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.
Egg noodles turned up in 7% of Russian recipes. Surprised? We are.
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).
Greece and Mediterranean
Feta (surprise, surprise) was the biggie in Greek and Mediterranean dishes. Now can someone please pass the olive oil?
Not such a shocker? Apples featured in 5% of US recipes. Well, that explains why the phrase "as American as apple pie" exists.
Thai food's distinct flavour comes from galangal – a type of ginger – used in 11% of recipes.
Sesame oil was used in 30% of all Asian dishes.
Tarragon – often found in French sauces like béarnaise – appeared in 5% of all French recipes.
Mexico, Central and South America
The avocado dominated Mexican (15%) and Central and South American (13%) cuisine.
Sauerkraut featured in 15% of all German recipes. We can't think of anything else that goes better with bratwurst.
Vietnamese dishes get their kick from Thai peppers used in 14% of dishes.
Caraway is what makes Moroccan (10%) recipes distinct from other cuisines.
Like this? Then try these:
- Italian cuisine voted best in the world (but the country at number 13 will shock you)
- 7 delicious tapas dishes you must eat in Seville
- Canada has a Harry Potter-themed bar and now we're jealous
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