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.
5 Countries with the Most Similar Food to China
China is an incredibly diverse country with a wide range of regional cuisines that vary greatly in terms of ingredients, flavors, cooking methods, and traditions. The country has a rich culinary heritage spanning thousands of years, so it has influenced its region greatly. The four most similar countries are in close proximity to China and they all border the Pacific Ocean
- Japan and China share many fundamental cooking techniques and ingredients, such as soy sauce, tofu, and noodles. Dumplings, fried rice, and mapo tofu are also popular in both countries. Japanese dishes like ramen, gyoza, and tempura have clear roots in Chinese cuisine. One big difference is that Japan emphasizes subtle, delicate flavors that allow the natural taste of ingredients to shine. Chinese food tends to have more complex sauces and bolder flavors.
- Taiwan is another country where many ethnic Chinese people live. As a result, these countries typically eat many of the same dishes. Still, Taiwan has developed its own unique flavors and cuisine. Taiwan tends to eat more chicken and tropical fruits, while China tends to eat more fresh vegetables. Furthermore, since most people in Taiwan live close to the coast, seafood is also more commonly consumed there.
- South Korea‘s cuisine has a lot in common with Chinese cuisine. Dishes like jjajangmyeon (black bean noodles) and zhajiangmian (noodles with soybean paste) highlight the common use of soy-based sauces. Both cuisines also include a variety of pickled and fermented foods. Furthermore, Korea adopted Chinese cooking techniques, such as stir-frying and deep-frying, and incorporated them into their own dishes.
- North Korea‘s traditional cuisine is closely related to South Korean cuisine. Cabbage and carrots are two vegetables commonly eaten in China and North Korea. However, North Koreans are far less wealthy. As a result, they eat much less meat on average and do not import a lot of food. Interestingly enough, rabbits are one of the country’s main sources of protein, along with fish.
- Qatar is a surprising inclusion in this list, since it is a predominately Muslim country in the Middle East. However, the ingredients in the food consumed in both China and Qatar are somewhat similar. The data shows that the main staple grains eaten in these countries are rice and wheat. The heavy use of spices and skewered meats in Qatari dishes draws parallels with Chinese culinary practices.
5 Countries with the Least Similar Food to China
Four of the five countries with the least similar food to China are located in Africa. They generally have have a much warmer climate as well, so their crops are quite different. Moreover, all these countries are significantly less developed than China. Since they are not as wealthy they tend to eat less meat.
- Central African Republic is a landlocked nation that was once a colony of France. 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 China.
- 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. Furthermore, the emphasis is on natural flavors and the taste of the main ingredients.
- Micronesia is a group of small islands located in the South Pacific Ocean. The country relies heavily on seafood, tropical fruits, and root crops as a result. Its relative isolation has limited its exposure to foreign influences. Micronesian cuisine focuses more on the natural flavors of ingredients, with an emphasis on freshness and simplicity.
- Togo is yet another former French colony in Africa on this list. Its cuisine features a variety of staples such as yams, cassava, plantains, millet, and sorghum, not commonly eaten in China. These ingredients are often used to make dishes like fufu (a dough-like side dish) and banku (fermented corn and cassava dough).
- 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 China’s. It heavily relies on staple foods like millet, sorghum, corn, and beans.
China’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Pork, Egg
Fruit: Watermelon, Apple
Vegetable: Cucumber, Tomato
Starch: Rice, Wheat
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.