This American Life

Samosas and Pasta, Carne Asada and Hot Cheetos: The Bay Area’s Culinary Mash-Ups

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An employee holds out a samosa sizzler at Milan Sweet Center. The Milpitas restaurant is one of a handful of places in the Bay Area that specializes in the Mumbai-style dish. (Beth LaBerge/KQED)

The sizzler, a popular dish in Mumbai, is an over-the-top melange of pasta, paneer, grilled onions and peppers, samosas, cabbage and shredded Mexican cheese – all piled on a sizzling hot platter. It was inspired, so the story goes, by a visit to a Sizzler chain restaurant in California in the 1960s, and it has returned to California in some South Bay restaurants.  But as any child of immigrants knows, cultural food mashups don’t have to be flashy. For KQED reporter Adhiti Bandlamudi, whose article tracked down the history of the Sizzler, it was grilled paneer tacos. For San Francisco Chronicle food critic Soliel Ho, it was Ho’s grandmother’s jasmine rice with maggi seasoning, topped with turkey cold cuts. Ho calls it “assimilation food”: “food that’s made to close the gap between homes: a critical need when one lives in exile.” As part of our ongoing segment on Bay Area food cultures, we’ll talk about all kinds of food mashups, from that Indian Sizzler to hot cheetos in a burrito to putting a splash of fish sauce in the mac and cheese.

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Luke Tsai, food editor, KQED

Soleil Ho, restaurant critic, San Francisco Chronicle

Adhiti Bandlamudi, Silicon Valley Reporter, KQED

Alan Chazaro, food reporter, KQED