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 Vanuatuan Food
In the South Pacific, Vanuatu shares many culinary similarities with the other countries in its region. The five countries with the most similar food are also located on tropical islands. As a result, two major components of their diets are fish and coconuts. Due to colonization, these countries all have English as one of their official languages.
- Solomon Islands are a group of islands located directly to the north of Vanuatu. Both nations heavily rely on seafood, coconut, and root vegetables like taro and yams. Kakake is a traditional soup made from fish, coconut milk, and root vegetables. Another popular delicacy is lumu, a dish prepared by cooking fish, meat, or vegetables with coconut milk and wrapping them in banana leaves before baking them in an earth oven.
- Kiribati is situated to the northeast of Vanuatu. Both countries celebrate the abundant seafood found in their waters. A dish akin to Vanuatu’s lap lap is kakama, made by wrapping grated breadfruit, banana, or pumpkin with coconut cream and baking it in an earth oven. Kiribati’s bou bou, a stew-like concoction made from seafood, coconut milk, and root vegetables, draws parallels to Vanuatu’s coconut-based stews.
- Papua New Guinea is another Melanesian country in the Pacific Ocean. Both countries utilize an array of tropical ingredients, including root crops like taro, yam, and sweet potato. They both traditionally wrap parcels of vegetables, starches, and meat in banana leaves, then steam them in a small pit filled with hot stones. Tuna and barramundi are two commonly eaten fishes in these island nations.
- Samoa and Vanuatu share a mutual appreciation for coconut, seafood, and earth oven cooking. Similar to Vanuatu’s lap lap, Samoa’s “Umu” involves cooking an array of foods, including fish, pork, and vegetables, in an earth oven. The use of coconut cream and local ingredients is a common thread that runs through both cuisines. However, Samoans are Polynesians, not Melanesian.
- Micronesia comprises several island nations to the north of Vanuatu. Dishes like bai feature fish cooked with coconut milk and root vegetables, reminiscent of Vanuatu’s coconut-based stews. The emphasis on fresh seafood and locally sourced ingredients underscores the culinary bond between the two regions.
The Least Similar Cuisines to Vanuatuan Food
With the exception of Syria, the countries with the least similar food to Vanuatu are landlocked. In addition, these five countries also have much drier climates than Vanuatu, so their agriculture is far different. Four of the five countries are predominately Muslim.
- South Sudan is a country located in the middle of Africa. Cassava and sorghum are the most consumed ingredients in the country. Porridge is one of its most popular dishes. Unlike in Vanuatu, beef is the most popular meat in the South Sudan, while fruits like bananas and coconuts are not as widely consumed.
- Uzbekistan is a doubly-landlocked country located in the middle of Asia. The country’s cuisine features a mix of traditional Uzbek and Russian dishes. Potatoes and wheat are two of the most commonly consumed starches in the country, unlike in Vanuatu where yams and taro are more prevalent.
- Syria has a much more arid climate than Vanuatu, so their farms produce drastically different crops. Syrians tend to eat a lot of oranges, lemons, watermelons, and apples, while people in Vanuatu tend to eat more tropical fruits like bananas and coconuts.
- Niger is located in the Sahel region of Africa. It has an extremely dry climate, in contrast to Vanuatu. Its two most common staple foods are millet and sorghum, two grains that are rarely consumed in Vanuatu. Tuwo, a porridge made from millet or sorghum is a traditional dish in Niger.
- Tajikistan is a mountainous country in Central Asia. Tajik cuisine features stews, dumplings, and bread, and the extensive use of lamb and beef, in stark contrast to Vanuatu. The Tajik people incorporate spices such as cumin, coriander, dill, and parsley, which are not as common in Vanuatuan food.
Vanuatu’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Pelagic Fish, Chicken
Fruit: Coconut, Banana
Vegetable: Peanut, Onion
Starch: Yam, Taro
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.