Countries with the Most Similar Food to Japan

Country Food Similarity Index - Map of Countries with Similar Food to Japan

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 Cuisine to Japanese Food

Japan is an isolated archipelago in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean, however the five countries with the most similar food are located in Asia. All of these countries have a lot of coastline. Four of the five border the Pacific Ocean. Rice and wheat are the two most common starches consumed in these countries.

  1. South Korea was occupied by the Japanese for several decades, so it is no surprise that they have similar cuisine. Both cuisines prioritize the use of fermented foods, such as kimchi in Korea and pickled vegetables in Japan. Bibimbap and Chirashizushi are somewhat similar meals. Furthermore, Koreans and Japanese love for comforting soups and stews, like samgyetang and tori nabe.
  2. Malaysia is a tropical country in Southeast Asia, but it still has similar food to Japan. Both nations have curry dishes as part of their culinary traditions. Seafood is also popular in these countries, since most of their people live close to the coast. Rice and noodles are their most common staple foods. The art of stir-frying and the mastery of blending different spices and sauces is a common hallmark of cuisines.
  3. Taiwan is another country located in the North Pacific Ocean. It was ruled by Japan for several decades. Both countries use of fresh ingredients and simple flavors to create delightful dishes. Noodle soups are popular in both countries. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup and Japanese Ramen both consist of wheat noodles served in a flavorful broth, topped with meat and a variety of vegetables.
  4. Qatar is a surprising inclusion in this list. It is a predominately Muslim country in the Middle East. However, there are intriguing parallels between Japanese and Qatari cuisine. Both nations embrace grilled meats. Qatar’s signature dish, machboos (spiced rice with meat) resembles Japanese teppanyaki. Furthermore, both Qatar and Japan are fond of seafood. However, people in Qatar eat less pork due to religious reasons.
  5. China greatly influenced Japan throughout its history. It is no different in regards to food. Many fundamental cooking techniques and ingredients, such as soy sauce, tofu, and noodles, have their roots in Chinese cuisine. Dumplings, fried rice, and mapo tofu are popular in both countries. However, it’s important to note that China has a variety of different regional cuisines.

Related: The 10 Most Similar Countries to Japan

The Least Similar Cuisines to Japanese Food

The five countries with the least similar food to Japan are all located in Africa. Four of the five are landlocked, in contrast to Japan. They have have a much warmer climate as well, so their crops are quite different. Moreover, all these countries are significantly less developed than Japan. Interestingly enough, four of the five have French as one of their official languages.

  1. Democratic Republic of Congo is located in the middle of Africa. The country features vast swathes of dense rainforests. Cassava is the dominant staple food in the country. While fish is commonly consumed in both countries, Japan’s fish are predominately from the ocean, not rivers and lakes. In general, Japan eats far more meat as well.
  2. Central African Republic is located just to the north of Congo. Cassava and yam are two of the most commonly eaten ingredients in the country. Furthermore, taro and bananas make up a much greater share of the diet in Central African Republic than in Japan.
  3. South Sudan is another landlocked country in Africa. Cassava is the staple food, however the country eats its share of sorghum as well. Porridge is one of the most popular dishes in the country. Unlike Japan, seafood is not commonly eaten in South Sudan, although the Nile River runs through it.
  4. Chad is to the north of Central African Republic. It is mostly desert land, since the Sahara Desert runs through it. Chad’s cuisine is far different from Japan’s. It heavily relies on staple foods like millet, sorghum, corn, and beans.
  5. Burundi‘s cuisine relies heavily on staple crops such as sorghum, maize, beans, and root vegetables like cassava, sweet potatoes, and yams, which are abundant in the region. Unlike in Japan, the focus in Burundian cuisine is often on hearty, filling meals.

Related: The 10 Least Similar Countries to Japan

Full Food Similarity Ranking of Countries and Territories

Japan’s Most Common Food Ingredients

Protein: Chicken, Pork
Fruit: Banana, Apple
Vegetable: Soyabean, Onion
Starch: Rice, Wheat

Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.

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