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 South Korea
South Korean cuisine is renowned for its bold flavors, intricate dishes, and the artful balance of sweet, spicy, salty, and sour elements. While South Korea’s culinary traditions are unique, they share some intriguing similarities with other Asian countries. The five countries with the most similar food all border the Pacific Ocean.
- Japan occupied Korea 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.
- Taiwan is another country on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Rice is a fundamental part of their diets. Furthermore, in Taiwan, dishes like beef noodle soup and dan dan noodles are popular. South Korea offers a variety of noodle dishes, including jjajangmyeon, jjamppong, and naengmyeon. Both Taiwan and South Korea also have a tradition of eating fermented cabbage.
- North Korea‘s traditional cuisine is closely related to South Korean cuisine. Cabbage and carrots are two vegetables commonly eaten in these countries. 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.
- Malaysia is the only predominately Muslim country on this list, so the country eats far less pork than South Korea. However, their cuisines still have many ingredients in common. Both cultures enjoy grilled meats. In addition, Korean and Malaysian cuisines heavily feature seafood due to their coastal locations. Dishes like grilled fish, seafood stews, and fried shrimp are enjoyed in both regions.
- Thailand is another Southeast Asian country on this list. Both cuisines are known for incorporating spice into their dishes. Thai cuisine is famous for its use of chili peppers in dishes like green curry and papaya salad, while South Korean cuisine features spicy dishes like kimchi jjigae and buldak. Furthermore, dishes like grilled fish, seafood curries, and seafood pancakes are common in both cultures.
5 Countries with the Least Similar Food to South Korea
The five countries with the least similar food to South Korea are located in Africa. They generally have have a much warmer climate as well, so their crops are quite different. Four of the five are landlocked. Moreover, all these countries are significantly less developed than South Korea. 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 South Korea.
- 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 South Korea’s. It heavily relies on staple foods like millet, sorghum, corn, and beans.
- South Sudan is located to the east of Central African Republic. 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.
- Burundi is yet another French-speaking African country on this list. It is located in the Great Lakes region of Africa, so freshwater fish is the country’s biggest source of meat. Its diet is in large part based on cassava, sweet potatoes, plantains, and bananas.
- Democratic Republic of Congo is mostly rainforest, so its climate is much hotter and humid than South Korea’s. Cassava is the dominant staple food in the country. The most commonly eaten meat in Congo is freshwater fish, whereas pork and saltwater fish are more popular in South Korea.
South Korea’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Pork, Saltwater Fish
Fruit: Mandarin, Apple
Vegetable: Cabbage, Onion
Starch: Rice, Wheat
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.