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we are

layered richness

An exploration of food commonalities found in the taste buds of Gen 1.5ers living in Toronto, Canada.

Copyright Š 2018 Samantha Goh All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or portions thereof in any format whatsoever. By any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing. Published in Toronto, Ontario. Art Direction, Design, Photography, Styling by Samantha Goh ISBN 0-621-03825-7 Printed in Canada

we are

layered richness

To my parents, Anthony & Lilian, who taught me all about the adventures you can experience with food.




Principale Chapter 01: the grain


Chapter 02: the flour

the dough

15 30

Chapter 03: the spice


Chapter 04: the zest


Chapter 05: the dish







Hello! Welcome to Layered Richness. A publication that discusses the food commonalities shared amongst various cultures through the palate of Generation 1.5 individuals living in Toronto. Generation 1.5 or Gen 1.5 is a relatively new concept which refers to people who have moved to either the United States or Canada between the ages of 5 and 16. They have experience living in multiple cultural atmospheres; making them experts in certain food cultures. Food tells the story of us. It reflects our cultural identities, and can act as a vehicle to share this aspect of ourselves. What better way to connect than through food? We will begin our journey by making our way south to Central and South America and across the globe to end off in South East Asia. Bon AppĂŠtit!


Let’s welcome the eight Gen 1.5 individuals that have participated in this process. These individuals had to answer a very important question for this book: “What are your top three favourite things to eat? Don’t think about it, just say it. Go!” A dish from each individual was chosen and all the common ingredients were listed. The ingredients that created each dish were mapped out and similar ingredients were highlighted. There was some research conducted on incipient agricultural that brought the discovery of the three main grains that fed early human civilization. We explore how different ingredients, spices and flavours play a role in this.


Laura “Tamales for sure, and two other favourite foods would probably be Indian roti and pupusas. It’s so hard to pick just a few!”

Andy “Ramen came into my head so quick and calamari and empanadas.”

Caitlin “Hmmmm, my top three would probably be chocolate, samosas and burritos!!! A very strange mix now that I think of”

Daniele “Right now or all time? Lasagna, Udon, BBQ Ribs.”

Kristina “Ahhh ok. My fav foods: momos, watermelon, and pizza.”

Jieun “I’d say instant noodle. Mmm...the rice is usually comfort because it goes with a stew. Like soy bean stew and a third one is spicy rice cake.”

Jefferson “Fried chicken, longganisa, ramen.”

Alexandria “Fried rice with a runny egg, breakfast chee cheong fun.”



masa harina onions garlic potatoes red bell peppers salt pepper oregano achiote tomatoes carrots tamarillo cilantro green chilies

rice flour onions fish cakes green onions hot peppers soy bean paste sesame oil hot pepper paste sesame seeds soy sauce garlic dried kelp anchovies

pork shoulder onions garlic salt red chili sauce shortening masa harina baking soda dried corn husks potatoes tomatoes

all-purpose flour ground chicken cabbage salt pepper onion garlic nutmeg turmeric momo masala curry powder chili powder coriander powder cumin fenugreek ginger tomatoes green chilies cilantro

pork belly soy bean paste bean sprouts cloud ear mushroom half-boiled egg green onions nori wheat flour onions garlic ginger salt wheat flour kansui

all-purpose flour potatoes green chilies ginger onions garlic coriander seed cilantro turmeric salt garam masala red chili powder fennel seed cumin seed cardamom peas

rice egg soy sauce onions garlic ginger lap cheong green onions chili peppers

garlic onions tomatoes salt pepper fennel seed tomato paste parsley basil ground beef oregano mozzarella parmesan ricotta durum wheat eggs







The grain. A single, small, hard seed or fruit of a cereal grass.

