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 Malawian Food
Food is an integral part of a country’s culture and identity, and Malawi is no exception. Located in East Africa, Malawian cuisine reflects the diverse agricultural practices and cultural influences present in this tropical region. The five countries with the most similar food are also located in East Africa. Most of the people in four of these countries speak Bantu languages.
- Mozambique is to the east of Malawi and both countries border Lake Nyasa. Their people commonly eat porridges made out of corn flour. They are often served with various relishes like ndiwo and vegetables. In addition, fish are prominent in both their traditional dishes. However, cassava is a bigger part of the diet in Mozambique.
- Tanzania is situated to the north of Malawi. Nsima, called ugali in Tanzania, takes center stage in meals, accompanied by similar side dishes like fish, beans, and leafy vegetables. Additionally, both countries enjoy grilled and fried tilapia. They also consume a variety of tropical fruits, such as mangoes, pineapples, papayas, and bananas.
- Kenya is yet another country that borders the Indian Ocean on this list. Kenya’s food is quite similar to Tanzania, so both countries eat a lot of maize porridge and bananas. Additionally, the use of various leafy vegetables, beans, and legumes in their dishes. However, cassava is not as commonly eaten in Kenya as it is in Malawi.
- Uganda is another landlocked African country that borders one of Africa’s Great Lakes. It shares several culinary traditions with its southern neighbor. Bananas are a huge part of the diet in both countries, but Malawians tend to eat more mangos. Both countries also enjoy various stews made with peanuts, which add a rich and nutty flavor to their meals.
- Madagascar has some culinary similarities with Malawi, despite being not located on the African mainland. Both countries enjoy a variety of dishes with leafy greens and beans. Furthermore, fish play a significant role in their traditional dishes. However, people in Madagascar eat more fish from the ocean. Rice is also a larger part of the country’s diet.
The Least Similar Cuisines to Malawian Food
The five countries with the least similar food to Malawi spread across several different regions. Three are located in Asia, while the other two are in the South Pacific. These countries consume far less corn than Malawi. In addition, freshwater fish, like tilapia, are not a large part of their diet.
- Solomon Islands is an archipelago located in the Pacific Ocean. Most of its people live near the coast, so seafood and coconuts are a huge part of the country’s diet. Unlike Malawi, yams and taro are all commonly eaten ingredients there.
- Mongolia’s cold, dry climate makes it difficult to grow a varierty of crops. Their people tend to eat much more meat from cattle, sheep, and goats than in Malawi. They also eat more dairy products, especially yogurt and cheese.
- Kiribati is an archipelago of small islands in the South Pacific Ocean. Coconuts and fish from the ocean are commonly eaten staple foods in Kiribati, unlike in landlocked Malawi. Mangos are also a much larger part of the diet in Malawi.
- 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 Malawi, beef and lamb are its two biggest sources of meat.
- Maldives is another group of islands on this list, however it is located in the Indian Ocean. While many fish are commonly eaten in both countries, freshwater fish are more commonly consumed in Malawi. Moreover, Maldives also consumes more coconuts.
Malawi’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Pork, Freshwater Fish
Fruit: Mango, Banana
Vegetable: Tomato, Pumpkin
Starch: Corn, Cassava
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.