when it enters the cooking process. In Western culture, this is widely considered a big no-go as eating meat is supposed to be as painless as possible for the involved animal / fish from which the meat originates. This translates to the implicit need that whatever you cook should be already dead. While in Eastern cultures, eating live animals / fishes is sometimes considered a delicacy, this isn't favoured by Western cultures.

Furthermore on culture, not only the main ingredients used differ from country to country but also how food is presented and mixed with other ingredients. Asian cuisines emphasise vegetables, soups, herbs and spices much more (the source is a bit anecdotal) than American or European cuisine. Another big difference is the emphasis put on meat in Western cuisines compared to Asian ones. This means that meat / fish is often presented on its own to not be disturbed by the taste of other ingredients.

These cultural differences lead to a possible economic reason: There simply might not be enough customers for more Asian-styled food (in this case more varied seafood dishes instead of "plain" ones). Where I live, most food from other cuisines is adapted to better fit the local tastes. (An example: Indian food isn't nearly as spicy as it's supposed to be.)

My experience (as an European) is that you can find a few real native-styled restaurants in each major European city as most Europeans cities are highly diverse and are visited by a lot of tourists each year. So it might be worthwhile to check out some bigger cities with a lot of tourists in your region to find the food you're looking for.

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If you had visited a French restaurant in Boston, you would see French cooking techniques -- sautes, braises, and long-simmered soups.

If you had visited a Cantonese restaurant, you would see Cantonese techniques and vegetables and spices.

You went to New England and they cooked New England-style food: steamed, fried, and boiled. The primary additional ingredients are those which were easy to get in New England: potatoes, corn, onions, beans, carrots, apples, salt and sugar (brought up from the Caribbean in the triangle trade: tobacco, sugar, slaves).

Ginger was an expensive import. Scallions don't keep as well as white and red onions. Soy beans weren't grown there -- even now, the USA's soy crop comes from more than a thousand miles away from where you were.

If you wanted different cooking techniques, all you had to do was go to a different restaurant -- Boston, Portland, St. Johns all have many cuisine options.

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