We begin with the grain. When human beings first discovered how to domesticate plants and animals, this was the beginnings of agriculture. The act of cultivating and breeding animals and plants to provide sustenance was crucial for the development of human civilization. The three main grains that were involved in this process were corn, wheat and rice. There are a huge variety of species within these plants and we will be focusing on the Indian corn, the common bread wheat and white rice.


The most crucial event in the prehistory of Mesoamerica was when humans discovered edible plants. This process centred on three plants: the Indian corn (maize), beans, and squashes. Corn is widely used in Latin American cuisine to make masa: a type of dough used in such staple foods as tortillas, pupusas, arepas and tamales.





incipient agriculture 6500–1500 bce

Corn Corn, Zea mays, also called Indian corn or maize, is a cereal plant of the grass family, Poaceae, and its edible grain. The domesticated crop originated in the Americas and is one of the most widely distributed of the world’s food crops.


the beginnings of civilization 10,000 bce

Wheat Wheat is one of the world’s most commonly consumed cereal grains. It comes from a type of grass, Triticum, that is grown in countless varieties worldwide.





Of the thousands of varieties known, the most important types of wheat are the common wheat that is used to make bread; durum wheat, used in making pasta (alimentary pastes) and club wheat, a softer type, used for cake, crackers, cookies, pastries, and flours. Additionally, some wheat is used by industry for the production of starch, paste, malt, gluten, alcohol, and other products.


the beginning of civilization 8000 bce





Rice is not a tropical plant but is still associated with a wet, humid climate. It is generally believed that the domestication of rice began somewhere in Asia. One of the most important discoveries that led to the development of our civilization was the domestication of rice. This grain has fed and nourished more people over a longer period of time than any other crop.

Rice Rice, Oryza sativa, is the second largest cereal crop and is a staple food in all areas of Asia. Unlike wheat, which is generally raised on large farms and harvested mechanically, rice is usually grown on small paddy fields and are harvested by hand. 13

Masa Harina

Wheat flour

Rice flour



The flour. Finely ground meal of grain, separated by bolting; a powdered foodstuff. The dough. A thick, malleable, paste made out of any grain.

Next comes the flour. After the discovery of grain, the revolutionary technology of grinding these indigestible seeds into a nourishing powder was developed. The invention of the grinding stone resulted in a larger variety of food types and the advancement of human food culture. We explore the different types of flour that can be created from the various species of corn, wheat and rice.


masa harina Masa Harina


Wheat flour

Chickpea Rice flourflour

Rice flour

The word masa translates to “dough�. Masa harina is mainly used in Mexico and Central American cuisine. There would not be any tamales, empanadas, arepas or any other foodstuff if not for this type of flour. Masa harina is like the all-purpose flour used to make pies, bread or certain pastries. It is the foundation of Latin American food culture with its unique flavour profile. Due to the process of making this flour, recipes that call for masa harina cannot be substituted with cornmeal.

Masa harina Masa harina is a soft flour made from finely ground dried corn kernels or hominy that have been soaked in limewater (a diluted solution of calcium hydroxide—not to be confused with water flavored with lime juice). It is this alkaline solution that gives the pleasantly sour flavor you would taste in corn tortillas.




Wheat flour All-purpose f lour is made out of a blend of soft and hard wheats which allows it to be suitable for making bread, cakes or pastries. Usually, hard wheat f lour is used to make denser foodstuff like bread, and soft wheat flour to make lighter, fine textured pastries. Durum wheat flour has a high protein content and is most commonly used to make pasta.

Wheat flour is unique because it can produce gluten, a protein that gives strength and elasticity to the dough and influences the texture of baked goods. The gluten content in the flour depends on the type of wheat the flour is made out of. Hard wheats that are higher in protein produce more gluten. This ability to produce gluten can be harmful to some individuals who are not tolerant of this protein.

Masa Harina


Wheat flour

Rice flour




Rice flour Unlike wheat flour, rice flour is completely gluten free and is made from finely ground rice. There are two common types of rice flour, the glutinous rice flour that is often used to make desserts and the rice flour is used to make different types of noodles in Asia.

