What is the opposite of Japanese cuisine? Puerto Rican cuisine might be a good candidate. It has the volume set permanently to 11. Its philosophy is maximalist. The flavors are so highly concentrated that all the other cuisines taste bland in comparison. In most cuisines, rice is used to spread the flavors of other foods on the table. Not so with Puerto Rican cuisine—rice itself packs the maximum amount of the flavors extracted from other ingredients. Even bread typically comes slathered with butter. Literally, nothing on the table is bland. Because Puerto Ricans know how to extract and maximize flavors, the quality of their ingredients becomes secondary.
In contrast, if you don’t have access to quality ingredients, there isn’t much you can do with Japanese cuisine. Sushi, for instance, is mostly about having access to high-quality fish. Without it, even a talented sushi chef would be helpless.
But Japanese people appreciate maximalist philosophy too—ramen is a good example. The reason why ramen is more popular in the US than the Chinese original is that the latter tastes bland in comparison. Ramen chefs throw everything but the kitchen sink into their pots to make their broth. That’s the part of me that loves Puerto Rican food.
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