Can You Cook What You've Never Eaten?

I spent 5 hours caramelizing onions in an effort to produce a perfect French onion soup. I've eaten lots of onion soup in a variety of locations, including Paris, and I know what is good and what is not and I've had both. But what about those dishes that sound good but I've never eaten? Paella, pho, laksa, Cajun prawns, jerk chicken and a variety of other foods are things I've made and enjoyed but I've never eaten an "authentic" version so I don't know how close I've come. Is it possible to make a good version of a food when you have no basis for comparison?

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