Masa Harina


Wheat flour

Rice flour

Rice flour is often used as a thickening agent in cooking. It can be used as a substitute for wheat flour in baking because it is gluten-free. It is rich in carbohydrates and low in fat. Rice flour has a silky-smooth texture and is bright white in comparison to other flours. Rice flour is commonly used in Asian food culture making a variety of savoury dishes including noodles, dumplings and rice cakes. It can also be used to coat fish and other proteins. It works best to make sweet breads like muffins and cakes. Glutinous rice flour or sweet rice flour is made from short grain glutinous rice or sticky rice. When this flour is cooked, it is firm but sticky with a chewy texture that you often find in East Asian desserts.






The name lasagna or lasagne is claimed to be derived from the Greek word laganon, one of the very first forms of pasta known. Lasagna received its name through the method of making the dish, which is layering the pasta with meat sauce. Others claimed that lasagna originated from England, known as loseyns in medieval cookbooks.

Lasagna sheets


Ramen noodles

Lasagna sheets Traditionally, lasagna prepared in Southern Italy is made from semolina flour and water. All-purpose flour can be used to make this pasta when semolina flour isn’t available. Today, egg pasta is more common which is made from durum wheat flour, eggs and water.




Ramen noodles Ramen noodles are made from wheat flour, salt, water and kansui—an alkaline solution containing potassium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate. This solution is used to regulate the acidity in the process of dough making. Kansui gives ramen the yellow colour and the distinctly firm, springy texture.

Lasagna sheets


Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles originated in Japan when the Chinese tradesmen in the 19th century traveled to Japan after the war. Ramen is a dish that is not only loaded with flavour, but with cultural, historical and political importance. The Japanese word ramen is derived from the Chinese words la which means pull and mian which translates to noodle. Chinese noodles are traditionally known to be hand pulled. This means that ramen have a higher water content than noodles that are rolled and cut.






The spice. An aromatic or pungent vegetable substance used to flavour food

Now we add a little spice. In this chapter, we explore the complex and intricate history of spices. The Spice Trade route played a key role in shaping our civilization. It existed during the ancient times and the Middle Ages and is one of the earliest form of syncretic cuisine; this sharing and trading of spices and herbs. Spices have also been closely connected with magic, preservation, cultural tradition and medicine since the beginning of civilization. Some documentation prove that hunters and gatherers began wrapping meat with various root, bark and seeds. This resulted in the discovery of f lavouring meat. These spices and herbs were also used to mask the unpleasant taste and smell of certain food and later on, as important ingredients for the fermentation process of food. Many spices have been claimed to originate from India but the history of spices is so complex and amalgamated that one can only imagine where it was first discovered.


The spices discussed here are: fennel seeds, oregano, coarse and fine salt, peppercorns, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and chili flakes. These spices can be found in the dishes discussed in Chapter 5. Some sources claim that cumin was discovered in Ancient Egypt and was used as a health promoting spice. Coriander and cumin were also found to be used in Ancient Mesopotamia. Peppercorns are believed to originate from India and was known as “black gold� at one point due to their value as a commodity. The gradual domestication of chili peppers in Mesoamerica began around 5000 BCE . Oregano and fennel seeds both originates from the Mediterranean and have names that come from Greek terminology.












The spices discussed here are: turmeric powder, chili powder, curry powder, cumin powder and oregano powder. These powdered spices are found in most of the dishes in Chapter 5 but they generally dominate in South Asian cooking. Researchers may have found the earliest existence of curry powder: a proto-curry from India’s ancient Indus Valley Civilization. Just like cumin seeds, the turmeric root was found to be used in Ancient Egypt.


the trio

the paste

the heat

the garnish



The zest. An agreeable or piquant flavour imparted to something.

