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California food is a part of the West Coast cuisine of United States, which is represented by fusion cooking that integrates distinct ingredients and cooking styles with special emphasis on the inclusion of locally grown and freshly prepared ingredients. Food in this part of United States is typically made with a special attention to the presentation, and the culinary culture is strongly reminiscent of the culinary movements that arose in the previous decades which draw a line of difference between the vintage cuisine of California and the New American cuisine. The latter is a term used for contemporary and upscale cooking style combining traditional and modern American cooking techniques, and primarily refers to foods served in the United States restaurants.

California food is largely varied owing to different micro-climates and the popularity of health conscious lifestyles which lays accent to the consumption of fresh meats, fruits and vegetables, most of which are organic. Being a coastal state, seafood forms the integral part of the staple Californian diet and although fried and battered foods are not a common sight in this American state, tempura, French fries and Fish tacos are by and large the most popular food items to be found in this regional cuisine.

California Cuisine: Classification

New American Cuisine of California

The New American cuisine of California which emerged in the 1980s is most popularly known for the Old World peasant recipes infusing luxury American ingredients and abiding by molecular gastronomical techniques. This modern cuisine of the state is majorly influenced by French Nouvelle cuisine, Latin American cooking, Mediterranean culinary styles and Asian cuisine.

Snacks and Fast Foods of California Cuisine

Car restaurants, often called the drive-thru restaurants, form the legendary Southern California food culture, which are automobiles selling fast foods, burgers and sandwiches. Some popular mobile restaurant chains are Jack in the Box, Big Boy, Original Tommy's, Carl's Jr., Fatburger, Del Taco and In-N-Out Burger. Gourmet burgers are very popular in the state.

Besides, there are South Californian local fast food chains such as The Hat, Jim’s, Baker's, Rick's and Tommy’s all of which are known for their hamburgers, Mexican dishes, Pastrami and Chili fries, with fried chicken or teriyaki feature on some menus occasionally. Mr. Chau’s and Happi House in Northern California are known for popularizing Asian food culture with their Teriyaki, noodles, Tempura and rice bowls.

Historical and Cultural Influences on Cuisine of California

California speaks of colonial Spanish roots and a Mexican territorial past and so California food also bears the culinary heritage of the Spanish colonizers, Mexican ranchers and Meso-Americans, which can be experienced in the form of burritos, carne asada fries, quesadillas, tostadas, menudo, chile relleno, Chipotle and enchiladas, to mention a few.

Barbecued foods on the other hand have a special place in Californian cuisine, as the Mexicans used to cook beef in ranched pit barbecues during the 1840s. However, barbecued dishes in this state also imbibed the Southwestern American cooking styles of Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. Pork baby back ribs, beef ribs, steaks and sausages top in this category.

California Cuisine:Trivia

  • California is the leading producer of dairy and strawberries and the second leading producer of grapes in the nation.

  • There are a number of California food festivals which celebrate the abundant production of almost all the organic produce of the state such as apples, artichokes, grapefruit, lemons, nuts, mandarin, cherries, mustard, strawberries, tomatoes, and zucchinis to name a few.