The Country Food Similarity Index is a statistically-based attempt to quantify how similar the food in one country is relative to another. By comparing the weight of raw food ingredients used in each country, a score is assigned that reflects the degree of similarity between the respective countries. The methodology is exactly the same for each country studied.
The Most Similar Cuisines to Malagasy Food
Although geographically diverse, the five countries with the most similar food to Madagascar are all located in tropical regions, so their climate tends to be hot and humid. This is a conducive climate to grow the two most commonly consumed ingredients in their food, rice and cassava. Malagasy people have a mix of Southeast Asian and African ancestry. Interestingly enough, the countries with the most similar food are also from Southeast Asia and Africa.
- Guinea is another African country that was colonized by the French. However, it borders the Atlantic Ocean, not the Indian Ocean. Beef and pelagic fish are the most widely consumed meats in these countries. Riz gras resembles many of the rice-based dishes found in Madagascar. Guinea’s version of Mafé, a peanut butter stew, is similar to stews in Madagascar with leafy greens and a peanut-based sauce.
- Indonesia and Madagascar both border the Indian Ocean. In fact, both countries speak Austronesian languages. Not only do both countries eat a lot of rice and cassava, but they also enjoy eating skewered meats. Sate, a Malaysian grilled meat served with peanut sauce, is somewhat similar to brochettes, although brochettes have a tangy taste instead.
- Cambodia is another former French colony on this list. Amok, a classic Cambodian dish, made with fish and a fragrant coconut curry, shares similarities with Madagascar’s dishes like Akoho sy Voanio, which combines chicken with a creamy coconut sauce. The biggest difference in their cuisines is that Cambodians eat more freshwater fish.
- Liberia is located in Western Africa, but its cuisine is still comparable with Malagasy food, particularly in terms of staple ingredients and cooking techniques. Both countries rely on rice, cassava, and plantains as dietary staples. Furthermore, Liberian cuisine showcases a variety of stews and soups, akin to Madagascar’s fondness for hearty and flavorful broths.
- Sierra Leone is another English-speaking country that borders Liberia. Cassava leaves, a staple in Sierra Leonean cuisine, can be compared to the widespread use of leafy greens in Malagasy cooking. Additionally, seafood plays a significant role in both nations, with fish and shellfish featuring prominently in various recipes.
The Least Similar Cuisines to Malagasy Food
The five countries with the least similar food to Madagascar are all located in the Northern Hemisphere. Four of the five are landlocked. In addition, most of these nations have historically had close ties with the Soviet Union. Their people tend to consume a much greater amount of wheat and potatoes. They also tend to have significantly more meat in their diets as well.
- Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world. The country’s cold, dry climate makes it difficult to grow crops. As a result, they rely on animal husbandry for their survival. Their people tend to eat much more meat from cattle, sheep, and goats than Malagasy. They also eat more dairy products, especially yogurt.
- Uzbekistan is a Central Asian country that was once part of the Soviet Union. As a result, the country’s cuisine features a mix of traditional Uzbek and Russian dishes. Grapes and apples are two of the most popular commonly consumed fruits in Uzbekistan, unlike in Madagascar where bananas and mangoes are more prevalent.
- Tunisia is the only African country on this list. However, it borders the Mediterranean Sea, not the Indian Ocean. A large portion of Tunisia is in the Sahara Desert, as a result their farms produce drastically different crops. Tunisians tend to eat more tomatoes and watermelons than the Malagasy people.
- Tajikistan is yet another landlocked Central Asian country that is predominately Muslim on this list. Its cuisine incorporates spices such as cumin, coriander, dill, and parsley, which add depth to dishes. In contrast, Malagasy cuisine utilizes local spices like ginger, garlic, vanilla, turmeric, and cloves, which contribute to its unique flavors.
- Belarus is another country that borders Russia on this list. Belarus is one of the few countries in the world where potatoes are the most commonly eaten starch. Rice is not consumed as nearly as often in this country as in Madagascar. Furthermore, dairy products like yogurt are extremely popular in Belarus, while Madagascar consumes very little.
Madagascar’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Chicken, Beef
Fruit: Banana, Mango
Vegetable: Tomato, Bean
Starch: Rice, Cassava
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.