The zest is a unique chapter. In this chapter, we focus on the different ingredients used to add f lavour, making each dish unique through the various combination of these f lavour profiles. We begin with the trio of ingredients: onions, garlic and ginger, that are used as a base for cooking. We will explore the importance of the f lavour from tomatoes and how some cultures use chili peppers to add heat and punch to the dish. And to top it all off, we will end with the use of specific garnishes: coriander, parsley and scallions.


Onions Onions are believed to be first grown in Iran and West Pakistan. Due to the decomposing nature of onions, Allium cepa, there is no conclusive evidence where onions originated from. There is a high chance onions were a staple in prehistoric diet. It is considered one of the most versatile vegetables found in nearly every ethnic cuisine today.

the trio


the paste

the heat

the garnish

Garlic The use of garlic, Allium sativum, has been evident since Ancient Egypt. There are also some suggestions that garlic began growing in China as far back as 4000 years ago. Garlic grows wild in Central Asia, making it the area of origin for these plants. Throughout history, human migration spread garlic to other parts of the world and cultivated it far from its centre of origin.

Ginger Ginger, Zingiber officinale, is claimed to be native to southeastern Asia. It has been used in India and China since the ancient times. Traders brought it to the Mediterranean and by the 1000s, ginger was well known as far as England. Since the discovery of the ginger root, ginger was considered a tonic root to treat certain ailments and that is still one of its uses till this day.




Tomatoes Tomatoes, Solanum lycopersicum, are well known as a vegetable but it is actually a fruit of the f lowering plant of the nightshade Solanaceae family. The wild species of tomatoes originated in the Andes Mountains of South America. The name is derived from the Nรกhuatl (Aztec) word tomatl. This fruit was introduced to Europe by the Spanish in the 1500s. The Spanish and Italians seem to be the first Europeans to include tomatoes in their food culture.

the trio


the paste

the heat

the garnish




Habanero peppers Habaneros, Capsicum chinense, is a very hot pepper with Scoville Heat units between 200,000 and 350,000. These peppers originated from the Amazon region of South America. They start out as green in colour and as the pepper matures, the colour changes to a variety of red, orange and yellow.

the trio


the paste

the heat

the garnish

Green and red chilies It is believed that the Indian green chilies, Capsicum annuum, were first introduced in India by the Portuguese in the 1400s. The red Thai chilies, Capsicum frutescens, otherwise known as the bird’s eye chili are commonly found in Southeast Asia as well as Ethiopia. Both of these chilies also come in red and green, depending on how mature the chili “fruit” is.




Parsley This parsley, Petroselinum crispum, with the ruffled leaves is often used as garnish in comparison to the other common variety, the Italian parsley, Petroselinum neapolitanum. The curly parsley has a fresh, crisp taste and this crispiness is one of parsley’s best attributes to add colour and texture to a dish. This herb has been cultivated for so many centuries that it is difficult to pinpoint it’s exact origin. The name comes from the Greek word for stone, petro, because it was found growing on rocky hillsides in Greece.

the trio


the paste

the heat

the garnish

Coriander Coriander or otherwise known as cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, is a member of the parsley family and is used predominantly in Asian, Latin American and Indian cuisine. It is believed to be native to the Mediterranean and the southwestern parts of Europe.

Scallions Scallions, Allii fistulosi, or spring onions, is a pointy leaf perennial that is believed to have medicinal properties. It is used predominantly in Asian cooking. This plant most likely originated in East Asia with some historical records dating it back to 2000 BCE.






The dish. The end product. What can we make with all these ingredients?

So, what are the final dishes? In this final chapter, we discover all the distinctly different ethnic dishes that can be created with the ingredients from the previous chapters. These dishes were picked from each Gen 1.5 individual that participated in this exploration. Bon AppĂŠtit!


Tamale The name tamale is derived from the word tamalii which is from the Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztecs. The word means wrapped food. This ancient food pre-dates the arrival of Europeans in Central and South America. There is evidence that tamales existed as far back as 8000 BCE .





