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Spread of Ethnic Food Overseas: Beneficial or Harmful?

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Spread of Ethnic Food Overseas: Beneficial or Harmful?

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  • September 17, 2013
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Spread of ethnic food overseas: beneficial or harmful?

When ethnic food spreads beyond its country of origin, it is commonly seen as beneficial to their respective ethnic minorities and diaspora overseas. This is because bonds are forged when they prepare the food together and it also allows for other countries to appreciate the ethnic food and the country where it originated. As a result, the country’s ethnic identity is reinforced. However, this is a misconception as contrary to typical belief, the introduction of ethnic food overseas dilutes its authenticity and permanently deconstructs the ethnic identity of its country of origin. Hirose & Pih (2011) argue that a consumer’s cultural culinary experiences and the authenticity of ethnic food are dependent on general associations with ethnic identity, while Bak (2010) feels that the authenticity of ethnic food is diluted once it is introduced overseas because it is altered to suit the locals’ taste. Young (2005) provides an alternative perspective, arguing that the manner of eating an ethnic food affects its authenticity too. However, Abarca (2004) asserts that one should not insist on the authenticity of ethnic food as it stifles culinary improvements. Young (2005) also mentions how ethnic food is an identity marker and it is actually very hard to define what constitutes an ethnic cuisine because of the subjectivity of differing traditions and perceptions.

The aforementioned articles have in common the concepts of authenticity of ethnic food and ethnic identity, though divided on what affects or constitutes authenticity. Bearing in mind the differing viewpoints on the key concepts discussed, in this paper, a complete definition of authentic ethnic food is one that is prepared, served and consumed in the traditional method as in its country of origin, with the traditional ingredients required to produce its essential features. Therefore, based on this definition, the authenticity of ethnic food is diluted...