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 Indonesian Food
The five countries with the most similar food to Indonesia all have tropical climates. Their hot and humid conditions are well suited for rice cultivation. Four of the five countries are located on islands. As a result, these countries also have a lot of coastline, so many of their people lice in close proximity to the ocean. Moreover, the presence of coconut trees in these regions has a profound influence on their cuisines.
(Please note that Brunei and Singapore are not included in the data)
- Thailand‘s cuisine shares several similarities with Indonesian food. Both nations make ample use of ingredients like lemongrass, galangal, and chili peppers. Pad Thai and Kwetiau Goreng are quite similar dishes. Both feature stir-fry rice noodles with vegetables, meat, and soy sauce. Furthermore, these countries have soups with coconut milk and chicken broth, like Soto Ayam and Tom Yum.
- Malaysia and Indonesia are very similar countries. Their people speak mutually intelligible languages and are mostly Muslim. Their cuisines are fusion of indigenous, Chinese, and Indian flavors. Both nations utilize ingredients such as rice, coconut milk, tamarind, and aromatic herbs. Dishes like Nasi Lemak (coconut rice with side dishes), Rendang (spicy meat stew), and Satay are enjoyed in both countries.
- Philippines is another island nation in Southeast Asia. Most people in both countries speak Austronesian languages. Nasi Goreng, an Indonesian fried rice dish cooked with various ingredients such as shrimp, chicken, vegetables, and a sweet soy sauce, is akin to the Philippines’ adobo fried rice. However, pork is more commonly eaten in the Philippines, since it is not predominately Muslim.
- Sri Lanka and Indonesia both border the Indian Ocean. The spice trade played a significant role in shaping the cuisines of both countries, facilitating significant cultural exchange. Both countries were once colonized by the Dutch. Rice, coconut, chili peppers, various tropical fruits, cloves and cinnamon are commonly used in these countries.
Curries play a significant role in the culinary traditions of both nations as well.
- Madagascar is another Austronesian-speaking country that borders the Indian Ocean. However, Madagascar is close to the African mainland. 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 Malagasy brochettes, although brochettes have a tangy taste instead.
The Least Similar Cuisines to Indonesian Food
It is no surprise that the five countries with the least similar food to Indonesia are all landlocked. Interestingly enough, four of the five are also predominately Muslim. They are located in Asia as well, although their climates tend to be much colder and drier than Indonesia’s. These countries have strong nomadic and pastoral traditions, where people rely on animal husbandry and move with their herds.
- Tajikistan is a mountainous, landlocked country in Central Asia that was once part of the Soviet Union. Tajik cuisine is influenced by Persian and Russian culinary traditions, resulting in unique flavors. Meat, especially lamb, and dairy products like yogurt and cheese feature prominently in Tajik cuisine.
- Mongolia is the most sparsely populated country in the world. The country’s cold, dry climate makes it difficult to grow crops. Their people tend to eat much more meat from cattle, sheep, and goats than in Indonesia. They also eat more dairy products, especially yogurt and cheese.
- Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country that borders Tajikistan. Grapes and apples are two of the most popular commonly consumed fruits in Uzbekistan, unlike in Indonesia where bananas and coconuts are more prevalent. Furthermore, seafood is not commonly eaten there.
- Turkmenistan is yet another Central Asian country on this list. The country’s diet has been influenced by its nomadic past. Turkmen cuisine typically relies on the natural flavors of ingredients without extensive use of spices or herbs. Bread and tomatoes are far more commonly eaten in Turkmenistan than Indonesia.
- Afghanistan is at the crossroads of the Middle East and Central Asia. Its diet is heavily wheat-based. Watermelons, grapes, and cantaloupes are the most popular fruits in the region. Furthermore, unlike Indonesia, beef and lamb are its two biggest sources of meat.
Indonesia’ Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Freshwater Fish, Egg
Fruit: Banana, Coconut
Vegetable: Chili Pepper, Onion
Starch: Rice, Cassava
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.