It’s time for the food aficionado in you to rejoice. Never before was the culinary scene around the world livelier. Not sure what you should go for tonight? Here is a list of the top 10 cuisines around the world – Bon Appetit!
Italy is a land of diversity. Perhaps one of the oldest in the world, the Italian cuisine can be traced back to the 4th century BC. It became what is today along with the discovery of the New World, that brought potatoes, tomatoes, pepper and maize to our tables. An Italian meal is structured into several sections: antipasto (the appetizer), primo (pasta or rice dish), secondo (meat course), and dolce (sweet course). Italy is also famous for over 400 kinds of cheese, including the famous Parmigianino Reggiano, and 300 types of sausage.
French people can be irritatingly proud. They did invent the term chauvinism, after all! But they have every reason to be proud of their country which has led the world in fashion, art, architecture, and of course food for centuries.
Starting with the Middle Ages’ rich banquets, all the way to the nineteenth century, where very sophisticated techniques were used that made France the home of ‘la Grande Cuisine’. The very best of French cooking can now be called ‘haute cuisine’, or ‘high’ cooking. It is as important a part of French culture as its poetry or art. Pastries are an important branch of French cooking. The multitude of cheeses and fine wines are also a major delight, being perhaps the most famous – and easily obtainable outside France – of all French products. What we know as the modern restaurant has its roots in French culture and history, and restaurants in France are myriad. In Paris alone, there are over 5,000 places to eat, with prices and menus to suit everyone’s taste. Mind you, they are fond of Indian cuisine, too, as seen in the movie ‘Haute Cuisine’ – Vive la difference! as the French would say.
The Chinese have been dominating the industrial and technological scene for some time now. But their food conquered the world long before.
Originating in various parts of China, this cuisine has now spread everywhere: Chinese cuisine is eaten by a third of the world’s population every day! The dishes are easy to create, economical and tasty. Most of the food is prepared in bite-sized pieces because the Chinese culture traditionally regards knives and forks as weapons. With chopsticks, everyone can feel safe enough to relax and enjoy their meal! Usually every person at the table is given a bowl of rice while the other dishes are shared by everyone at the table. Famous for not wasting a shred of anything edible, the Chinese do not baulk at deriving dishes from endangered species, such as facai moss, while others come from meats you would want to avoid, such as snake or dog. However, don’t be put off, as these are not likely to feature on your local Chinese takeaway menu!
4. Indian/ Pakistani:
India, land of extremes. It’s hardly surprising that its cuisine is as varied as the landscape and culture, and as spicy as an all-singing, all-dancing Bollywood movie.
One of the world’s most sophisticated and diverse cuisines, only one part of this cuisine is generally known to the rest of the world. The food served in restaurants worldwide is North Indian, also known as Mughlai or Punjabi. There are three other main categories of Indo-pak cuisine: Southern, Eastern and Western. The dishes are mostly vegetarian, but many include lamb, goat, chicken meat and fish. This cuisine is usually very spicy, so in order to enjoy the food, start with less spicy dishes and work your way slowly up to the spicier ones – keep some yogurt handy to cool your palate – and in a few weeks you’ll have become more accustomed to its fiery nature. Meals are usually eaten without cutlery, while seated on the floor, but these traditions are not observed in the many restaurants oriented to the European or American diner.
Thai food must be one of the principal reasons that make Thailand a preferred destination for so many people. Go to Thailand, and you will be amazed at the number of roadside eateries and the crowds of people eating in all of them. In fact, Thailand cannot be divorced from the aroma of food.
With its classic balance of hot, sour, bitter and sweet, it is a good enough reason in itself to visit the country. The food is characterized by its use of fresh herbs and flavours, such as lime juice, lemon grass and fresh coriander. Similar to many Asian cuisines, rice is the main component in Thai food. Favourites include nam pla, a strong fish sauce, shrimp paste and noodles. Raw beef, fermented fish paste or deep fried insect larvae are also found in the poorer Northeast, where insects, such as scorpions, are grist to the mill of Lao cooks..
Known for its varied flavours and spices, Mexican Cuisine is influenced by the Spanish conquistadores’ interactions with the Aztec communities. Most of the Mexican food we eat today is a delicious combination of ancient traditions: the Aztec, Mayan and Spanish. The French also had their part in the story, adding baked goods such as sweet breads and the bolillo. You can easily choose the restaurant you are going to eat in by popularity: restaurants with good food usually attract all the customers. There are also exotic options on your menu, such as iguana, insects, rattlesnake, deer and even spider monkey!
The Japanese are well known for their precision and balance of life. they don’t waste – or wrongly place – even a tiny morsel, unlike other nationalities where food is a mad celebration at times. So it comes as no surprise that Japanese food comes in small portions with the flavors and tastes kept intact.
Known for its variety, aspect and quality of ingredients, Japanese cuisines are rapidly becoming a trend worldwide. White rice and soybeans are the main ingredients in almost all dishes. According to the Michelin Guide, that ranks cities worldwide for their restaurants, Tokyo is the most ‘delicious’ city, with 150 top-ranked restaurants, as opposed to Paris and London who have 148.
For a lighter approach to food, we turn to Spanish cuisine containing a variety of meats – particularly pork – and fish, as well as vegetables, notably onions and tomatoes, not forgetting olives of course. It is also influenced by the seafood available from the surrounding waters of the Atlantic and Mediterranean. Spanish cuisines use the most oil of all Western and Central European cuisines. One of the most popular drinks in Spain that goes perfectly with its national dishes is sangria, a drink made of wine and fruits. Nowadays, the Spanish tradition of tapas, a series of snacks that are served with drinks in the late afternoon and evening, has become a popular one internationally. Tapas can often replace a normal meal, as the drinks are constantly replenished, and more snacks keep arriving at your table… Viva Espana!
Beware of the Greeks when they come bearing gifts, especially if the gifts include Moussaka, that delicious blend of lamb, tomato and aubergine with a bechamel and potato gratin – it’s too delicious to be entirely good for the waistline.
With a significant influence from Turkish and Italian cuisine, Greek food is focused around olive oil, vegetables and herbs specific to the Mediterranean region. Eating in Greece is a different experience from eating in Greek restaurants in other countries. Restaurants now offer an authentic eating experience, being up to date with the latest culinary trends and stocked up with regional specialties. The Taverna and Estiatorio are considered places where you can find affordable authentic cuisine.
Lebanon is the place where you can taste all the goodness the Middle East has to offer. Foods are generally based on the Mediterranean diet which contains vegetables, very little meat, quite a lot of fish and is full of flavors. Perhaps the most famous dish worldwide is the appetizer mezze – a selection of dips, pickles, salads, white cheese and yogurt with Arabic bread and the ever-present olive oil. It also includes an abundance of fruit, fresh fish and seafood and very little animal fat. The country is also famous for its Turkish-style Arabic sweets, Tripoli being referred to as the “Sweet Capital” of Lebanon.