Food mashups are a tale that’s likely as old as time. After all, they’re as simple as taking beloved existing foods as inspiration and, well, mashing them up into a hybrid in the hope that the whole is better than the sum of its parts.
The result is usually fun but gimmicky and hard to argue is superior to the original components. Take the ramen burger or the pizza bagel. Call us closed-minded, but cream cheese wins over pasteurized mozzarella on a bagel any day.
At the very least, though, frankenfoods almost always make for great munchies. With your sense of smell heightened, giving you more pleasure from every sweet, savory, or sweet-and-savory morsel, and as your brain seeks out more of every flavor and texture than your body may actually want, the food mashup is modern culture’s perfect response to your untamed cravings.
Sometimes, however, mashups produce offspring whose genetic diversity makes them strong enough to stand on their own. These are foods that withstand the fickle tides of Instagram trends because they’ve got it all, style and substance. Some of the results of these CRISPR experiments gone right:
The Cronut, a cross between a donut and a croissant and brainchild of Dominique Ansel.
The Compost Cookie, a cross between a chocolate chip cookie and just about everything in the pantry, including chocolate chips and pretzels, birthed by Christina Tosi
Poutine, french fries covered in gravy and cheese curds, thanks to the French Canadians
Banh mi sandwiches, pickled vegetables and pâté in a baguette, a hybrid of French and Vietnamese classics
In 2014, the Washington Post reported on a Mexico-city street food mashup called Dorilocos. You don’t have to be an etymologist to guess that the name suggests Doritos gone crazy. This hybrid, whose specific origin story is a mystery, is built on a foundation of Nacho Cheese Doritos and topped with items like grated carrots, jicama, cucumber, pickled pork rinds, peanuts, jellied candies, lime juice, two kinds of chili powder, and swirls of several kinds of fruity syrup and hot sauce. Popular enough to have made their way to the United States, we decided to try them for ourselves at Tacos Madres in Gowanus, Brooklyn.
It didn’t bode well that upon picking up the Cheetos bag-full of neon orange munchie mix, the server apologized that they’d run out of gummies. Of all the ingredients, gummies were what most fascinated us and what we expected would contribute the most to a deliciously or disgustingly but certainly distinctively curious combination of textures and flavors. Tempted to send the dish back for under-delivering from the outset, we charged forward to make the most of this food expedition.
Off to a disappointing start, the rest of the dish only served to underwhelm. By volume, 90% of the dish was a mix of Nacho Cheese Doritos, Cheetos and other cheese puffs, all of which we proudly adore, but none of which were the “locos” in “Dorilocos.” The remainder consisted of a dash of hot sauce, a handful of peanuts, a few cubes of jicama that had lost their crunch, and a sad toupée of shredded carrot on top. All of these ingredients had the potential to contribute to a great snack, but successful mashups transform their components not only with unexpected juxtapositions but also with thoughtful proportions, and these Dorilocos were simply cheese snacks finished with a garnish of hipster gimmick.
With a dataset the size of exactly one, more testing is in order before we can call it on the Doriloco. Mediocre munchie though the example at Tacos Madres was, Mexico has earned some blind faith for its long tradition of ingeniously combining flavors that thrill the entire palate. Covering papaya in chili, salt and lime to transform an already incredible fruit into something better yet? Brilliant. There’s hope yet for the Doriloco, we may just need to get it straight from the Mexican source.
Let us know about your favorite mashups and munchies by posting comments on our Facebook. And sign up for our newsletter to get more stories like this delivered to your inbox once a week.