The Country Food Similarity Index groups the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal into the South Asia food region. In addition, food in Sri Lanka also has many attributes in common with this region. It is one of the 23 world food sub-regions identified by the Index.
Rice is the most common ingredient in all South Asian cuisines. It is often consumed with various curries, gravies, and side dishes. The region is renowned for its bold and diverse use of spices. Common spices include cumin, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves. Vegetarianism in South Asia is widespread, so many traditional dishes are plant-based. Lentils, chickpeas, and a variety of vegetables play a central role in their cuisine, while meats are less common.
South Asia’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Grains & Starchy Roots: 1) Rice, 2) Potato, 3) Wheat
Fruits & Vegetables: 1) Mango, 2) Onion, 3) Banana
Meat & Animal Products: 1) Freshwater Fish, 2) Egg, 3) Chicken
Why these ingredients are common in this region
The South Asian region has a climate and geography that are well-suited for growing rice. Rice thrives in warm temperatures and requires a lot of water. The region’s monsoon climate provides the necessary conditions for successful rice cultivation. In fact, India is the biggest exporter of rice in the world.
The tropical and subtropical climates in South Asia provide ideal conditions for mango cultivation as well. The region has warm temperatures and receives a lot of sunlight, which is crucial for the ripening of mangoes. Furthermore, mangoes are versatile, since they can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
Furthermore, onions are quite common in South Asian cuisine since they add flavor and depth to a wide variety of dishes. They are used as a base ingredient to create curries, gravies, stir-fries, and various other dishes. Onions are well-suited for cultivation in South Asia. They also have a long shelf life.
South Asia’s Most Unique Food Ingredients
(foods consumed significantly more than the world average)
- Areca Nut
- Soybean Oil
- Freshwater Fish
South Asia Food Region’s Most Representative Country
South Asian food can be quite diverse even within its own countries. While each region has its unique culinary traditions, according to the Index, Nepal is the country with the most representative food in the region. The country’s geographical diversity, ranging from the plains of the Terai to the high mountains of the Himalayas, contributes to the variety of ingredients and cooking styles.