Is There A New York Cuisine?
The Melting Pot of the World has been simmering away for almost 400 years now, spiced with the new flavors of a never-ending stream of migrants. This nickname for New York City can be traced back to a playwright called Israel Zangwill in 1908 and came about because of the city’s intense mix of immigrants from across Europe. The same can still be said today, with Chinese and Mexican immigrants as common as Irish or Italians were in the 19th century. But how is this ethnic mix shown in the city’s cuisine?
Across the world the image of the brash New Yorker is synonymous with donuts and bagels. Neither would the crime scene be complete without New York-style thin-crust pizza (expect an earful if you’ve come expecting Chicago deep-pan pizzas). But these American foods are of course indebted to that same history of immigration. The ever-present street foods that make cheap holidays in New York, bookable through holiday comparison sites, still a viable option are hamburgers, pizzas, hot dogs, bagels and pretzels. Of these staples only the hamburger has a real claim to have been invented in America. Pizzas are of course Italian, while hot dogs, bagels and pretzels are the legacy of an influx of German immigrants at the turn of the 20th century.
Nonetheless street food trends are always changing. The surge of Middle Eastern falafel and kebab vendors is catching up on the burger market while Japanese ramen restaurants (noodle and meat broth) have continued to grow in popularity ever since the first Instant Noodles hit the streets. Mexican ‘tacos’ have taken a road trip from Los Angeles to hit the Big Apple while towering plates of African-American ‘soul food’ feature across Harlem and The Bronx. “Koreatowns” are challenging Chinatowns for precedence across the city.
Despite the civic pride in the history of immigration and integration in New York, no distinct cuisine has been born. And that is part of the adventure – when so many cultures are weaved into the City That Never Sleeps, you can sample a different cuisine at every meal.