Ever wondered what really sets Russian food apart from Italian fare? The answer may surprise you

We often associate a specific meal with one country – Spanish with paella, Japanese with tempura, Vietnamese with pho – but defining what actually sets one country's cuisine apart from another is really quite a challenge.

 

Not that people aren't trying. Data blog Priceonomics went through 13,000 recipes from the recipe website Epicurious to figure out which ingredients make "US" food different from "Indian" or "Chinese" dishes.

 

First, the data looked at the most common ingredients in each country's cuisine and the percentage of recipes those ingredients were found in. These tended to be store cupboard items like oil, or condiments and seasonings such as soy sauce and garlic.

 

Then in order to determine each region's "most distinctive ingredient", the data collectors looked at which ingredient appeared most often in a single country's cuisine compared to the rest of the world.

 

But as the research acknowledges, since many of the recipes are from US sources the data is slightly skewed to reflect how Americans view foods from different countries rather than the cultures themselves.

 

That said, they were correct with one thing: we do love a currant bun.

 

Russia

Egg noodles turned up in 7% of Russian recipes. Surprised? We are.

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Egg noodles

Via: bour3/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: bour3

 

England and Scotland

Currants set English and Scottish dishes apart by appearing in 10% of 'English' and 'Scottish' recipes (we're looking at you, currant bun).

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Currants

Via: Mikel Martinez de Osaba/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: mimadeo

 

Greece and Mediterranean

Feta (surprise, surprise) was the biggie in Greek and Mediterranean dishes. Now can someone please pass the olive oil?

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feta cheese Greece

Via: Cookthinker/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: cookthink

 

The US

Not such a shocker? Apples featured in 5% of US recipes. Well, that explains why the phrase "as American as apple pie" exists.

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Apples America

Via: Arden/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: aatt0000

 

Thai

Thai food's distinct flavour comes from galangal – a type of ginger – used in 11% of recipes.

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Galangal ginger Thailand

Via: David Blaine/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: David Blaine

 

Asian

Sesame oil was used in 30% of all Asian dishes.

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Sesame oil

Via: Lisa McKenna/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: kikalee

 

France

Tarragon – often found in French sauces like béarnaise – appeared in 5% of all French recipes.

 

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Tarragon

Via: Ali/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: veryberryhandmade

 

Mexico, Central and South America

The avocado dominated Mexican (15%) and Central and South American (13%) cuisine.

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Avocado

Via: Samantha Thayer/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: azwebear

 

German

Sauerkraut featured in 15% of all German recipes. We can't think of anything else that goes better with bratwurst.

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Sauerkraut

Via: Susy Morris/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: chiotsrun

 

Vietnam 

Vietnamese dishes get their kick from Thai peppers used in 14% of dishes.

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Thai peppers

Via: Global Eyes/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: russphotos

 

Morocco

Caraway is what makes Moroccan (10%) recipes distinct from other cuisines.

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Morocco caraway

Via: Joy K/CC-BY-SA 2.0/adapted/Flickr: joy_k

 

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