Empanada An empanada is a stuffed pastry that can be filled with meat, vegetables and even fruit sometimes. It is believed to have originated from Galicia (Spain). One of the earliest recipes for empanadas was published in a cookbook in the year 1520. The name comes from the verb empanar which means to coat in bread. This dish was brought to Latin America by the Spanish colonizers and is still popular till this day throughout Spain, Portugal, Latin America, the Caribbean and the Philippines.




Samosa The name samosa originates from the word samsa, after the pyramids found in Central Asia. This popular snack was introduced in South Asia during the Delhi Sultante by Middle Eastern chefs and it was known as sambusak, a word that is still used today in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. Sambusaks are small pies stuffed with minced meat, almonds, pistachios and walnuts. The Portuguese introduced batata, otherwise known as potatoes, to India which allowed the samosa to evolve from a meat filled pastry to a snack stuffed with potatoes.




Lasagna Lasagna may be commonly associated with Italy but there are some sources that state it originated from Greece or England. There are records of a British version of a lasagna that dates back to the 1390s. It is possibly one of the oldest forms of pasta. This dish is traditionally attributed to the city of Naples, as the first modern recipe of the lasagna was discovered there.




Momo The name momo originates from a Chinese term which translates to “steamed bread�. These dumplings are native to Tibet and Nepal. The Nepali momos are often filled with minced chicken, cabbage and flavoured with spices that are commonly used in South Asian cuisine. They are similar to Japanese gyozas and the Chinese jiaoz.




Tteokbokki Tteokbokki is a traditional Korean street food that dates back to the 19th-century Joseon dynasty. It was part of the Korean royal court cuisine at that time. Before the introduction of gochujang (Korean spicy paste made from chili peppers), that was influenced by the Japanese, tteokbokki was not red and spicy. Instead it was made up of meat, vegetables and seasoned with soy sauce. It is believed that the dish evolved to a spicy street food in the 1950s due to the limited supply of soy sauce during the Korean War.




Ramen Earlier in the book we discovered the possible origin of the name ramen was derived from the Chinese word that meant hand pulled noodles. Another plausible theory dates Japanese ramen to the founding of Rai-Rai Ken in Tokyo, a restaurant that employed Chinese cooks and popularized shina soba. Shina for China and soba in reference to a noodle dish that is well known in Japan. The restaurant offered a simple dish of noodles in a broth flavored with salt and pork bones. Ramen in its most basic form consists of noodles in a broth prepared with vegetables, meat or fish, and often flavored with soy sauce or miso.




Malaysian fried rice Historical records claim that fried rice existed since 4000 BCE. This dish originated from China was spread to Southeast Asia by nomads Sino-resident foreigners that settled there. This is how the simple fried rice evolved through the years and various versions of fried rice can be found all around Southeast Asia. Fried rice is usually influenced by spices and ingredients that can be found locally.





Thank you for taking the time to experience this exploration of food commonalities found in the palates of Gen 1.5ers living in Toronto, Canada. This book was created as part of a body of work for my undergraduate thesis; an exploration of identity entitled we are. This thesis exploration challenges traditional barriers through the lens of Generation 1.5, a group of individuals who have experience living in multiple cultural atmospheres, and the syncretism of cuisine. Please visit to learn more about the podcast series that was produced alongside this book.



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This publication was created as part of a body of work for my undergraduate thesis; an exploration of identity entitled we are. A thesis exploration challenging traditional barriers through the lens of Generation 1.5, a group of individuals who have experience living in multiple cultural atmospheres, and the syncretism of cuisine.

Profile for Samantha Goh

We Are Layered Richness  

This publication was created as part of a body of work for my undergraduate thesis; an exploration of identity entitled we are. A thesis exp...

We Are Layered Richness  

This publication was created as part of a body of work for my undergraduate thesis; an exploration of identity entitled we are. A thesis exp...